Posts Tagged ‘dining’

4:42 am

Little Brother’s Visit, Days 3 and 4: Karlstejn

Third Day: Karlštejn

For Friday, I had made reservations for the second tour at Karlštejn. Because this tour takes in the Chapel of the Holy Rood (Holy Cross), they strictly limit access and it is necessary to make advance reservations. The tour also "passes through the Marian and Great towers and offers visit to the Church of Our Lady, Chapel of St. Catharine, former Sacristy, suspension wooden bridge, museum of lapidary, castle’s picture gallery, library with exposition of the last reconstruction of the castle."

The train from Prague takes about 40 minutes. Of the former royal castles, this one is the closest to Prague (next after Prague Castle, that is), so the guidebooks warn that it is overrun by tourists. Friday midday, though, this late in the season, there were no hordes of tourists.

After the previous day’s extended walking tour, neither LB nor I was really eager to do a lot of walking. However, the castle is a 20 – 30 minute walk from the train station. I had warned LB that the castle was a bit of a hike, but the first 15 minutes or so was at no more than a gentle incline, and LB commented that this wasn’t so bad. But look where the castle is relative to where we are was my reply:

And yes, that last 10 minutes was steep!

We arrived at the castle with just a few minutes to spare before our 1:15 tour was to start. The inner courtyard is not particularly interesting:

However, the walls offer superb views of the valley below:

And peaking around the side of the castle:

Karlštejn’s main claim to fame (beyond its convenience as a day trip from Prague) is that it was built as a place for safekeeping of the royal treasures, especially Charles IV’s collection of holy relics and the coronation jewels of the Holy Roman Empire. Of course, these treasures are no longer stored at Karlštejn, and the castle itself is frankly not all that interesting. The tour guide did his best, though, to make the tour interesting.

The real reason to visit Karlštejn, and particularly to take the second tour, is to visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross: it is totally amazing. The upper walls are lined with a collection of 129 panel paintings dating back to the 14th century, collection by Master Theodoric. The lower walls are encrusted with gold and precious and semiprecious stones. The altar is separated from the rest of the chapel by a screen; on the altar are replicas of the the crown, scepter and orb from the Czech crown jewels (which I had missed seeing in April). We weren’t allowed to take pictures, of course, but the virtual tour on the castle website gives something of the feel.

The chapel had fallen victim to extensive vandalism and looting when the castle was reopened to the public following the fall of Communism, so it had been closed for several years for renovation before reopening just a few years ago. But the damage done by tourists accounts for why reservations for tour 2 must be made in advance and the number of tourists for any given tour is limited to no more than 15. The tour guide was very particular about making sure that we did not stray from the carpet!

Aside from the castle, there’s nothing much to see in Karlštejn, though LB did browse the souvenir stands and picked up a few trinkets before we headed back to the train station.

Burčák and Dinner

On our return to Prague, there was a wine festival set up in Náměstí Míru, and I was able to introduce LB to burčák, Moravian new wine. It was utterly packed and was to relocate the following day to Havličkovy Sady, so we didn’t spend much time. Instead, we went on to dinner at U Básníka Pánve (which I blogged about recently). LB had the "Velvety Velvet", described on the menu as "chicken breast filled with lean English bacon strip, blue cheese, walnuts and golden pear". It was, he said, the best chicken dish he had ever had in a restaurant. (I had my favorite boar goulash.)

After dinner, we went across the street to Bar and Books (which also featured in a recent posting). Since LB is a big James Bond fan, I felt that he should have a "Vesper" (Bond’s signature martini), and I knew he would appreciate the fact that they play Bond movies (sans sound) constantly. Unfortunately, he didn’t much care for the Vesper and the Bond movie was one of the Timothy Dalton flicks.

Fourth Day

After all the walking we had been doing and with me needing to take some time to prepare for the start of teaching, we kept Saturday low key. LB went out for a walk, returning to the tank at the National Museum and wandering along Václavské Náměstí, while I stayed home, poring over course books and virtuously doing my lesson planning.

When LB returned, we went out to the wine festival at Havličkovy Sady. However, crowded as it had been at Náměstí Míru the previous day, it was even worse on Saturday. And at all the wine stands, the lines were 20 deep (and moving very slowly), so we didn’t buy anything or stay for long.

2:02 pm

Dining Faux Pas

So, I went out to dinner this evening, to one of my preferred restaurants, U Básníka Pánve. I ordered one of my favorites, the boar goulash. In the mood for a green veggie to go with it, I also ordered a side of … wait for it … steamed broccoli!

What? You aren’t shocked? The waiter was. "But, the goulash comes with dumplings!" "Yes, I know." "So, you want the broccoli instead of dumplings?" "No, I just want a green vegetable." "But no soup or salad?" "No, that will be all." So away he went, shaking his head at the strange American.

Maybe if I had ordered a side of red cabbage, it would have gone over better. As it is, I’m left to wonder if goulash with broccoli on the side is really that disturbing to Czech sensibilities. I have ordered broccoli at this restaurant before, though I don’t remember whether or not I’ve ever done so with the goulash.

Both the goulash and the broccoli were fine, so at least the kitchen wasn’t too offended.

The menu, incidentally, contains some of really enchanting examples of quirky translation:

  • It took me a while to figure out that the "Lukul shrimps" are meant to be "Local shrimp" (although I’m still not certain where local shrimp could possibly be coming from).
  • The Moravian goose liver is "nifty".
  • Duck breast on torn lettuce with golden pear, walnuts and fig jam is "amazingly marinated".
  • The Maravian sour soup with home-made sausages and smoked knee (sic) is "smoothed with ripened cream", not topped with sour cream.
  • "Crunchy chick" is undoubtedly better than it sounds (it is described as a chicken breast marinated in Argentinean spices and stuffed with dry ham, cream cheese, coated with sweet corn flakes and almonds).
  • The home-made chocolate cake with forest fruits and whipped cream is "bombastic", while the strawberry and banana fondue with chocolate and Baileys is "amorous".
2:29 pm

Hand-held Credit Card Scanners

I was really amazed when I came to Europe and found that every restaurant and cafe and even most pubs have these hand-held credit card scanners. It’s such a logical device: rather than a waiter taking your credit card away, and running the risk that (at best) it will be accidentally returned to another customer, the waiter brings the reader to you. Apparently, they’re just now starting to catch on in the US, at least according to this article from the New York Times.

4:50 pm

A regular restaurant?

I went out this evening in search of someplace to have dinner and possibly turn into a regular hangout, and I think I found it.

The Table d’Eugene is just a little ways away, and it looked as though near about everyone there is a regular. It’s the sort of place where the patrons think nothing of getting up to get a bit more bread or being asked to help translate the menu for a hapless pair of tourists (not me; another table). The food and wine are tasty and reasonably priced. The proprietor is very genial, with a bit of a Richard Dawson complex.

Table d'Eugene

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