Goodbye Lisboa, Hello Prague
When I last wrote any real content, we were still in Portugal. As I mentioned briefly yesterday, the day of our flight from Lisbon to Prague was pretty uneventful. We had breakfast at the hotel, hung out in our room until 10:45, got picked up by our driver from Welcome Pickups right on time at 11:00, and we were off to the airport. Other than a long line at security, everything went pretty smoothly.
Three hours later, we arrived in Prague. It was there that we were meeting my brother Steve and my sister-in-law Jamie, who we would travel with for the rest of the trip. They were supposed to have gotten in much earlier than us, as they were coming from LAX on KLM. Originally, they were scheduled for about a two-hour layover in Amsterdam before flying on to Prague, but the day before they were to leave, they received a note from KLM that their Prague flight had been canceled. YIKES!
But everything worked out in the end. KLM was able to get them on another flight, but with a layover of more than five hours in Amsterdam. In what might have been fate, we got off our plane in Prague, walked up two gates to the restrooms, and when I came out, they were standing there. Their flight had arrived two gates down from ours…in an airport with four terminals, each with more than 25 gates. You have to admit, that’s pretty amazing.
We were met by a rep from Viking Cruises because this is where our pre-cruise extension started. So now we (and all our travels) were their problem 🤪.
As we drove into the city, we noted that not only was it cold, but there was snow and ice everywhere. This would play a big part in the next day’s plans.
When we got to the hotel (Viking uses a number of them in Prague—we were at the Prague Marriott), Steve and Jamie, who had been up since the day before at home (about 30 hours), were off to bed. Kathleen and I went into the hotel restaurant and split a sandwich before we did the same.
Ice and Snow
The next morning, I had truly hoped to do my customary pre-dawn photo walk, but when I got up and saw that it was well below freezing and that the snow and ice were VERY slippery, I stayed in and wrote Tuesday’s post about our trip to Sintra.
The hotel provided a huge buffet breakfast that was part of our Viking extension, and we truly enjoyed it. My brother Steve said it passed the “Steve Test (he would eat there if it were a restaurant near his home). After breakfast, we were supposed to do a “Panoramic Tour of Prague” with Viking as part of our cruise. The tour was labeled as “challenging” in their description, but we were still going to try and give it a go with the idea that if it became too much for Kathleen’s knees, hip or back, we would bail and go back to the hotel. But now there was the problem of the ice.
I decided to put on my boots and go out to walk around and see how slippery the sidewalks were. What I found was not good. I walked from one end of the block the hotel was on to the other. Along the way, I almost fell three times, and I saw at least four other people slip and wind up flat on their butts. On some of our most recent trips, going out for a walk has not been real fun for us. A few years back, Jamie slipped and fell while visiting us and broke her kneecaps. In May of 2021, Kathleen tripped while we were doing a shore excursion in San Francisco (on dry pavement) and broke her elbow, which meant a six-hour trip to the ER and surgery a few weeks later. I had fallen two years ago on ice a block from our old condo and really hurt my back. So only Steve seemed immune.
Kathleen, Jamie and I elected to skip the morning tour and see if the sidewalks got any better as the day went on. Steve decided to brave it and headed out on the tour. At about 10:00 am, I decided to go and test again, and I walked for about 15 minutes and wound up in the central square of Prague, where their largest Christmas Market was going. This allowed me to get some photos (you can see them below) and to tell Kathleen and Jamie we could do our afternoon tour—a visit to Lobkowicz Palace.
Visiting a Palace
Our morning tour (that three of us skipped) was one of Viking’s included tours. When you do their pre or post-excursion, you get a free tour every day, so skipping it was no big deal, but the Lobkowicz Palace was a tour we paid for and included lunch, a concert and a private tour of the palace. We really wanted to go. So at 11:30, Viking transported the three of us to meet Steve and the rest of the tour he had gone on that morning at the castle, where we would do some touring around before getting to the Palace.
When it came time for the morning tour to end, it turned out that only the four of us would be going on to the palace. The rest who were finishing up the morning tour would return to the hotel. At this point, Kathleen’s knees (which she had really strained on the TukTuk ride in Lisboa) told her not to walk any further, and she headed back to the hotel with the morning tour bunch.
Jamie, Steve and I went on and did the Palace. When we got there, after only walking about five minutes, I truly wished Kathleen had come with us. We were ushered into a beautiful room and fed a delicious lunch. Then, we were escorted to another room where a classical trio (one violinist, one cellist and one pianist) played a selection of classical pieces for us. They were very good.
After the concert, our guide led us to a private balcony at the back of the palace where we could see incredible views of all of Prague. Of course, I took a ton of photos. The city looked like a Christmas dream, all draped in snow.
After the balcony viewing, we were off to see the collection of art housed in the Palace. This kind of thing usually does nothing for me, but I have to say this was one of the best audio tours of a gallery I have ever heard, and I got a lot out of it. It was thoroughly enjoyable. The entire time, I kept thinking, “I wish Kathleen had stayed.”
But then it was time to board the bus back, and we were led down what must have been a 300-yard, fairly steep ramp covered in ice and snow. It was at that exact moment that I was thankful she had gone back to the hotel. Even with a rail to hang on to, that ramp was a bit scary. And then, when we got to the bottom, we had to walk about another 150 yards to get to the bus through ice and slush.
All this would have been a real problem for her, and I was so glad she had headed back earlier when the bus had left from where we had originally arrived—a very flat walk to get to.
To top it off, on the bus trip back, there were two sets of Viking cruisers. Some of the people on the bus were just finishing their cruise. They were doing their post-cruise extension in Prague (we are going in the opposite direction and doing Budapest at the end), and because of that, they were staying at a different hotel—a huge Hilton about 20 minutes from our hotel. Because it was closer to the Palace, we went to the Hilton first, where all but the three of us got off. The only problem we had then was that the bus driver had taken his usual route through a parking lot, and someone had parked their car illegally, and he could not move the bus until that car was moved. We sat on the bus while the hotel management tried to find out who owned the car before we gave up. We went into the Hilton and got a cab back to the Marriott. It was not the bus driver’s fault, but Viking should have done a better job of taking care of us. They said that they could get us a cab, but when we got to their tour desk, they said they would need to get the expenditure (around $8 US) approved and that might take a while. At this point, it was almost 5:00 pm, and we had 6:00 dinner reservations, so we decided to pay for our own taxi and got back to our hotel in less than 10 minutes.
An amazing dining experience
Speaking of dinner reservations, a good friend we know from our Trilogy Travel Club back home had lived in Europe for a few years and either lived in Prague or visited often (I am old, I don’t remember which) had told me about a small, out-of-the-way steak place. Now, I am not really into steak, but I know my brother is, so I said great and made reservations. WOW! I am certainly glad I did. It was one of those dining experiences you only get once or twice on a trip. The place was a tiny, almost below-ground-level restaurant that had so much charm it spilled out the front door. It reminded me of a party mix…it was packed full of Czechs 😂 (I owe my granddaughter $1 for that one). We were the only non-natives in the place, and it was PACKED!
We opened our menus and saw a wonderful option just perfect for the four of us. It was a steak platter featuring five different cuts of steak, with three sauces and four side dishes for less than $100 USD. Add that to the two excellent bottles of a good red wine we drank, and we had quite the meal. This restaurant not only passed the Steve Test for me, but if it was near our house, I might go there every couple of weeks. The food and service were top-notch, and the prices were a great value. Especially when the servers only expect a 10% tip. We had a wonderful time. If you are ever in Prague, make it a point to eat at Bila Krava (which I am pretty sure means White Cow). You will not be sorry. BTW: That platter with the sauces and sides was plenty for us. And it was totally delicious.
Of course, after that, it was an $8 Uber back to the hotel and bed. We had a big day coming up on Thursday.
At this point, let me show you the photos I got yesterday around Prague and at the Palace. Hope you enjoy them. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
Our Jewish Quarter Tour, then on to Nuremberg.
In the morning, after a repeat of Wednesday’s superb buffet breakfast, we were off on a tour that featured much less walking than the one Steve had taken the day before and a lot more chances to sit down during talks that Kathleen could take advantage of. Plus, we would be in and out of buildings all morning so that we would stay much warmer.
Our tour was of the old Jewish Quarter in Prague. We got to visit five separate synagogues and hear about all the horrible things that had been done to the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia for centuries.
But we also saw some true beauty in these incredible places of worship as well as some horrible sadness in the synagogue that is covered with the thousands of names of Czech Jews killed by Hitler and the Nazis.
The tour took most of the morning, and our tour guide, Eva, was EXCELLENT. In fact, all our guides here in Prague have been excellent. Steve truly liked the very nice lady who did the morning tour, and we joined him for the end of that tour. He thought she did great as well.
The Jewish Quarter tour lasted until noon when we returned to the hotel, got some lunch, walked out to find a piece of local artwork (those of you who have been in our home know where that’s going), and then we boarded a “luxury motor coach” to Nuremberg, Germany where we will spend tonight. As I am typing this, I am truly sitting in that luxury motor coach (no sarcasm intended here—it is a really, really nice bus. If it only had WiFi, it would be perfect) headed to Nuremberg. It’s 3:39 in the afternoon here, and we won’t be at our Nuremberg hotel for another three hours, so I thought I would do a little writing on the way. Next up for you are my photos from our Jewish Quarter tour. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
As I write this, it is Thursday morning…you are still enjoying Wednesday evening…and I am up posting this at 4:45 am. We are staying at the Grand Meridian Hotel in Nuremberg. It (like our Prague hotel) is a Marriott, but a much older and historical one that they purchased. Older and historical means…strange and weird to me. The rooms are tiny, the doors open out into the corridors/hallways, the bathrooms are minuscule with tubs with high sides, and the WiFi is slow. They are passing the hotel off as a “historic, boutique hotel.” I myself like boutique hotels. The Hotel Portugal we stayed in in Lisboa was a “boutique hotel.” This one is just depressing to me, with long dark corridors and a single (JUST ONE) elevator to cover a hotel with a capacity of more than 80 guests per floor on six floors. Coming in and out with luggage can be a long wait. And that elevator holds about five people max. Needless to say, Viking picked this hotel, not me.
We had a quick dinner (if you can call it that) in the hotel bar before retiring to our cells 😜 for a good night’s sleep (the beds aren’t bad). The place just seems like an expensive jail or maybe an abbey or a convent (to me). We are here for two nights before we depart for Regensburg, where we. board our longboat for our first-ever river cruise. More about our Nuremberg adventures coming up soon. (Editor’s note: the quote below is my reaction to the names in the Jewish Synagogue in Prague. Sorry if I offend anyone.)
A thousand years will pass, and the guilt of Germany will not be erased. —Hans Frank