Friday, September 30, 2011

My first Czech supper

Halušky! It's what's for dinner.

When I woke up from my sleep glorious sleep, and wandered the Mala Strana, I wanted to get something snack-y to eat to tide me over to supper. When you read too many tour guidebooks, you sometimes can get scared to try something not listed in the book. But spontaneity is my middle name. (Well, actually, it's "Paul." I'm using a figure of speech.) I wandered over to Kampa Island alongside the River Vltava, and there were some stalls with people cooking up streetfood! One guy had this big cooking vessel that looked like a giant wok. He was cooking up a mixture of potato dumplings, sauerkraut, and thick-cut bacon which which my Polish friends may be familiar, but I was not. The sign said it was "potato," but one bite and it was definitely a spaetzl-type dumpling that probably had wheat in addition to potato, but it was gooooooooood. Washed it down with a beer, of course, because this is Prague. Nobody drinks water.

And the Czech Republic Is Country #13

Taking pictures at night seems to require a special talent. Actually, it just requires steady hands (or a tripod). I got neither. So the above is what results from me taking pictures at night.

I am now safely ensconced in my hotel in the Mala Strana, or Little Quarter, of Prague, CZ. And with my plane touching down in Prague, the Czech Republic becomes the lucky 13th country I've been to. I count the USA as Country #1 (USA #1! Woo hoo!!), again, as I said earlier, I'm desperate to inflate my count of countries of visited.

I arrived in Prague dog-tired. I barely slept on tte flight(s) over.* I don't think I could sleep on an airplane even if it were comfortable. And steerage on Swiss Air was not bad at all for steerage, but it was still an airplane. I did to get to watch two movies I've never seen before on the flight: "The Hangover" (yes, I had not seen it before and it was funny in parts) and "Water For Elephants," with Reese Witherspoon and some kid who I think is one of the "Twilight" boys, but I'm not sure. Perhaps if the movies had been more boring, I could've slept. But, try as the filmmakers did, there was to be no sleep. Which means the plane landed in Prague with me having pretty much been aware for about 24 hours.

Footnote [*]: When you only sleep a little, it's "barely" slept, right? Because if I "bearly" slept, that would mean I've been hibernating for several months and, man, could I use a few dozen salmon.

So I cabbed it to the Hotel William (seen above) in the Mala Strana, near the Prague Castle and, more importantly, the Infant of Prague! He's like, half a block down the street! The room is very European, meaning, "tiny," with a "hard bed" and a comforter and a little capsule shower. It's also kind of loud, with no a/c. I might as well crack a window to sleep since the street noise level (car traffic, no drunken Brits on "stag" weekend as you find everywhere else in Prague) is pretty lous even with the windows closed.

But it wasn' so loud that I couldn't take a nap when I got here. I got to the room at about 3:30PM local time and did not leave until 7:30PM. That was a good nap.

So by the time I went to check out the neighborhood, it was dark, but the old buildings were lit up nicely. This is the Church of Our Lady Victorious, home of the one, the only, Infant of Prague:

This is looking down the main drag toward the Church of St. Nicholas:

I'm not sure if this THE St. Nicholas -- and there's another landmark church of St. Nicholas in the Old Town on the other side of Vltana River -- but there is only one St. Nicholas who matters, right? Here's a closer view:

I then walked down to the Charles Bridge (Karlův most), probably the most photographed (and photogenic) landmark in Prague. This is the view mid-bridge facing west toward Mala Strana:

And here's the view mid-bridge looking east toward Old Town Prague:

It looks better live. Really.

Switzerland Is Country #12

Switzerland is officially the twelfth country that I've visited and the first foreigh port of call of this trip. I'm only changing airplanes in Zurich, but I'm counting it as a visit to Switzerland because (a) I had to go through passport control and have my passport stamped as entering Suisse, (b) I bought a souvenir (to forever cherish those those memories of my 90 minutes in Switxerland) and spending cash = visiting, and (c) I'm trying to inflate my count of the total number of countries I visited so airport layovers count since my feet have touched the soil, or, at least the tile flooring of Zurich.

I didn't get to see any of Switzerland other than the innards of the airport. It was a foggy dreary day, so no Matterhorn, no alpine lakes, no Heidi. Just a tiny little fog-encrusted airport.

I actually had to go though airport security for each leg of the flight. McCarran, of course. Then, in Chicago O'Hare, I had to exit the domestic area, walk briskly across the world's busiest, then go through international security. I accidentally walked into the no-line first class security checkpoint, which meant I was treated like someone not to be [trifled] with it. And then more security at ZRH. But no customs inspection when I landed at Prague.