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The Prague Experience


On the last part September 1998 we spent five days of 'hard-labor' sightseeing the spectacular city of Prague, the ancient capital of what once was Bohemia and today is the Czech Republic.
There are five important quarters in Prague which is bisected by the Vltava river. The Jewish Quarter, the Old Town and the New Town are all to the east of the river. The Little Quarter and the Prague Castle lie west of the river.
We stayed at a very nice early-20th century totally renovated Art Nouveau hotel called "Palace Hotel" very near the central and bustling Wenceslas Square, a walking distance from all the city's attractions but the Castle.
The city of Prague proudly boasts dozens of breathtakingly beautiful buildings, bridges and monuments. All styles from the early Romanesque thru Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque to the Neo Classic and Art Nouveau are represented. Many of the buildings are perfectly preserved and exquisitely lit at night. There are few more enchanting sights in the world than standing in the middle of Charles Bridge at night, facing the Little Quarter, and taking in the magnificent view of the bridge gate, St. Nicholas Church and the Castle with its huge Cathedral - all fantastically illuminated.
But... with all the spectacular sites, Prague must rank as the most charmless beautiful city in the world. Anything that is not a tourist attraction looks shabby gloomy and run-down. The old town square with the famous Town Hall Tower and its surroundings belongs to the (literally!) millions of tourists that flock the city every day. The Czech people don't seem to mingle well with their city. They look somber and act accordingly (unless there's a chance of milking the tourists). In short, there is no true atmosphere to the city.

Besides touring the city, its sites, museums etc., we were on the cultural trail too. We saw a so-so performance of 'Tosca' in the quite nice National Opera. In addition we saw the 'Laterna Magica', an excellent "multimedia" modern ballet of sorts.
As usual, we tried to sample the best local cuisine at the best restaurants available. As for wines, the whites are better than the red, and in any event - the Czech Republic is rightly much more famous for its superb beers...

Following is where and what we ate:

U Modre Kachnicky (At the Blue Duckling)
A beautifully decorated 'homeish' cosy and intimate restaurant not far from Charles Bridge on the Little Quarter side. We liked the food and atmosphere so much that we ate there twice, on our first and last evening.
The menu is mainly local dishes, with an accent on game.
On our first visit we had:
Venison Pate
Puff pastry filled with Deer ragu
Wild Duck with pears and almonds
Roast Rabbit in a stew sauce with spinach and potatoes gnocchi
Two kind of palachinky (pancakes)

Ruslandske 1991, Kabily - Light colored, light-substance local 'Pinot Noir'. Simple fruit with no weight, delicacy or complexity. Faultless and drinkable.
Reasonable. MARK 14/20.

On our second visit we had:
Smoked tongue with white horseradish
Snails in garlic and butter
Venison soup
Roast Partridge
Roast Rabbit (same as last time)
Apple Strudel
Apple cooked in honey

Cabernet Sauvignon 1994, Murdesy - Light color, nice fruity aroma without any trace of wood. Very light in body and on the palate. Probably the lightest CS I ever had. Quite pleasant though.
Good. MARK 15/20.

Really good food. Very moderate prices (about $70-$75 for each of the two sumptuous meals we had). Highly recommended!

Palace Hotel
As we had tickets for the opera, we decided to eat in that evening. The grill room of our hotel was recommended as one of the best places in town...
Very elegant, with old world formal service and a very good (old) pianist.

Mushroom soup
Slices of Goose breast
Truffled fettucini
Half a Lobster termidor
Blueberries Pancakes

Ryzlink Rynsky 1994, Roundnike Zamecke - A local Riesling. Very pleasant nose, dry and relatively strong (11.9%) on the palate. Nice acidity and balance.
Very-Good. MARK 16/20.

Good restaurant. Expensive (about $110 for what we had). Moderately recommended

Kampa Park
A very elegant fish restaurant under the Charles Bridge on the Little Quarter side. The restaurant offers spectacular view of the river and the city, especially if you come at dusk and are seated in the 'winter garden'.
A complete contrast to the Kachnicky, the kitchen here is innovative and creative in the best sense of the word. They fly in fresh seafood from Scandinavia several times a week (the Czech Republic is completely landlocked) and use many of their fresh-water lakes fish.

Grilled Tiger Shrimps on a bed of fruit "couscous"
Egg-roll of Rabbit meat and vegetables
Sweet and sour lobster bisque with three kinds of fish
Grilled Catfish on a bed of rice and shrimps
Forest fruits and ice-cream

Sauvignon Blanc 1997, Chateau Valtice - Very aromatic, dry and refreshing. Relatively full bodied and mouthfilling.
Very-Good-plus. MARK 16.5/20.

Superb restaurant. Moderate prices (about $80 for what we had). Highly recommended!

La Perle de Prague
A super elegant French restaurant on the top floor of the modern and architecturally controversial building on the New Town side of the Vltava river.
The restaurant is spacious, the view of the city is spectacular, the decor is minimalist, the Chef and staff are French. Only two other tables were occupied during the whole evening.

Appetizers: Stuffed pastry and Celery soup [Chef's present]
Shrimps 'Tartar'
Duck liver in oranges
Roasted Langoustines in cream sauce
[for two]
Fruit salad in wine
Bananas gratineed in zabaglione

Palava Kabinet 1996, Vinselekt Perna - A local white wine variety, reminding of Riesling. Very aromatic with fruit and flowers on the nose. Elegant pleasant and soft on the palate. Extremely well balanced. The best wine we had in Czechia.
Excellent! MARK 17/20.

Meagre portions, soggy shrimps, nothing to write home about. Very expensive (about $140). Not recommended

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Jacob "Yak" Shaya.