Last weekend, we took the train to Prague for the weekend. It's a bit over a 4 hour train ride, and we had "first class" train tickets. The train was great! First, you can show up say all of 5 minutes before the train is due to depart. There is no security, you simply get on and find a seat. We didn't have reserved seats (never saw an offer to do this when buying the tickets, but we'll definitely look for it next time). It was slightly confusing the first time, as we weren't really sure on where we could sit, what was the first class area, and so on. Turns out the train cars have either a "1" or "2" on them, to denote first class or not. The first class tickets were not much more money, and I'd heard that it was nice in that the seats aren't hard plastic, so we went for it. On a shorter ride, regular seats I think would be fine, but this was nice, especially for our first time. Great way to travel!
Prague itself was amazing. We arrived the first day in time for dinner. The hotel suggested two places, an Argentinian and a local Czech place called Lokal. Lokal had a line out the door, so we went Argentinian, which was good, but quite expensive (Argentinian steaks and all - they even had a Kobe steak for a mere 9800 Czech Koruna - you know, a mere $400! We ordered a bit more reasonable things :)
We stayed at the UNIC Hotel which was great. Free full breakfast, ideal location (a few blocks from Old Town square, but on a quiet street), and my HT colleagues had set us up with a killer family suite which was superb.
Prague Castle and cathedral. This was truly amazing. The architecture is stunning, and you really get the feel of what it'd have been like to live within castle walls. Note, by "castle", this is not one building. This is a very large area, that contains many palaces, the cathedral, and many other buildings. And, as it turns out, Guiness says this is the largest ancient castle in the world! It is gorgeous, and the cathedral is incredible. We climbed the nearly 300 steps up to the top of the bell tower for a fantastic 360 degree view.
We hit the famous Charles Bridge after the castle. No cars are allowed on this bridge, and it's pretty well mobbed with people. It is lined with statues, including the one of St. John of Nepomuk, everyone touches as it means you'll return to Prague one day. One thing to note is that all the statues are now replicas (the originals are in a museum). There are great views of the river from this bridge, with it's differing sections for big boats and people in little paddle boats.
For dinner Saturday night we hit the Fish & Chips place. Food was solid, and I had a Budweiser. No, not that kind, this kind. It was excellent! That's a bud I can drink!
Sunday was for visiting the Petrin Hill area and Dancing House, and whatever else we could squeeze in. Well, that turned out to not be anything, as we had some initial mass transportation mishaps to start our day. We couldn't find the metro line the hotel told us to take, but saw a way to Petriny. Well, uh, Petriny is definitely not the same as Petrin, and took us way out west of town. Oops. Luckily there was a bus there that seemed like it'd take us to Petrin Tower. Well, uh, it got us fairly close, but not where we expected (it went to the stadium instead). But, another 15 mins of walking, and we were there. The good part of this though was that it meant we didn't have to walk up the very steep hill from town (the funicular is currently not in service).
As we got into the Petrin hill area, we went through a rose garden, followed by the observatory. This lead us to our primary goal, the Lookout Tower. This is a sort of Eiffel Tower replica, and another 299 step climb to the top, up a double helix set of stairs (separate stairs up and down in double helix). The views are great from here as well.
We then hit the mirror maze which, while quite small, is really fun! Lots of people really enjoying it in there and we had a blast. We wandered a bit, and then headed down the hill towards town, stopping at a park a while for the kids to get some more energy out. Also on the way down there are many apple trees. The kids tried the apples, but they weren't great.
We then crossed a bridge, where we took steps down to an island that is halfway across the river. We were all thirsty and needed a restroom. This worked out great, as there was a lot of nice grassy areas and park for the kids, and Diana and I wound up on this great little barge restaurant where we got some cider, water, and chicken kebabs. The cider was quite good, both Di and I really liked it. We also got to see folks trying out those crazy water jet boot things in the river!
Next up was the Dancing House, aka the Fred & Ginger building. Super cool. There is a deck up top, but we skipped it as, well, let's say the kids were ready to move on. We walked back to Old Town square to check out the astronomical clock. The square is really vibrant, with entertainers, food kiosks, and while touristy, wasn't off-putting at all.
Finally we were able to hit Lokal for dinner on our last night. We had essentially Czech tapas. Xander chowed a pile of plain pasta, I braved the pork terrine (good!), and we all shared rabbit, goulash, a nice salad, etc. Now, let's get the important part: the beer. So, they had several kinds, and of course their own Kozel. For theirs, you had three choices: regular, "slice", and "sweet". I asked about the sweet, because I thought maybe it was like a Radler. The waitress immediately said, "you don't want that." Um, oh? Do explain! She did, and said a "sweet" is an entire glass of foam! A slice is a small bit of beer, and the rest foam. WTF?! I ordered regular. I inquired further with another waiter, and he confirmed, the sweet is indeed sweet, but, "you must drink it really fast!" Their beer was dark, which is more unusual there, and pretty good, but honestly I think I liked the Budweiser better!
I loved our time in Prague. The architecture in particular is unreal there. Not just the castle, but Old Town and much more just has these amazing buildings. It's quite an experience and I highly recommend it!