Monday, September 30, 2013

Enchanting Eastern Europe - Prague/Czech Republic

Sadly our holiday will be ending with this last destination. On September 21 morning after enjoying our second breakfast at the Sheraton we returned our door cards to the reception, checked that our baggages had been brought down from outside our room door by the porters and witnessed they are loaded into the storage bay under the coach by our driver. We can never be too careful on such a tour as any loss cannot be easily traced and recovery will take time and likely to be expensive. The routine of packing, locking and carrying the heavy bags out had been set over the past 9 days. We've decided not to buy any souvenirs except some chocolates so our bags were not overloaded. More of converting new and unused clothings into worn clothings to be taken home to wash.

Our trip from Kakrow westward into Prague took us firstly into the city of Olomouc where we stopped for lunch. This beautiful city lies beside the Morava River in central Moravia. With around 100,000 inhabitants, it is the fifth largest city in the Czech Republic and certainly one of the most charming. In 2000, the Holy Trinity Column, which was erected in the early 18th century, was added as a UNESCO World Heritage site. And this is where we visited after lunch at the Hotel Flora. Either my appetite was extra good or the food was really good and I enjoyed every morsel, with a bottle of the famous Czech beer from Pilsner Urquell that we will be paying a visit tomorrow.

















We arrived Prague at 6.45pm and proceeded to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. Throughout this tour the travel agency provided a combination of both Chinese and western meals. The Chinese food were surprisingly quite good as very few of the group complained but for the western food the typical complaint was they are too salty. Perhaps we had subconsciously sensitized our taste buds by using less salt in our home cooking but for the westerners salt is used for preservation of the food we ate regularly in their restaurants.

The last hotel we stay on this hotel, the Hilton Prague, certainly outdid the rest. It is the only hotel that provided shower cubicle in the bathroom, bathrobs (which we did not use) and anti-slip mat for the long bath (very thoughtful and must be made mandatory to minimize ang chance of bathroom falls). As expected travel agencies usually plan their tours to peak the values towards the end so that their clients can take home the best possible memories. There was even a digital bathroom scale which I weighed myself and was horrified to find I've added on at least 4kgs over the past 10 days or so. I promised myself that when I get home I must go on some diet and increase my morning walking frequencies.

















The following morning we visited the Urquell brewery and learned how beer is made (you can read more HERE). We were allowed to drink the unfiltered and uncarbonated beer from the vat it was stored. It tasted cold and nice but not as nice as that I drank off the bottle yesterday. Pilsner Urquell is a bottom-fermented beer produced since 1842 in Pilsen, part of today's Czech Republic. Pilsner Urquell was the first pilsner beer in the world. Today it is a prominent brand of the global brewing empire SABMiller, a multinational brewing and beverage company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the world's second-largest brewer measured by revenues (after Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer with nearly 25 percent global market).

















In the afternoon we were given a guided tour of the Prague Castle by Martina, a lanky local guide. This castle is said to be the biggest castle in the world at about 570 meters in length and an average of about 130 meters wide. Its history stretches back to the 9th century. St Vitus Cathedral is located within the castle area. Following that we sightsee the Old Town Square (looks like everywhere we go this is a common area to go). Eastern Europe minus its history is probably an empty shell.






















One highlight of the tour is to visit, perhaps walk on the famous Charles Bridge but it was not to be as some of the tour members were too tired walking the entire afternoon. Here is some interesting history of this old bridge.

The Charles Bridge is arguably the most beautiful gothic bridge in the world. Commissioned by King Charles IV, Holy Roman Emporer and King of Bohemia, the bridge has served as an essential link between Prague’s Old Town and the Lesser Quarter and Prague Castle, for hundreds of years. Every day the Charles Bridge welcomes thousands of visitors, who can experience magnificent views from this ancient landmark. By day, the bridge is a lively attraction, lined with many vendors, traders, artists and musicians. By night, the Charles Bridge has fewer visitors, but the views are arguably more spectacular.

(Source: http://www.private-prague-guide.com/article/charles-bridge/)

The Charles Bridge is a famous historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge is 621 m long and nearly 10 m wide, resting on 16 arches shielded by ice guards. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Charles Bridge saw a steep rise of heavy traffic. The last day of the horse line on the bridge was 15 May 1905, when it was replaced with an electric tram and later, in 1908, with buses. At the end of World War II, a barricade was built in the Old Town bridge tower gateway. A capital repair of the bridge took place between 1965 and 1978, based on a collaboration among various scientific and cultural institutes. The stability of the pillars was reassured, all broken stone blocks were replaced, and the asphalt top was removed. All vehicular traffic has been excluded from the Charles Bridge since then, making it accessible by pedestrians only.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_bridge)










Photo Credit: http://www.private-prague-guide.com/article/charles-bridge/

















Photo Credit: http://www.all-free-photos.com/show/showphoto.php?idph=PI2798

Our holiday officially ended on September 23 when we checked out of the hotel at noon and were driven to the Prague International Airport to catch our flights back to Kuala Lumpur via Dubai. In spite of the rain and the expected fatigue and body aches we did thoroughly enjoyed this fantastic holiday. It wasn't perfect but then again, what is perfect in life? Eastern Europe will always hold a place in our hearts.

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