As all of my readers doubtless recall, the Thirty Years War started here in Prague, a gentle stroll from the Strahov Monastery, the unexpected location of our extremely comfortable hotel, complete with sixteenth century wood beams in the ceiling, above Prague Castle. The defenestration of two leading advisors to the Hapsburg emperor led to a short-lived uprising brought to a chaotic and conclusive ending at the Battle of White Mountain in 1621.
Even the journey here included reminders of one of the most destructive conflicts in European history, as our train passed through Pirna. The town was occupied by the Swedes in 1639, and never really recovered its wealth, with subsequent invasions by the Swedes again in 1706, the Prussians in 1756 and the French in 1813 - the town had the misfortune of being on the main route between Bohemia and Saxony.
As Ros has never been to the Czech Republic, it means that I can be her tour guide, pointing out some of the historic stuff and putting it into context. I am supported in this by the Lonely Planet 'Prague City Guide' which is, I must admit, extremely good. The maps are accurate, the walking tours not too heavily touristed, and the restaurant suggestions excellent.
We've now eaten four meals at restaurants they recommend, one in Hradcany, between Strahov and Prague Castle, which was pricey by city standards, although not by London standards. My veal roll with black truffles, washed down by a very decent bottle of Czech wine, was a joy.
The next recommendation was here at the Strahov Monastery, the St Norbert's Brewery, which brews its own beer, which serves hearty food for hearty people (that probably means us). Ros particularly enjoyed their amber beer, which washed down the wild boar in rosehip sauce and bread dumplings a treat.
Last night was an opportunity to explore real Prague, away from the tourist crush. The guidebook suggested 'Perpetuum', a restaurant serving the local speciality - duck - so we set off towards the end of Metro Line A. The problem with all guidebooks is that they are accurate as at the time they are written, and that as a result, their usefulness decays quite quickly. However, we found the restaurant easily enough and were highly impressed with the fantastic roast wild duck in plum sauce they produced, served with bread dumplings and red cabbage. Two courses, with beer, for just £32, would be hard to beat, and would doubtless surprise the tourists eating near Charles Bridge.
Today, we've been walking in Letna and Stromovka, north of the city, taking in the parks, enjoying the sunshine, and on our route, we were advised to stop at 'La Creperie', part way through. We were a bit early though, so got to the end of our walk at Prague Zoo and headed back. As we travelled on tram number 17, I realised that we were back near 'La Creperie', so we got off, and headed down a rather unlikely back street towards a rather unlovely government building.
Just as we were beginning to have severe doubts, there was the restaurant, looking ominously quiet. However, nothing ventured, so I tried the door and found myself admitted to a cosy little room where old French chansons were playing. Promising, we thought. The menu was equally promising, with an array of galettes (open-faced crepes) to choose from. They were very well done indeed, very reasonably priced, amidst genuine charm and ambience.
Prague has, thus far, been a delight. Architecture to die for, great food, better beer, easy to get around, full of surprises, it is a sensory overload designed to lift the spirits. And the weather has been amazingly kind - sunshine and blue skies throughout. Indeed, the trip has gone so well that thoughts are turning to Budapest, Krakow, Bratislava...
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