It was tough leaving the comforts of the Viking Astrild that we had enjoyed for the past five nights. On our last morning, we were docked in Decin, which is just inside the Czech Republic. As our bus drove away, we were able to look back across the Elbe to take the photo above.
We then drove on into the morning traffic of Prague to drop off our luggage at the Art Noveau Palace Hotel (near Wenceslas Square) where we’d be staying for the next two nights. We then bused to the Malá Strana area on the far side of the Vltava River that flows through Prague to begin a walking tour. The Prague Castle complex overlooks this area.
This wasn’t our first time in Prague. Before a Danube River cruise with Viking back in 2017, we stayed at the incredible Augustine Hotel in this same neighborhood. You can read more about our pre-cruise three day stay in Prague in one of our earlier posts.
Since we’d been here before, we knew of Prague’s quirky nature, what with its John Lennon Wall and the Ginger and Fred Dancing House. Early in our walking tour, we visited yet another of Prague’s whimsical sites – Proudy, the statues of peeing figures. We did not realize that you could text a message to be spelled out in the water by the statues. Had we known…
Yes, we were definitely back in Prague. Even the manhole covers said so:
We continued along with the walking tour only to the mid-point of the Charles Bridge across the Vltava, which is known for the many statues along its edge, and for the crowds of tourists gathered on the bridge.
We split from the group, planning to avoid the crowds and find our way to a warm lunch. Our hopes for a meal in The Refectory bar at the Augustine Hotel’s were shattered when we found it closed at lunch. This robbed us of an opportunity to indulge in the hotel’s unique beverage, the rich, dark St. Thomas beer that was first brewed 700 years ago by monks in their brewery. Instead, we had to make do with another of Prague’s fine beers at a nearby brew pub where we enjoyed a hearty traditional Czech meal. It’s no wonder that Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other country. (Don’t let the Austrians or the Germans tell you anything different.)
After lunch, we did eventually make it over to Prague’s Old Town area for some shopping. This included hitting one of our favorite stores, Manufaktura, buying a pair of boots at a shoe store from a clerk who spoke absolutely no English (that was fun), and picking up a pair of garnet earrings. Along the way we walked through Christmas markets in the gorgeous setting of Old Town Square and in the streets on the way back to the hotel. All the walking and the heavy lunch led us to an early sack time that evening.
The next morning was devoted to Viking’s Jewish Prague walking tour. We had been to the first two of the stops on this tour when we first traveled to Prague back in 2017 and we described our visit in another one of our blog postings. We started at the Maisel Synagogue, which includes historical displays but is not used for services.
We next visited the Pinkus Synagogue, which is known for the inscription on its walls of the names of the 78,000 Holocaust victims from Czech lands, which are also recited daily.
Surrounding the Pinkas is the Old Jewish Cemetery of Prague that dates from the 1400s. Some portions of the cemetery have accumulated a dozen layers of graves. The light snow covering gave the cemetery an especially somber feeling for our visit.
Our tour continued to the Old New Synagogue. Built in 1270, it’s Europe’s oldest active synagogue.
Our final stop was at the Spanish Synagogue. This building from 1868 replaced the Altschul synagogue that dated from the 12th century. There is a history exhibit on the upper level. The interior colors were dazzling.
After that tour, we visited the Mucha Museum that’s located across the street from our hotel. This tiny museum is dedicated to the art and life of Alphonse Mucha, a Czech artist of the Art Noveau period who is best known for his posters featuring the actress Sarah Bernhardt.
One of the things that we enjoyed about our time in Prague is how they embrace the holidays with their Christmas markets and holiday lighting.
On to Poland!
Viking’s Elbe river cruise ends in Berlin, but we chose to continue on with a five day extension into Poland. I’ll write about our time in Poland in later posts. On this day, we had to drive across the width of the Czech Republic on our way to Krakow.
Our ride was long enough that we had a comfort stop at a McDonalds where, as expected, the restrooms were clean but somehow the McMuffin picked up an extra “y”.
Along the way we passed the site of the Battle of Austerlitz where Napoleon won a major victory over the armies of the Russian and Austrian empires. Those are some large toy soldiers!
Our last stop in the Czech Republic was in the town of Olomouc. The town had a lovely main square with a towering town hall and the intricate Holy Trinity Column nearby.
We caught the noon-time “performance” of the town hall’s astronomical clock, with its socialist worker vibe coming out of the 1950s:
Our inner child got a bit of a chuckle out of the name of this Christmas market beverage hut:
Our last meal on Czech soil was what was advertised as an “American style” hot dog. I’d never had one a hot dog like this in the United States, which is a total shame. The fried onions on top brought it all together for me.
Next: On to Krakow!