Czech Republic - The Potato Chick

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

In a Prague.

Food we loved...handmade chocolates from Bon Bon, particularly the one with salted caramel.

Cesky Krumlov was just as lovely as Prague but with more of a “small town” feel.  We spent two nights here staying at tiny Hostel Skippy which was in a perfect spot overlooking the river. Believe it or not, the hostel was not run by an Australian.

We did a free walking tour and explored the castle which has great views of the rest of the town, as well as a couple of resident bears. According to our guide, the castle is painted in a special style designed to play tricks on you. For example, a door will be painted on the wall so that you’re tricked into thinking there’s a door there when there actually isn’t. We all agreed that the end result just looked a bit cheap and tacky. Check out the picture below and see if you agree.

After almost a week in the Czech Republic, on our final night we finally tracked down Svickova, a Czech speciality we had been searching high and low for. This dish consists of sirloin beef served with bread dumplings, cranberries, whipped cream and a mystery sauce. I know it sounds like a strange combination but it was delicious, well worth the wait. And finding it meant we were able to leave the next day with a distinct feeling of satisfaction.

Next stop...Munich, Germany.

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Posted 8 October 2014

Prague, Czech Republic

In a with friends in one of the prettiest cities we have visited.

Food we loved...tredlnik – unleavened dough that is wrapped around a stick and grilled then topped with sugar, cinnamon and nuts.

Let me introduce name is Kate and I have joined the ranks of Prague-lovers. This city is just beautiful.

We were thrilled when we arrived at our Airbnb apartment which was right in the middle of the old town overlooking the local market. We spent over an hour at the supermarket marvelling at the cheap prices and trying to decide which brand of beer to buy (you can buy beer in 2 litre bottles). Our first night was spent eating homemade risotto, sampling as many Czech beers as possible and catching up with Pete and Sally who had flown in from Germany to meet us.

The next day we wandered the city admiring its beautiful buildings and soaking up the sunshine. We also discovered what would be our regular lunch – delicious gourmet sausages in a crusty roll with sauerkraut, tomato sauce and mustard. Australia just doesn’t do sausages like this.

We did a free walking tour which took a bit too long due to the 40 minute “break” towards the end of it. It seemed a strange coincidence that our guide told us all about how much we should pay for food and beers in Prague shortly before taking us to a restaurant where, surprise, surprise, everything fell into the price brackets he had mentioned. Needless to say, we didn’t buy anything there. By this stage the boys had come up with their own pricing index for beer.

We also toured Prague Castle. Rather than being one huge building, Prague’s castle is a complex of many castles because every person who obtained power wanted to build their own rather than move into someone else’s. There is a cathedral in the complex as well as gorgeous views of the city. Perhaps the most interesting moment of the tour was our guide explaining to us how he could tell we were Australian – “because you look like bogans”. Ouch.

We spent an hilarious night at Prague’s 5 level nightclub, apparently the biggest in Central Europe. Exactly what countries are encompassed in the term “Central Europe” I’m not so sure. The club was virtually empty except for a group of German school students visiting Prague as part of RE (Religious Education). These type of school trips really make our school camps to Halls Gap and Bacchus Marsh seem pretty tame. I could have watched these kids for hours as they established courting rituals and worked on their dance styles.

On our final day we split up to see some more attractions. Pete, Sally and Tas went to the John Lennon Wall while Nick and I visited the (decidedly underwhelming) contemporary art gallery. Nick finished off the day with the National Technical Museum. It seems that this museum was not as boring as it sounds – its display includes airplanes, motor bikes and cars over 4 floors. I was disappointed I missed out on seeing Nick revel in his happy place. We also missed seeing Pete in his happy place when North Melbourne were slaughtered by Sydney the next day. Next year Roo Boys, next year.

Prague is a truly beautiful city with probably the loveliest main square we have seen (and believe me, we have seen a few). But the best thing about Prague was catching up with old friends, eating homemade meals and drinking cheap beer – what a fabulous combination.

Next stop...Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic.

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Posted 7 October 2014

In a sentence...a classic Eastern European capital with a lively personality.

Food we loved...mici – Romania’s version of the Cevapi sausage.

As our plane landed at Bucharest airport I was dismayed when I noticed snow on the runway. We were definitely entering a new phase of our trip, in more ways than one.

We stayed on the edge of what is left of the old town. These days, it feels anything but old and is filled with over 200 pubs and a few too many “hot touch” massage parlours. Still, it was a nice place to wander around and we easily found good meals in there.

We did a free walking tour where we heard lots of interesting stories about Romania’s Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Typical of most Communist leaders, he had an obsession with being “better” than everyone else and was always eager to show the world how wonderfully Romania was doing under Communist rule. In a classic case of one-upmanship, Bucharest has a beautiful boulevard which is 30cm longer than Paris’ Champs-Ellysees.

We also visited Ceausescu’s last major project before the revolution; the Palace of Parliament. To build the Palace, Ceausescu demolished most of Bucharest's historic districts, including Orthodox Christian churches, synagogues and Jewish temples and 30,000 homes in two neighbourhoods. Ceausescu planned to use the Palace as his office and the design included a large balcony from which he would address the adoring masses.

Poor old Ceausescu never got to use his balcony as he was executed before construction was finished. Instead, the balcony was first used by pop star Michael Jackson. Later that night, on stage, MJ declared to the admiring crowd, "I LOVE BUDAPEST!"

Following the fall of Communism, it was decided that the building would be finished and used for Romania’s Parliament and administration. It is now the world’s second largest administrative building after the Pentagon. The Palace really had to be seen to be believed. We did a one hour tour and saw 3% of the building. It apparently has more than 1000 rooms. Everything is made of marble and decorated with gold, elaborate wooden carvings and plenty of crystal chandeliers.

Bucharest was filled with interesting contrasts. You would see a beautiful building on one side of the road which looked like it had been plucked from any number of Western European cities. On the other side would be an ugly Soviet-style office building in some hideous shade of grey. Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I am a sucker for places that have colourful buildings. You certainly couldn’t describe Bucharest as colourful. But I liked it nonetheless.

As is getting to be our little tradition, I hunted out good coffee at Cafe Origo. We certainly needed it after several hours in frigid conditions. After our coffee we hotfooted it to the mall and bought ourselves ski jackets. And gloves. And beanies.

We left Bucharest decidedly more prepared for the cold weather than we had been when we arrived and excited to see what else Eastern Europe has in store for us.

Next stop...Transylvania, Romania.