Merry English Christmas

There’s one thing worse than ingesting four separate varieties of fish for Christmas Eve dinner…when they swim back upstream in the middle of the night.

I woke up, sometime during the dark, all hot and sweaty. We haven’t had the heating on since we arrived and the window was as wide open as it gets, so it was obviously an internal problem. I felt a bit queasy. I sat up and had a drink of water. I tried lying down again.

I very quickly went into the toilet and was violently ill. I also managed to wake Mirinda up, who insisted I wash my teeth before returning to bed.

I immediately started feeling better and was pretty soon fast asleep, my temperature once more normal. Dodgy fish? I think so.

When I woke up properly, it was like a long forgotten bad dream. I felt fine and was ready for breakfast.

Today we went and visited the castle. We walked across the Charles Bridge and waited for a tram up the hill. The rain, which has been threatening for days, suddenly decided to fall with a little more deliberate steadiness. We waited what seemed an age for a crowded number 22 tram.

The castle is not exactly a castle. It is an entire complex of buildings including a cathedral, a palace, some streets, numerous ticket offices, a basilica and so much more. It’s impossible to see everything in one day. Well, maybe not strictly speaking ‘impossible’ but in order to remember any of it, you really should spend about three days. The tourist people know this, which is why (I assume) the entrance tickets last for two days.

It’s not the best in the rain (it was also very cold and windy today) but at least you can go inside most places. First up was St Vitas (of the dance) Cathedral. Sadly, not my kind of place at all.

Although it is still used for church services (there were three this morning) it is much more like a museum. It is also cold and soulless and full of tourists, snapping away, yabbering and pushing.

The front section is roped off so that, if you haven’t paid, you have to remain behind it. You can see the length of the church but not delve into the special places reserved for those of us who willingly parted with a few shekels. Moving beyond the rope was slightly better.

The church has a lot of rich history and fancy statuary but, for me, it’s completely ruined by the constant stream of tourists. I like to feel a church. This one felt dead.

I did rather like these odd jugs hanging from their pot racks above chapels. I don’t know why but they looked strangely good.

Kitchen utensils in the cathedral

From the cathedral we popped into St George’s basilica where you could at least sit down. Within its walls is the last resting place of Ludmilla who had, possibly the worst daughter-in-law in history.

Ludmilla was the grandmother of Wenceslas. When he was 14, his mother, Drahomíra, grew so suspicious of her mother-in-law (Ludmilla) that she organised a bunch of rough types to go and strangle her with her own scarf. She became a saint because of it and now, among her many jobs in heaven, she is also responsible for anyone having problems with their in-laws.

Poor Ludmilla with her scarf wrapped around her throat

After a lovely warm, dry pause in a cafe, we wandered down to the Golden Lane. This is an area of the castle complex which grew up organically. It started off as just a bit of wall and gradually grew into a very narrow street of goldsmiths.

Eventually the street was full of artist types (writers, painters, strange mystical women who told the future) and became a bit of a slum. Then, in 1952, the last person moved out and the tourist board moved in and prettied it all up, giving an Ideal Homes look of the medieval.

Now each doorway is crowded with groups trying to take photographs, converging with other groups as the streets fills with more and more people. It is a bit bizarre! Especially the Czech bookstore woman who was intent on selling a Chinese version of a Prague Castle book to anyone looking remotely Chinese.

One for the family album

After being frozen, wet and jostled for long enough we decided to leave the castle grounds and start the walk back to the hotel. Actually, the audioguide had a time limit of 3 hours and it was almost up.

We started down the long staircase back towards the bridge when Mirinda spotted this place.

It is brilliant. When you walk in it’s like you’ve stepped back in time. It’s dark but warm, the staff are attentive and very rude. The beer is dark and stouty, the food is finger licking good. In fact, finger licking is not just forgiven, it’s encouraged. We had a few drinks and some chicken wings and then, sadly, left for the hotel.

I’m seriously considering encouraging Nicktor to have a weekend in Prague with me in order to spend the entire time at this pub. According to Dawn, I shouldn’t.

Anyway, after a nice long rest (watching numerous sets of credits on the supposed English language TV) we went out to Bily Konicek’s Restaurant & Jazz Club for our turkey dinner.

The dinner was fine (very little fish) but the jazz was excellent. Two guys entertained us all night. One on fiddle, the other on guitar; they were amazing. It more than made up for last night and the fish. We stayed for quite a few sets and thoroughly enjoyed it.

This entry was posted in Christmas Day, Gary's Posts, Prague 2011 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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