Celebrations: Americana style, Netherlands style

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The wonderful and well-traveled Natasja came to Nashville to stay with me for the first week of July 2014.  Natasja and I met in S. Africa in 2008, we hit it off so we adjusted our travels to scuba and surf together.

673_101479000787_9697_n 1898_105077040787_3025_n In September 2013, Mom, Dad & I spent 3 days with her in Prague!

wpid-Photo-Oct-1-2013-406-AM.jpgShe came to Nashville via New York, where she had spent 4 weeks at a yoga farm in Woodstock, learning how to teach Sivanada yoga.

10502149_10152269070983877_2373131883078282818_nI went to pick her up at the airport on Sunday night and Monday we had breakfast at Sky Blue Cafe.  Across the street there was an adorable house with a white picket fence and an insane amount of flowers!

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Then we hit up Kroger and headed out to Opry Mills Mall.  We bought $15 Gap jeans, shoes and matching $3 patriotic Flag shirts.

That night we tried to eat at the vegetarian restaurant, Wild Cow, but got there just before they closed.  We went across the street to Rosepepper and Natasja got a vegan burrito and was super happy.

July 1st: (Happy Birthday Jessie!)  Today we went to a little boutique called, OMG with 300 lbs of gold glitter lacquered into their floor.  Then we mailed Jessie’s birthday package and headed down to Hillsboro Village.  We went to Pangea and bought cat postcards and to BookManBookWoman and bought nothing.  At 4pm we saw our first movie at the Belcourt!  It opened in 1925 to show silent movies, then was briefly the home of the Grand Ole Opry!  Afterwards, we head to Wild Cow again… and it was closed on Tuesday.  Pfft.  Calypso Cafe was a great replacement!

20140702_122946_Richtone(HDR)July 2nd: THE BEST DAY EVER!  We canoed the Piney with Paul and Laura!  N & I stopped at Mitchell’s Deli and bought everyone a yummy sandwich.  (They were as delicious as Zingerman’s but half the price!)  Then we picked up Laura and Paul and headed East.  It’s still amazes me that 45 minutes outside of Nashville, everything is all backwoods and pick-up trucks.

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20140702_171325 Our canoe outfitters were great: Pinewood Camp & Canoe.  The gave us this cool canoe with a toking rabbit.

20140702_123219_Richtone(HDR)It was a perfect paddle: quiet river, all to ourselves.  A green heron followed us along the river.  It was 83 degrees and we stopped to swim. Ahhhhhh.

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We had gotten dropped off and paddled back to camp- when we got there we found a rope swing!  Paul and I went off of it 4 times.  Super fun!

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We stopped at M.L.Rose for veggie burgers (& 2 for 1 beers!) after our paddle and met this awesome person: our waitress, Meridyth!  She spent 3 months in Cambodia and was hilarious.  Obviously, we’re buds now.

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Since none of us wanted this super day to end, we walked Paul’s dog, Neepa and got shakes at Bobby’s.  It was 10pm before we headed home.  Best Tuesday on record.

July 3rd: We made oatmeal & headed out to Sri Ganesha- a Hindu temple that I drive by on my way to work.

IMG_7639We arrived while the priests were doing a ceremony.  We took our shoes off, entered the temple and inside there was a giant room with many small shrines to Hindu gods along the wall.  In the center, there was a 10×20 room with a giant statues of Ganesha.  The priests chanted as they made offerings of fruit to the elephant-headed god.  They rang bells for a long time and wafted incense over the offerings.  When the short ceremony was over, they passed the plate around and brought you back fruit from the altar commensurate with your donation.  Natasja and I each got a banana.

There were ladies sitting on the floor, threading fresh flowers into leis to purchase for the statues in the shrines.  There were little kids running around and fliers for senior’s activities.  The temple had a very family-oriented vibe, like church.  We thanked them and headed off.
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Next, we headed to Warner Parks so Natasja could see where I had been spending the summer.  We met the lovely ladies at the Nature Center, prepped some crafts at the Field Station and walked around a bit.  Then it was time to find dinner!  Paul had a fantastic vegetarian suggestion, Woodlands Indian Restaurant!

Natasja was thrilled that Woodlands was all vegetarians, since it’s pretty hard to tell if ‘stews’ contain meat until it’s too late. We shared Thali- Chai tea & rice pudding.10527305_10152276429838877_296938232793117789_n

Then we raced off to the Ryman for one of the Bluegrass nights: Yonder Mountain String Band!  They had 2 special guests: Sam Bush and Alli Krall.  Alli sang ‘Jolene’ by Dolly Parton and RAGED on the fiddle.  I wanted her to play Dolly’s songs all night.  Yonder was great but they were prone to long ‘solos’ for each player… during EVERY SONG.  Natasja discovered that she’s not really into ‘jam bands’.10450530_10152276857968877_1084731628425221884_nWhile we were listening to Yonder at the Mother Church of Bluegrass, MOM & DAD arrived and made themselves at home.  We cruised Honky Tonk row after the show, so they were asleep by the time we got home.

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You may notice the police officers in the background… Natasja was entertained by their golf carts.  They must have been bored, later they were shining their flashlights on Natasja & giggling when I took her photo.

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July 4th: HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, AMERICA!  I had planned a day jam-packed with patriotism, so we made breakfast and headed down to a little neighborhood that has been putting on a 4th of July celebration for 38 years!  They start with a what they called a ‘children’s parade’, even though each child had at least 2 adult escorts… so it was more like a ‘parent’s parade’.


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We took our dish-to-pass to the food tent & found our seats for the reading of the Declaration of Independence!

Can’t you just hear this couple’s conversation?

“Alan!  Alan!?!  You’re going to miss the symphony, Alan!” “Martha… I’m right behind you.”IMG_7668

Dad is looking super-happy because of all the free hot dogs.10478149_10152278330468877_5500900182724045057_n

After the symphony finished their Sousa marches, it was time for the pot-luck!  YUMMMMM!!!
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This is the most patriotic pie I’ve ever seen!  And it was Natasja’s favorite: Rhubarb-Strawberry!

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After we pulled ourselves away from the festivities, we stopped at Centennial park. Did you know that the largest train fatality in the US happened in Nashville in 1918 on “Dutchman’s Curve”?!?!

Well, now you do.

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IMG_7756Then we head to Hillsboro to have Las Paletas popsicles- they are handmade in 30+ flavors!  Mom & I had Mexican Caramel, made with goat’s milk!  Dad had lime.  N had banana, dipped in Olive & Sinclair chocolate.  We were all tuckered out from the festivities and head back home to nap.  We had dinner at Tenn16 (Dad wondered why his chicken & waffles had so much syrup on the chicken…)  Mom & I shared some awesome meatloaf.  We couldn’t linger, we had to make it downtown for the fireworks!  Luckily, Laura & Won had been holding some prime viewing real-estate for us!  We were still wearing our patriotic matching outfits!

10486781_10152278330678877_305175584603433856_nThe 10 minute drive to downtown took 45 minutes… but when we got there- it was totally worth it!

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The show was the 2nd, only to NYC’s this year!  The thing that made it really over the top was the Nashville symphony- they were playing music, synchronized with the blasts!  Too bad they didn’t have louder speakers.  While we waited for the traffic to clear, we checked out Won’s house, that used to be a bank.  He turned his 3 story vault into a library, using shelves from the bankrupt Border’s Books.

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This is where you make deposits! And photobombs!IMG_7856

There is a theatre upstairs!  And a ballroom!IMG_7868

Laura's bank house

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July 5th: Breakfast at home, then off to Olive & Sinclair for a chocolate tour!IMG_7880Mom and Natasja look fabulous in their hairnets!   Roasting Beans. Even the chocolate grinder is patriotic.

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IMG_7886IMG_7874Then, off for burgers and Mint-Oreo shakes at Bobby’s and a stop at Antique Archeology, which is the shop from the History Channel show, American Pickers.  There was a long line and it was boring.  Don’t bother.

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It was WORLD CUP time!  Off to a patio pub to watch the Netherlands vs. Costa Rica!

10487308_10152279967668877_9124329047859517929_nIt was 0-0 at the end of the game… so on to penalty kicks!  HUP, Holland, HUP!  AND THEY WON!!!

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To celebrate the end of a successful visit, we toast with tiny mustache glasses full of Limoncello, sent as a gift by Natasja’s handsome Italian cousin, Silvio.  It’s too bad this epic week is over!  I miss you, Natasja!  Ciao, Bella!IMG_7925IMG_7926

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July 6th: Mom and Dad headed home after breakfast, taking their, “newest & tallest daughter” with them.IMG_7933

I was sad to see them go, but N got to see the new house in progress AND my baby photos.  So it was worth it.  Natasja-  I can’t wait to figure out where in the world we will meet up next!!!

 

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Leaving Prague… if our car isn’t impounded!

Wednesday, September 18th

Recap: It's 4pm – Natasja just left us at the Ameriky Bar and we took Dad back to start his nap.

 

Mom & I head over to the Metro and make our way to Prague Castle.

On the way to the tram, we pass this lovely fountain- landscaped with curly kale!

Momma and the cutest curly kale.

Then, it starts to rain. Again. Mom kept saying that the rain made the cobblestones look so pretty.

What do you think? (That's me, trying not to fall down on the slippery cobblestone.)

Ok- back to our trip to the castle… the Guinness Book of Records lists Prague Castle as the largest ancient castle in the world. It is basically a walled city with a huge cathedral in the center of it. In fact, it doesn't really look like a classic 'castle' but there are guards posted at every entrance.

Mom really enjoyed the view- those red roofs are her favorite. You might notice the cloud cover is thick.

The only benefit of the rain was that we got to see the downspouts on the cathedral do their thing.
There were some pretty neat building in the castle compound.
What a pretty city! We got back to the hostel @ 7pm to wake Dad up and take him to dinner!

Photo Copyright: © OUR PLACE, The World Heritage Collection

We had a traditional Czech dinner (which turns out to be very similar to a Slovak dinner) of meat & gravy, boiled potatoes and dumpling- which are a steamed bread, sliced. It looks something like this…

This is also where we discovered the magic of Medovnik- a layered honey cake! Yum!!! No photo, but you can check out the recipe & a pix, here: http://www.czechinthekitchen.com/2012/03/31/honey-cake-medovnik/

We also had a yummy Czech beer, so now we're tuckered out! Plus, we have to pack up & get leave Prague

in the morning!


Thursday, September 19th-

Good-bye, Prague! The Sipkovsky's are off to explore Slovakia!

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Not so fast! Remember how we had to put the rental car in the parking garage when the parents arrived? Well… It turns out that we royally messed that one up! We knew to park in the underground structure of the Ibis hotel, next door. We were not staying at the Ibis, so we parked in the green area marked, VISITOR. Easy, right? The green area had some parking spaced roped off, like they had just been painted, so we drove past those and a huge steel door slid open and there were open spots! Great! Let's park here!

Upon our return, the door that had magically slid open for us was LOCKED! No answer from the intercom box, either. We headed upstairs & the hotel desk clerk informed us that the green area was for the law firm next door… they moved their offices 2 years ago. She could not help us- besides, we might have been towed already!!! EXCUSE ME?

Freak out time!!! Dad kept his cool & we left Mom to wait with our luggage while we tried to get our car back. There was another hotel that shared the garage & when we told them our sad story they called in a guy with a walkie-talkie. Making no promises about whether our car was still there or not, he followed us down to the inpenetrable steel door. The intercom worked for him! After a lively conversation in Czech where he explained that the American 'tourists' had created a 'problem' with their 'auto', THE DOOR OPENED! Deep breath…. and our car was STILL THERE!!! Apparently, the other cars we saw in that area belonged to the construction workers who were renovating the old law firm. We were so relieved! We paid the $60 parking fee ($30/day) and high tailed it out of that crazy city! (Dad has sworn never to return. That means Budapest too, so don't even ask if he'll go there!)

Whew. Now we can all relax. Road trips are totally our thing!

 

Prague: The story of the Parents & their patron Saint Ludwila.

Tuesday, Sept 17th

YAY! Mom & Dad's plane arrives in Vienna at 9am this morning! I'm super excited!!! Natasja and I took a spin around Praha since it would take them 3.5 hours to get to here.

On our walk we took note of the very pious beggars on the Charles Bridge, saw a lady getting a fishy pedicure and watched chilly newlyweds make a video in the Old Town Square (they held hands & twirled).

Then we started back to Miss Sophie's to wait for the call to go meet my parents at their hotel. And we waited… and waited… and then when I couldn't wait any more I called.

They were lost. 😦 Super lost. For at least an hour. I waited another hour and when I called back they were stress-driving through Prague (did I mention they HATE big city driving?). Mom was trying to read the street signs (in Czech) and I'm trying to find them on my map-app on my ipad and tell them where to turn. Meanwhile, Natasja and I are standing on a streetcorner in the 14th largest city in Europe hoping to spot them as they drive by! We… we needed some help.

Nameste Miru

Then help appeared~ in the form of St. Ludmila! (The Gothic church at Nameste Miru!) Mom says- “I can see two black steeples!” We could see them too! There was lots of excited squealing, then dad pulled off the side of the road and Natasja & I hopped in! SUCCESS!!! Finally reunited!!! It was 5pm. Mom had optimistically predicted a 1pm arrival. Whew. We directed Dad to a parking spot and decide to grab some dinner while we evaluated the (super-jetlagged) situation. Finally! They were done with 26+ hours of traveling! Yawn!

Over Beuf Bourguignon, soup and Mushroom Risotto Mom & Dad decided they were just too tired to try and find their hotel. They were going to stay at Miss Sophie's too! After checking, in we parked the car in a ramp across the street and walked down to Wenceslas Square to give the parents a little taste of the city.

Good King Wenseslas was raised by his Grandmother, Saint Ludmila (the double steepled church was named for her) and became the Duke of Bohemia. Wenseslas was known for caring for the poor and was so beloved by the Czech people that he was crowned King, after his death in 935.

We managed to keep Mom & Dad up until 8pm- then after tucking them into their bunk beds (yes… they were both on top bunks) Natasja and I went out for a Czech beer. Dang, those monks really make great beer! Tomorrow we'd get to play Prague tour guides. For now we rest.


Wednesday, Sept 18

9am we decided to take the 'rents out to breakfast at Zanzibar, (the restaurant by the fantastical monster fountain) and had great omelets and ginger tea.

Then, we tried our hand at the public transit system… That was a bit of a debacle! We bought tickets and got on a bus… headed the wrong way. So we got off and caught the bus going back but decided it wouldn't take us to old town, so we got on a tram.


A nice younger woman on the tram overheard us being confused and told us the correct tram to find! (This woman is nice for giving us directions but super nice for not swearing at the 80 yr old woman who patted her 'baby belly' and offered her the seat! She was NOT pregnant. Awkward.). We switched one last time and arrived at our destination- Malo Strana, just west of the Charles Bridge.


One of the smaller bridges, covered in 'Love Locks'. The Charles Bridge is below with Powder Tower on the right.

We made our way down to the riverbank to find some swans to feed- we had saved them a piece baguette from breakfast because Mom read about it on a website. We found 2 swans, but mostly just some ducks. So we headed across the bridge to check out the Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square.

The photo on the left is me, on the Charles Bridge, approaching the Powder Tower. The center is the clock with all the hype. Gorgeous clock, but the hourly 'performance' is lackluster. The sign in Czech, Karluv Most means Charles Bridge.
Trdlnik is a yummy treat! It's bread, curled around a wide, wooden dowel, rolled in cinnamon sugar and slowly rotated over hot coals. Delish! (Photos with Adrienne in them were taken by her mom! Trdlnik by Natasja)

Natasja & I led our 'tour' through the square (there were some loud banging noises coming from inside the statue!) and to the Municipal House.

The restaurant was full, so we had warm beverages in the Ameriky Bar. Mom found it entertaining that the waiter spoke zero English but had a US flag on his uniform. The waiter didn't find it as funny… Then it was time for Natasja to head to the airport. :-/ We hugged goodbye, then she headed off to catch the Metro. We ended up heading back to the hostel 5 min. later to refresh & drop Dad off for a nap. But didn't see Natasja on the train. Bye!

At 3pm, Mom and I headed out onto the rainy city streets to explore Prague castle. Dad slept until we woke him up for dinner. You'd assume it was the jet-lag, but he considers a 'good nap' to be 6 hours.

Next time, Prague castle, Czech dinner & how we got the rental car out of accidental impound. Oops.

 

Prague: Mucha, Hemingway and the 800Kr ticket.

Natasja was excited when we found an Irish pub in Prague that served a full Irish breakfast. I was excited because it was called O'Reilly's and made me think of Jessy and John! Eggs, hash browns, beans & toast!

I met a guy traveling in New Zealand, who took photos of the man-hole covers in each town to chronologically document his trip. It's a good idea, so now I do it too! The sign on the right initially freaked Natasja & me out! Were we in an area where people were mugged at gunpoint?!? Nope, someone had used a Sharpie to alter the sign. (But we still haven't figured out what the words say…is that 'N' backwards?)

Off to find Mucha! I must admit that before I'd arrived in Prague I had never heard of Alfonse Mucha. I was definitely a big fan of Art Nouveau art/architecture but I appreciated it more as a genre and hadn't really considered the individuals artists behind the art. Today, that was about to change!

The museum was small, only 3 rooms but it was a great introduction to the life of my new favorite artist. Alfonse Mucha was born in 1860 in Monrovia- the area that currently divides the Czech Republic from Slovakia. He had attended art school in Vienna but hit the big time in 1894 in Paris when he was commissioned to create show posters for the legendary actress, Sarah Bernhardt. He was instantly famous and the posters that accompanied Bernhardt's shows became as anticipated as her next performance.

In 1900, he designed the Pavillion of Man for the Paris World's Fair. In 1906 spent time in New York, doing portraits & looking for a financial backer for a series of 20 enormous paintings depicting the history of his beloved Slavic people. 1910 he returned home to lend his skills to the Municipal House in Prague (below).

Attribution:Jorge Royan (used by creative commons license)

In 1918, after WWI, Mucha designed the money & stamps for the new Czechoslovakia. In 1931, he completed an immense stained glass window for St. Vikus, the cathedral in Prague castle.

Unfortunately, when the Nazi first came into Prague, Mucha's Masonic activity & fame made him a target. He was one of the first people 'questioned' by the Gestapo and died from pneumonia shortly after being released. If you're still reading this you may appreciate Mucha's website, http://www.muchafoundation.org/.

Natasja & I used TripAdvisor to find the best museums & restaurants in Prague, and that night we searched out a tiny place known for their unusual cocktails called the Hemingway Bar. It did not disappoint. It was a small door in a dark side street that opened into a cozy, dark bar. We sat at the bar & Ondrej came over to give us the menu & the Hemingway etiquette rules. Natasja had already broken #5 by talking to the guy next to us, 'Hi! What are you drinking? Are you from Tibet?' Nope, he was Russian…

Luckily, the Russian (Danzan) was in town to see the Dali Lama and open to conversations with nosy tourists. By the end of the evening Danzan & Natasja were Facebook friends (breaking rule #7) sharing sips of Absinthe. Absinthe is not designed to be enjoyed straight up, Ondrej explained the process to us.

A small amount of the greenish, anise-flavored liqueur is put in a glass. A flat, slotted spoon in placed across the top of the glass. A sugar cube is placed on the spoon & a steady dripping of water melts it into the glass. It's all very classy. Or maybe it was Ondrej's suspenders that made it classy. We had a great time chatting with our new friends & when we decided to head back to our hostel they were protesting, “Don't go! Stay for one more!” Maybe if we had stayed longer, the 800Kr ticket wouldn't have happened…

Natasja & I are still a bit unclear on why the 15 min metro ticket we bought was not valid. But the facts are clear. We caught the Metro home from the bar and as we exited the escalator a giant, burly man Ina dark blue jacket asked to see our tickets. We proudly produced 2 tickets, and were told that they weren't valid for use in the city center, only the other zones. Arg. In case you'd like a reminder of what those blasted machines looked like… Here!

Natasja made a valiant effort and asked the man if we could just purchase the proper 24Kr tickets right now, since it was an honest mistake made by silly tourists. Nyet. He showed us his 'badge' and we were informed that he could give us EACH an 800Kr ticket if we'd rather. No thanks. We made one last plea to not pay the stupid fine but the guy didn't budge. In fact, he pulled out his phone & asked if we'd like him to call the police in to clear up this confusion. This guy was serious! So we paid and fumed back to our room. Thank goodness we had some spectacular new roomies to tell the story to, Priya & Remona! I got up on a chair so they coud get an idea of how big & grumpy the ticket man was! We laughed a lot and Natasja got to tell them her story of bribing a train conductor in order to get to an Ashram in Priya & Remona's country, India. Gotta love making new friends!

 

Prague/Praha/Praag: It all depends on how you see it.

Saturday, September 14th

Elly & I had a relaxing morning; I packed and then we walked to the park to recap our adventures and drink a Club Mate'. They sell it at every refreshment stand in Berlin. Elly was sure that this was some kind of local beer, but then saw a librarian drinking it at work! Turns out, it's locally made, carbonated tea with a syrupy sugar flavor. It's what you would call an 'acquired taste'.

All this talk of Clib Mate' reminded me of this: fun with Googlie eyes!

1- A trash can (thanking you for the hotdogs.)

2- A cherub (You can tell that the tall cherub is totally spreading rumors.)

3- Club Mate' is more appealing with eyes.

After our shenanigans, we hugged goodbye and I caught the U-Bahn at the station near Elly's (SchlesischesTor) and made my way towards Hauptbahnhof (a big train station & 4 floors of shops).

I had just enough time to buy Natasja some Duncan Donuts and find my reserved seat on the train. I had attempted to buy my tickets on-line, but they wanted to charge me 18€ to mail me my 75€ tickets. While in Berlin, I went to the train station and bought the same ticket 'on special' for 44€! Score!

The ride was 4.5 hours long, the first hour was just industrial wasteland as we exited Berlin. After we passed Dresden we were following the Elde river and it was picturesque! Often, the far bank had a paved trail and we saw many people biking, hiking and even camping along the river.

That evening when I arrived at Prague's main train station (Hlavni nasrazi) things got a bit tricky. I felt like I was on The Amazing Race! I had to get Czech Krona in order to buy a ticket into town, but no one spoke English. I eventually found a 'Bankomat' (no wonder saying 'ATM' didn't help me) and got $1400Kr. But the ticket machine only took coins! (Later, I figured out there is an attendant at a ticket window.) Next, I bought a yogurt, so I had change for the machine and with the help of my guidebook, managed to purchase a ticket (12Kr)! It was only 2 stops on the Metro, then I was wandering the dark street, looking for my hostel, Miss Sophie's.

After a 20 minute confusion with our bed assignments, I stashed my bags in the under-bed-rolling-locker (great idea!) and walked toward Wenseslas Square.

I found my way down to the National Museum (Narodini Muzeum) – (the awesome desk staff informed me that from 8pm- 1am was Free Museum Night (Prazska Muzejni Noc)!) but the line was long so I headed back to Miss Sophie's to see if Natasja's plane had arrived.

And she was!!! YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY!YAY!YAY!YAY!YAAAAY!!!!

We headed back out to the museum where we admired 3 huge portraits of Franz Jozeph, used a 150 year old printing press and tried on a fancy gentleman's hat.

(Do you think he noticed I was wearing his hat?) We stayed at the museum until 1am, then caught the 'futuristic' Soviet metro back to our hostel.

 

Sunday, September 14

The next morning, near a traffic circle with a fanciful fountain, we found the restaurant Zanzibar. They served fresh ginger tea and had great eggs/omelets! Then, off we went, down 'Ameriky Street' to wander around Old Town.

 

We saw the Charles bridge.

Natasja took this awesome pic of Wenseslas Square (which is more of a boulevard than a square…) The National Museum is at the top of the hill.

There were some pianos strewn about town, for people to play. And we found Wenseslas riding an upside down horse in the Lucerne building. (Also, lattes!)

Then we headed down to explore the Old Town square, where all the tourists converge.

The square (namesti) is huge, surrounded on all sides by gorgeous buildings and old churches. The astronomical clock is here as well- it was built in 1410 as a tourist attraction and people are still gathering to watch it every hour. It is beautiful but keep your expectations low, it's hourly 'performance' consists of two little doors that open to reveal…the 12 apostles!!! Yahoo!

We wandered the market, had tea and at 2pm headed back to that blasted clock to meet up with our Royal Free Walking Tours guide. She was awesome & had many sad stories to tell us about the history of Prague. For example, the man who built the clock in 1410 was Master Hanoush and Prague was so worried that he would make another clock for a different town that they poked out his eyes! He ended up throwing himself into the clock gears & the clock didn't work for the next 100 years because no one was smart enough to fix it. Ha!

Enough heavy stuff, just look at these cute pix of Natasja to help you feel better.

The walking tour was 2.5 hours of interesting history with Bianca- we learned about Charles the 4th, who built the bridge & university that, 600 years later, still bear his name. That's him, in the left panel of the photo below.

Prague was also home to Franz Kaftka, the photo on the right is from one of his stories about a man who finds an empty suit walking by his window and rides it through town. Thanks to Alfonse Mucha, the building is the most interesting Art Deco design in Prague- the Municipal House. In a city so full of Art Deco design, this was my favorite, there will be more photos later. Promise.

Bianca told us that Mozart loved Prague too. He wrote the opera, Don Giovanni, for the Czech people. Alfonso Mucha was a big Czech patriot as well, and at the end of WWI, when Czechloslovakia became a country (1918) , he lent his artistic talents to the new government. Mucha designed their printed money, postage stamps and other materials. I bet they were pretty, just like the lady in the photo below. Mucha rocks.

Bianca also clued us in to Prague's tumultuous last century. It started in the 1930's with the Nazi, then the Communists ruined Czechloslovakia. Resistance grew during the Prague Spring in 1968. The next year, Jan Palek, set himself on fire in front of the National Museum. 180,000 demonstrators arrived at Palek's funeral, but the Communists weren't forced out until the 'Velvet Revolution', two decades later.

The weather had been fairly rainy and when we went to explore the Prague Patagonia store, Natasja ended up buying a sweet jacket! The staff were great & even pulled up the Facebook page of the Portland Patagonia store so I could show them my friend, Matt!

Later, Natasja & I found a spectacular little Italian restaurant to escape the rain and I had the best mushroom risotto ever! It was mushroom season, so all the mushrooms were fresh & wild-picked! Yum!

Tomorrow we see the Mucha museum & drink Absinthe at the Hemmingway bar! Stay tuned!