Kade kneels next to a stream formed by the San Francisco Glacier, about two hours outside Santiago, Chile.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Prague, Czech Republic

I arrived in Prague, where I was scheduled to meet Uncle Jim at the airport.  I made it to the airport and waited for him in the arrivals area.  I was standing up on a second floor, looking down at the baggage conveyor belt.  And then he appeared!  After we said our 'hellos' we figured out how to get to an apartment that Uncle Jim had arranged for our stay.  We were scheduled to stay in Prague for a few days, and we needed to be in a section of town where we could walk to the main sights.  We had no concrete, structured tour itinerary of any kind.  We had no locals to meet.  A guide book and some brochures were all we had, and that was enough.  Uncle Jim brought a video camera he'd borrowed from someone back home, and we were excited about using it to record our experiences.

The first chance we got, we walked down to Wenceslas Square, a historical brick-paved road lined with restaurants, museums, art galleries and coffee houses.  It was the place to be, for tourists and locals alike.   Just off the square were stone walking bridges that spanned the Vltava River.  The Charles Bridge, in particular was very popular.  Centuries old, it connected the old part of Prague with the new.  Incidentally, the new part is more than 700 years old!  On the bridge, there were young lovers holding hands and there were artists painting portraits of people's faces - people who agreed to sit for a period of time.  The atmosphere on the Charles Bridge, and the view looking at the river and back at the square, where you have lovely National Museum at one end, was as beautiful as anything I had seen to that point in my life.  Walking back down the square boulevard, past the knight on horseback statue, we searched for a place to eat that first evening.  We wanted something local, and so we took a chance on a restaurant in a medieval-style tavern (basement level) of a large historical building facing the boulevard.  We made our way down, and discovered the restaurant was a white table cloth one!  Instead of walking back out, we sat at a table.  We were hungry and tired.  Luckily our waiter spoke some English.  With his help, we ordered a few dishes.  The restaurant's specialty was wild game dishes.  For many years after, on up to today even, I would place this dining experience as one of my favorites ever.  We might have tried pheasant or wild boar or venison.  I can't exactly remember.  But I do know it was exceptionally delicious.  We had some bread and some vegetable sides that rounded off the game dishes perfectly.  Maybe some mashed potatoes, Prague style.  Really, really good.  When the check came, it was fairly expensive.  I was just fortunate that Uncle Jim picked up the tab!

I remember two more activities we did in Prague.  Maybe more will come to me later.  One day we went to a spa.  I didn't know it at the time, but spas in the Czech Republic are typically unisex and clothing optional.  In fact, if you're wearing clothing, it's very strange.  I found out the club was unisex when I was sitting in the dry heat sauna.  Buck naked and on my towel, I was sitting there, ridding my body of toxins and excess fat.  In walked a middle-aged woman, completely naked, and she proceeded to lie down on a towel right next to me.  Imagine being raised Southern Baptist, in country that's very modest and very puritanical compared to Europe, and then have that experience I had.  Well, let's just say, I adapted quite easily!  Another activity we did was shopping.  Uncle Jim wanted to buy some things for his siblings back home.  And I was thinking of something for Mother, and maybe Dad.  So we ended up shopping for Bohemian crystal, glassware that's very popular in Prague.  We made some buys and shipped them back to the USA.

Another memory I have is seeing big groups of people (mostly young men) decked out in orange, shouting slogans and cheering wildly, as they consumed beer after beer at one of the outdoor beer gardens in Prague.  I discovered later that it had something to with football (soccer).

Here's some Bohemian crystal I bought in Prague.  On the left is a vase I gave Mother.  The purple glass piece was something I got for me.  I put tea lights candles in it whenever I need some ambiance.

And below is another purple glass piece - slightly larger than the one above.  This one I gave Mother as a gift.


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