Bernard Beer and Bernard *snigger* Cherry Beer at Literární Kavárna Retézová

Aside

I never really liked to use the cliched “Stepping into another world” to describe a place, but it really was the most apt expression for the feeling we got as we stepped into the Literární Kavárna Retézová

We found this little gem, literally just off the main roads of Staroměstské Náměstí (Old Town Square).

We were at the Astronomical Clock trying to watch the hourly dance of the 12 Apostles.

We KNOW that the hourly chiming of the Astronomical Clock is one of the most overrated and underwhelming performance in the world, but we were in Prague, and it’s one of those things you HAVE to do when you are in Prague.

Unfortunately, the rest of Europe seemed to have the same idea.

The square in front of the Clock was impossibly crowded, even though it was cold and raining. You could only get a good look at the 12 Apostles if you’re standing front and centre from the Clock. The Crowd started forming around the Clock at the half hour mark. If you’re there later than the quarter to the hour mark, you’re pretty much screwed. You can still watch the skeleton chime the bell and the 3 men shaking their heads, and there will be a million and one tour guides giving a play by play commentary of what is happening on the Clock in a million and three languages, BUT to quote the Soup Nazi, “No Apostles for you!”.

It was an odd little United Colors of Benetton for me, because you realize (with a bit of horror) that the one thing which unites people of all nationality, race and religion is a kitsch little dance by 12 wooden men…

After trying (unsuccessfully) to watch the Apostles for the third time, we decided we had enough and we ducked into a little ally just off the main streets where tourist ply…

The small and smoky (smoking is allowed inside) cafe has wicker chairs, and walls plastered with tonnes of black and white photographs of the Who’s Who of Czech Literaries. You can see the locals having great and seemingly philosophical discussions about life, or (as I like to believe) the beer on their table. You cannot help want to break out the novel you have been carrying in your bag or just take a pen to the napkin on the table and scribble (or doodle out) the Bestselling Novel that You Have Yet to Write. This looks to be the kind of place where the Next Great Novels will be written.

As for us, we were happy to just soak in the atmosphere with our beer.

A BERNARD ČERNÝ LEŽÁK s jemnými kvasnicemi or Dark beer for me…

And a BERNARD s čistou hlavou Višeň or *snigger* Cherry flavored (NON alcoholic) “Beer” for her…

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If I Could Walk 500 Miles…

I would NEVER walk 500 more…

After our experience over the previous two days, we decided to get out of  Prague for a quieter Sunday.

We took a train to the nearby town of Kutna Hora, where we spent the day away from doing “touristy” stuff…

Yeah… right…

Seriously, we went to check out this AWESOME Ossuary in Sedlec.

On the outside, it looked like any random church here in Prague.

But stepping inside, you’ll find a chapel that has all its furniture and decorations fashioned  entirely out of human bones!

There are bone shrines, bone lamps, bone candle-holders, a bone coat of arms and the centre piece of the church –  a bone chandelier that is made out of EVERY single bone in the human body.

So how did the bones get there?

Well… a long time ago (about the 13th Century AD), the abbot of the Cistercian Monastery in Sadlec was sent to the Holy Land by the king. He returned with a small amount of earth from Golgotha and sprinkled it over the cemetery of the abbey. The cemetery was now considered “holy” and it’s market value increased ten-fold. After-which, the business of the cemetery further improved with the introduction of the Black Death to Europe and the Hussite Wars to the region.

It is estimated that Ossuary contains the remains of AT LEAST 40, 000 people…

The present arrangement of the bones were done by ONE Czech wood cutter called František Rint. (I know this because he signed his name on one of the walls in the Ossuary… in bones of course).To be honest, it got kind of creepy after a while, but you really got to admire the vision and dedication he put into arranging the bones to the way they are now…

See… if we had gone back to Prague immediately after visiting the Ossuary, all would have been fine. We’ve visited a fine attraction and learnt a lot along the way.

But did we do that?

Nooooooooo….

We decided to push our luck and go see the Saint Barbara Church – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and widely acknowledged to be able to rival that of the St Vitus Cathedral right HERE in Prague. “Rival” –  that means ALMOST the same as St Vitus… More on that later.

Having just been wow-ed by the Ossuary, we decided that it would be a good idea to walk towards Saint Barbara Church, and discover more sights along the way…

And we walked…

And we walked…

And we walked…

And we walked…

We probably should have sensed that something was amiss when we realized that there were no other tourists around us. But did we stop? Noooo…

We walked…

And we walked….

It suddenly dawned upon us that there might be no other sights along the way to Saint Barbara when we realized all the shops around us were closed and there were no LOCALS around us.

It was so quiet, we could take a nap in the middle of the road…

But did we stop?

No….

Eventually, we reached the Church. The question to ask was “Was it worth it?”

I could answer that even to my uncultured eye, the majestic St Barbara Church looked “just like another church!”

True there were KICK ASS painted windows (seriously, painted, not fresco-ed)…

And even whacky paintings like this one (check out the lobster in the moon)…

But it just was not worth an hour’s walk for….

It was DEFINITELY not worth dragging a drunk Jo (more on this next time…) on the same walk BACK when we realized we missed the two hourly bus from the Church to the train station.

Much hilarity ensued…

Smelling the Roses

“It’s too touristy” and the more subtle “I HATE Prague” were two very common responses we got when we were soliciting opinions about our upcoming trip.

Day 2 of our stay in Prague and caught in the hustle and bustle of trying to cram in as many tourist attractions as possible, I can easily see why.

Almost EVERYTHING in Prague is built for tourists… and I guess, almost every tourist is built for Prague. There are historical (and VERY beautiful) pieces of architecture everywhere and there are a few very common and easily accessible routes you can take to see them all… as long as you are willing to pay the price.

My first symptom of tourism fatigue set in as we were wandering through Prague Castle.

The St Vitus Cathedral within the grounds of the Prague Castle was awe inspiring. Going into the cathedral, you realized that you can only walk so far before two very stern (and burly) looking man ask you for “Tickets” to see the rest of the cathedral.

The same thing occurred every where in the Castle. The East Wing, the West Wing, the South Tower of the Cathedral, a pictorial guide to the history of Prague, a WWII Photo exhibition within the Palace grounds, etc… It seemed you need tickets to go into every single nook and cranny of the castle, including the TOILETS (0.5 Euros) (Seriously…).

I can see how easy it is to just pay the money, “since we are here already anyway”, and just to get that “tick in the box” for attractions visited, but it felt wrong to my stingy little heart.

We finally decided that we are not “tourists” but “short to mid term travelers” and we don’t really need this shit right now.

We moved on from the Palace and decided to dive into the first alley we see to get a feel of the “real Prague”.

And this is what we saw..

We spent quite a bit of the (more pleasant) afternoon in this garden with roses as big as Jo’s face.

If this was not a sign for us to “Stop and smell the roses”, I don’t know what would be… It seemed that there is a lot more to Prague than what the Guidebooks offer. It’s all here, you just need to stop and look for them.

Let’s Go!

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since our arrival in Prague.

We’ve managed to get ourself settled in a comfortable apartment just outside of the “touristy” area of Prague and we set out on a day of discovery of Prague the day after.

Having had good experiences with them in Munich and Berlin, we decided to go on a free walking tour of Prague with the Sandemans group. If you’ve never been on a walking tour before, it is basically a CliffsNotes version of the city that you are in. True to form, we were treated to a 3 hour run down of the major attractions of the city, as well as the history and “dark trivia”s of the major architecture in it.