Tuesday, September 18, 2012

City of a Thousand Spires

I was excited as my Emirates flight touched down in Prague on a bright and sunny day.  It was a while since I was in a new country.  When I told a few of my friends I was going to be in the Czech Republic, almost all of them referred to the country as Czechoslovakia.  It is endlessly annoying to the locals that people around the world seem to get this wrong even twenty years after the new Czech Republic was formed.

In those twenty years, this country - especially the city of Prague - seems to have made rapid progress.  This was the first time I was in a Warsaw Pact country, and you can see some remnants of their Soviet Bloc past - such as the exact weight of meat on every dish on restaurant menus.  Overall, Prague seemed every bit as vibrant and pretty as the other European cities I have been in.

I strolled down to the river-side from my hotel and watched the beautiful skyline that gave the city its sobriquet; Prague Castle perched majestically atop a hill in the distance provided an amazing backdrop. Prague has a 1000 year old history and has been home to Roman and Bohemian kings before being invaded by the German Nazis and subsequent Soviet era.  The city's unique position at the crossroads of Europe has made it a magnet for foreign traders since the pre-historic times.

The river Vltava flows through the city, offering several vantage points for tourists to admire the combination of Gothic, Baroque and Jewish architecture from river banks, bridges, and the many ferry boats that ply the river.

In my first evening here, we strolled down to a nearby restaurant and sat outdoors enjoying the cool evening weather with some wine and steak.  Like most middle European countries, Czech food traditionally is a 'meat and potatoes' fare.  A dish of pork dumplings with vegetables,
Vepřo knedlo zelo, is regarded by many as their national dish.  Another popular dish is the Svíčková, marinated beef served with spiced cream sauce and preserved fruit.

But tonight, I started with a carrot and lobster soup followed by a T-Bone steak.  It was good we got a chance to enjoy the fine weather, because the next day and the days after were quite different - continuous drizzle and chilling winds!

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