Czech Republic

Trdelni'k, Prague, Czech Republic

Trdelni'k, Prague, Czech Republic

Julie Tam in Prague, Czech Republic

Julie Tam in Prague, Czech Republic

From Vienna, Austria, we took our tour bus to the final country on our 6-country tour of Europe — Czech Republic.

Prague
Tourism is the number-one industry in Czech Republic, according to our local tour guide. Office buildings and banking also are a big part of the economy. As one of those tourists contributing to the nation’s economy, we started our day at Prague Castle, the largest castle in Europe and Czech Republic’s most iconic landmark. Standing just inside the wall around the hill, we found an artist named Michael creating oil paintings for sale. We bought one to take to a friend back home — showing Prague Castle and the nearby Charles Bridge over the Vltava River. From that vantage point, we could see an Eiffel Tower look-a-like on a nearby hill. In the same area was St. Vitus Cathedral — a grand structure with dramatic, pointed spires — and the Astronomical Clock. Skyscrapers aren’t allowed in the Old Town, so most of what you see is historic buildings unscathed by war — unlike the other countries on our trip (Germany, Croatia, etc.). We walked toward Charles Bridge via Golden Lane, a romantic, winding, sloped walkway with shops and artisan museum displays in small spaces along the way. A unique and charming experience!

Michael the oil painter, Prague, Czech Republic

Michael the oil painter, Prague, Czech Republic

We walked across Charles Bridge, which was crowded with vendors selling everything from art to jewelry to food, perused mostly by tourists. We took a lunch cruise on the Vltava River, from which we saw the beautiful sights along the river — architecturally stunning buildings, people enjoying strolls along the banks. We spent the afternoon in the center of town, where we saw more tourists than in any other country on our tour so far. Continuing our European tradition, we enjoyed pastries and drinks at an outdoor table at Cafe Au Gormand. From there, we could people-watch and snap a photo of the prevalent graffiti on the facades of such historic buildings. In the squares around us, we found sausage stands, one of which sold us the best sausage I’ve ever had — juicy, tender, spicy, and full of flavor from the wiener to the sauce. Across the way, we saw a vendor making large treats that looked and, as we soon experienced, tasted a little like cinnamon rolls but with a cylindrical shape and hollow in the middle — called Trdelni’k! We wrapped up the afternoon shopping the stores down each street around us, being amused by the 7-person bicycles taking people around on the brick roads, and passing through the Jewish Quarter.

We had eaten too much all day long to finish our whole dinner in the 13th-century wine cellar of U Cisaru Restaurant.

spring water, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

spring water, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

Karlovy Vary

Saqib at end of Golden Lane, Prague, Czech Republic

Saqib at end of Golden Lane, Prague, Czech Republic

The next morning began with a drive to Karlovy Vary, which literally means “Charles Spring” because the city was discovered by King Charles IV. The mineral spring water there was found to have healing and age-preserving properties, and has drawn millions of tourists, including Beethoven and Mozart, each year to this spa resort town. We got to sample the water for free. An indoor fountain was the location of a geyser shooting high up into the air. Nearby were several indoor and outdoor water stations with salty spring water at different temperatures from warm to hot.

Shops sold porcelain mugs with a spout for drinking the water, plenty of artwork depicting scenes of Czech Republic, bells, and teapots. Before departing for Germany, we had lunch and an afternoon snack of warm Oblaten — thin, wafer-like, and in chocolate and cinnamon — from Teplé Oplatky, a stand in a busy part of the center of the city.

Our tour bus took us back to Frankfurt for our final night in Europe before departing for the United States. Our tour group had a great time singing after dinner and expressing our appreciation for the tour leader, bus driver, and fellow group members, who had helped make this tour the most pleasant I’ve ever taken.

graffiti, Prague, Czech Republic

graffiti, Prague, Czech Republic