A better day today (though yesterday was still enjoyable in its own way). Ness was feeling better, not 100% but fed up with staying in and determined to go out and see Prague again. We made a slow start, a leisurely breakfast and then started strolling into town, me taking pictures as we went along and on Staroměstské náměstí.
We followed more or less the same route as I had walked yesterday, and on one of the small streets we saw cute Škoda “roadsters”, with sightseeing tours of the town on offer. I had seen several of these yesterday, from these cool little 1960’s cars, one in bright red, the other in a bright yellowy-green, to more stately cars, bright red and chrome old classic cars and a shiny black Tatra, a former apparatchik’s luxury limo. We had planned to continue walking but changed our mind after speaking with Johan, the friendly but car-nerdy young driver, and instead we went for a city tour with him, to end up at the Malá Strana side.
I vaguely recall that it was a rather grey day, but still pleasant enough to drive round with the roof down, although I did get cold in my thing short-sleeved shirt. Anyway, it was also a cool version of the ubiquitous horse and carriage rides (here too). Johan’s Škoda was definitely his pride and joy, and the guiding was just a good excuse for him and his brother to drive round in these quirky cars. They looked cute, but for the rest they were very basic and clearly not made for performance, even less so now, forty years on! We toured around the streets of the stare město with commentary from Johan, this building, that building, interspersed with more general chat, and into the Josefov area, just to the north of the stare město area, the former Jewish district with old synagogues and lots of tourists. I remembered these streets from our visit in 1999.
Next we crossed over the Vltava, by the huge metronome monument, which replaces a huge statue of Stalin (which had been the biggest statue of him anywhere, I think), and then winding up the hilly green side to end up by the enormous but crumbling concrete sports stadium. Only a small part of it is still in use now, as a training ground for the Prague footie team, but it didn’t take much to imagine it as a Soviet-era athletics stadium, which is what it was originally. Unfortunately the weather was pretty grey and rather hazy. Otherwise we would have had stunning views looking across Prague, which was the reason Johan had brought us to this spot – he had taken a different route from his usual touristic routine as he had taken a liking to us and we were getting special treatment.
We drove down to Hradčanské náměstí (“Hradcany Square”), the large square in front of Prague castle, where Johan posed his car in front of the castle and took pictures with us in it. We subsequently saw other cars doing the same and this was clearly part of “the route” again. Our cool little Škoda attracted lots of attention from others, some girls draping themselves over the bonnet to have their picture taken, but somehow I suspected that for Johan his car was his first love.
After this he dropped us by the Kafka Museum, a bit lower down the hill, close to the river. We went for a drink and a bite (goulash soup and a beer) at a café he had recommended. To play along, we went for it, and it wasn’t bad at all. Across the narrow cobbled street was the Kafka Museum, across a courtyard, with a curious statue of two stylised bronze figures holding their penises and peeing water from their swivelling hips into a small pond which represented an outline of the Czech Republic. The meaning was lost on us.
We visited the Kafka museum and spent a good deal of time being guided through the two floors with dark rooms and curious exhibits which accompanied the descriptions. First there was a lifeline of Franz Kafka, his background, his angsts, his personality and how it was formed and developed, and on the lower floor it took us through his works, in suitably atmospheric rooms, like the corridors of filing cabinets for The Castle, and a more disturbing one on another work, with references to torture, and others – I forget now… ah, yes, The Trial, and so on. A fascinating museum and definitely worth a visit.
From the Kafka museum we walked gradually towards the Karlův most and down the stairs on the side to take a look at the Yann Arthus Bertrand photograph exhibition. We slowly went from one amazing picture to the next. It was definitely a case of seeing the world through different eyes, with some fantastic shots. At the end of the square there were some embassies – it’s that sort of area, with the Estonian one on one side, and in a rather grander building, the Cambodian one. The flag was flying and the Cambodian king was just leaving, getting into his limo and his cortege drove off. A Cambodian-American tourist couldn’t believe her luck as she was allowed to greet the king in person and was still over the moon. We strolled back around and stopped for a drink and a game of cards at a café/terrace on a quiet square by a watermill (the old wheel was still running, but the building was deserted).
In our summery clothes we were beginning to feel a bit chilly by now so from Malá Strana we headed back to the hotel, walking across Karlův most and through the little streets of the Staré Město, still in sightseeing mode and trying to recollect and compare to how we remembered Prague from our first visit. It was definitely a lot busier now! A great day of just mooching about a bit so far. At the hotel we put warmer layers on, and then went out for the evening. What we felt most in the mood for was just some easy nosh, not a touristic café, and maybe the cinema.
We had a drink at a rather English pub, but with a Prague locals atmosphere, as if we were living here and were just out for a drink after work. Excellent Czech dark lager! Then we went for a meal at the nearby Brazilian restaurant, the Ambiente Restaurante Brasileiro, located below street level, and we got lucky with a table without reservation. It clearly was very popular and understandably so – there was a superb buffet with all sorts of stuff, and then you just eat as much meat as you wanted, provided by the waiters doing the rounds with various dishes and skewers they carved from, everything from beef, to chicken, pork, chicken hearts, fish, etc. All very tasty. There were oysters on the buffet too. It reminded us of Rodizio’s in Asunción, the other place where we had Brazilian churrasco. We hurried a little and managed to make it on time for the film, Miami Vice, at the cinema next door (we had already bought our tickets). The film was so-so, but it had been a great evening out, exactly what we were after, and after a lovely day of sightseeing. “B, B & B!”