My wonderful and unforgettable week with a group of ten Australians.
The last days of October were unusually warm and sunny – no sign of the rain that is so typical at this time of year in Prague. Our trip began at Vaclav Havel Airport on Monday afternoon. I picked my group up at the gate, greeting them as they arrived from Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand. We then drove straight to Hotel Paris, one of the most beautiful Art Nouveau hotels in Prague. Our travellers needed a bit of a rest after their long-haul flight.
On Tuesday, we kicked off our visit of Prague at Strahov Monastery,sampling a few small beers. The boys’ verdict? “Not bad!” So I had a quick taste, too. Then, after a tour of Prague castle, we headed to Baracnicka rychta for lunch. The restaurant belongs to the Patriotic Association of Cottagers (Baracnici) who are on a mission to revive our country’s old customs and traditions. We spent a pleasant afternoon wandering through the old part of the city and went on a river cruise up the Vltava (Moldau.) Our boat driver, who happened to be English, was very entertaining and full of interesting anecdotes about the history of Prague. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at EBELto taste one of the best coffees in Prague.
Wednesday was a day of historical mix as I showed my group two very different facets of Czech tradition – glass-making and “taking the waters” at an old spa town. We left Prague for Karlovy Vary with the sun shining and headed to one of the Czech Republic’s most prestigious glass factories, Moser. After lunch at one of Karlovy Vary’s oldest and grandest hotels, the Pupp (built in 1701), we visited the hotel’s newly revamped spa. Then we headed into town to walk through the historic colonnades and drink water from the thermal springs. On our way back to Prague we passed through picturesque Loket, a town renowned for its Romanesque castle and medieval dungeons where members of the Royal family were once incarcerated. In the evening, we called into my parents´ house and my father served his famous strudel. Our Australian friends also got their first taste of the traditional plum aperitif Slivovice.
On Thursday we set off for Cesky Krumlov for a taste of South Bohemia. We stopped off on the way at one of the Czech Republic’s finest breweries, Velkopopovicky kozel. After sampling an impressive variety of beer we continued on to Cesky Krumlov, a town full of stunning Renaissance architecture. We brought the Renaissance spirit back to life, dressing up as Bohemian Kings and Queens and feasting on a medieval banquet. I did my best to teach our three Australian guys the traditional Slovak dance style of Cardas. My verdict? “Not bad!” We certainly enjoyed our evening.
We began Friday visiting Fotoatelier Seidl, an old photographic studio and museum where a photographer took an old-fashioned black-and-white portrait of our group. Then we drove on to Tabor to enjoy lunch at restaurant Nautilus. Our Australian friends also learnt how to cook Czech dumplings. Chef Martin Svatek declared the novice cooks’ dumplings to be a great success. When we got back to Prague we stopped off for coffee at the iconic Cubist café U Cerne matky bozi. Later, we ended our evening eating goulash and strudel at one of Prague’s liveliest medieval taverns, U pavouka.
On our last day, Saturday, we visited Kutna Hora, a historic town famous for silver-mining and its monumental Gothic church, “St. Barbara’s Cathedral.” Before leaving town, we called into the Central Bohemian Art Gallery to admire some fine examples of modern Czech art. When we returned to Prague that afternoon we took a guided tour of the city’s Art Nouveau showpiece, Municipal House Hall. and later enjoyed our final dinner together at Municipal House’s elegant French restaurant.
On Sunday morning, I took my group to the airport and said goodbye to them in the business lounge. Our short week together was over, but I knew that my Australians would stay in my heart forever.
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