[Day 16] Prague Castle and other architecture

Another early morning start but this time, it started with some home cooked meal. My brother’s father and mother-in-law cooked us breakfast. While eating breakfast, I quickly checked the weather map and it was going to be a beautiful day.

We headed back to the Prague Castle for a better look. With the rain yesterday, we didn’t get to enjoy it fully. We had to go through security to get into the Castle first and once inside, we headed to the ticket office. There were several ticket choices and we decided to do Circuit B (250 CZK). This included the Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane, and St. Vitus Cathedral. Take a look at the different ticket types to see which one fits your interest. They also have audio guides and guided tours if you want to learn more history behind the Castle. Also, they had signs that said cash only but when we tried to walk away because we didn’t have enough cash, the staff pulled out the card reader and we were able to pay with card. I was so confused but also grateful that they took our card! When you visit, it would be best if you prepare both cash and card, just in case.

Once we had our tickets, we first headed to Golden Lane. I was also very curious about it since it also had another name: Alchemist’s Alley. Rumor has it that the king had brought in Alchemists to the castle to make gold. I’m not sure if there were actual alchemists here but if there were, they must have been pretty tiny. The houses here had displays of what it would have been like to live here and everything was small! The beds looked like it was for children and even some of the doorways, I had a bend a little to get in. Also, the houses were really cute. Each house had a unique design and color and made the street look like a fairy tale. I wish I could’ve taken a picture of all the houses but there were lots of tourists here and was impossible to get a photo of the street without anyone. I would suggest coming here early morning to have the place to yourself. Also, some of the houses were used a shops! They sold handmade goods such as pottery, art, books, and more.

We also went up the tower and this was like the barracks. They had weapon and armor displays and even sold them. The tower was connected to the wall of the castle and they still had wooden barrels on the windows that closed and opened for when they were under attack. The wooden barrel could be turned to provide an oepn slot for archers to shot out of and turned to close it for when the enemy attacked. That was so cool! The Golden Lane also had a dungeon that had several torture devices used back during the 16th and 17th century. The hardest part of the dungeon was getting out! The stairs were narrow and when a flood of people came in one by one, we just had to wait to get out.

After seeing Golden Lane, we headed to see the St. Vitus Cathedral. It was the most impressive building in the Castle and yesterday, we were only able to see the outside of it. When we got to the square, there was a long line to get into the cathedral that wrapped around the whole square. Luckily, the line moved ralatively quickly. One thing to look out for was that there were a lot of people who were trying to cut in line. We even had to tell some people to get to the back of the line. I would watch out for these people.

Once inside the Cathedral, the staff scanned our tickets and told us that no hats were allowed. We took off our hats and headed inside. The Basilica was also as grand as the outside decor. There were several architects who worked on this project and they added their own spin on this Gothic architecture. I really loved looking at the ceilings for the net-looking arches and the light coming in through the windows. They also had several stained glass windows that brought in color into the Basilica.

We visited the Old Royal Palace afterward. After seeing the Basicila, the Palace wasn’t as impressive but the Vladislav Hall was still grand. What I found interesting was that this Hall was still being used by the government to host large events! Even though Czech Republic does not have a roayl family anymore, these old royal building were serving a purpose for the current state. I really liked that and would love to see a modern event being held in a historic building. The palace also had their royal family tree? on the walls and ceilings. I’m actually not so sure if it was a family tree but the staff there told us not to take pictures so I’m not sure what it was. Regardless, it was interesting to look at.

Lastly, we visited the St. George’s Basilica. The church building was bright red and very hard to miss. Once inside, we noticed how small this basilica was. Even though it was small in size, the Gothic style continued here. I walked around and saw some interesting artwork and Gothic architecture details and walked out. This was probably the shortest time we spent inside a building.

Once we were outside the Castle, we decided to eat from the Christmas Market. We wanted to eat light because we were getting a big dinner. So we had some sausages, potatos, grilled cheese, and of course, Trdelník. This Market was also cash only! A lot of places in Czech Republic were cash only so I would recommend bringing enough. The Trdelník here did only had plain or nutella and we got the nutella. Getting one fresh off the fire was the best! Crispy outside and sofe inside. And of course, nutella made everything even better.

After our meal, we walked towards the Dancing House. We walked along the Vltava river and saw the multi-color houses. I really loved how European houses/apartments were so colorful! I wish American apartments could be as unique as these. [One thing I do wish we had done was visit the Lennon Wall. I did not know it at the time but it was fairly close to the Charles Bridge.] But the uniqueness did not compare to the Dancing House.

It was so interesting to see a curved building! And there were actual people inside! We could see their shadows through the windows. I wondered what the people living there would think of the tourist who take pictures of their house. There were lots of people posing for a funny picture like kicking or punching and it was amusing to look at.

It was starting to get dark really fast. It was about 4:40pm when the sun started to go down. The parents wanted to take us to a restaurant called U Fleků and this was on my “eat here” list! From the outside, you wouldn’t notice it but inside, there were several different dining halls. The ones by the entrance was already packed when we came and we were led to a dining hall in the back. The hall had long tables with benches and a stage at the front. I asked the staff and they told me that they have live cabaret shows on certain days. We ordered several dishes including the pork knuckles (Koleno) and it was delicious! Again, they had huge portions here.

What was special about this place was their beer. They brewed their own beer here and you could not get this beer anywhere else. It was a dark beer and the test was almost velvety. Once you get hooked on this beer, you would have to come here to taste it again! And I think that is the reason why the parents wanted to bring us here. It was really good and I highly recommend it! We did not make reservation and were luckily it was non-busy season. However, if you plan on visiting during a busy time, make reservation!

Also, we did not get to see the cabaret but that doesn’t mean we didn’t get any entertainment. An accordionist made rounds through the halls and one made it to our hall. You could request songs and if he knew them, he played it. He played some old classic pop as well as newer songs. When he came by our table, he asked us what ethnicity we were and when we told him Korean, he played one of our folk song and he was actually pretty good. We tipped him and he stayed at our table for a bit and played more songs. It was actually really nice. Never had a chance to hear an accordion so close up. It was definitely a treat.

After our meal, we headed back home. However, I wasn’t done yet! I decided to go back out to the Old Town Square and go up one of the Towers to get a bird’s eye view of the square. Plus, the family wanted more Trdelník so I headed out. My sister-in-law’s sister wanted to come with and it was more, the merrier. We headed to the Old Town Square and decided to go up the Astronomical Clock Tower. Once inside, there was a line for the ticket. We tried to buy it online but the website was not working. The line moved quickly and we were able to get inside fast. We were ready to climb some staircases but was surprised with an elavator! An extremely modern looking one at that. Of course, there was a ramp along the wall that you can climb up but why walk when you can ride? So we took the elavator up and the view was amazing! You were looking right into the Square. The view of the Church of Our Lady before Tyn and the Christmas Market was spectacular. I could see why people were visting the tower. While we were up, we saw the Christmas Tree show and it was a sight! We must have gone right before closing time because when we left, we were the last few there. It was nice being semi-alone.

Once we were out of the tower, we looked for a place to grab Trdelník from. We couldn’t get any from the Market because they did not take card. We walked down the alley and found a place that took card. And this place had fillings and ice cream. We got 2 Trdelník (chocolate/vanilla swirl with pistachio spread and chocolate spread with vanilla ice cream) and rushed home to share it with the family. Best way to end the night!

[Day 15] Christmas in Prague

It was Christmas day and we started the day early. We knew a lot of things were going to be closed and decided to just roam around the city and hope for the best. A lot of “things to see in Prague” are architectures so we were in luck, in that aspect.

First, we started at the Old Town Square. It was very quiet in the morning with all the Christmas market stalls closed and only a handful of people in sight. The Christmas tree was still lit and provided some light for the Square.

The Prague Astronomical Clock was next. In the morning, it looked even better since I could clearly see all the colors and details. It was really beautiful. Even though it was early morning, there were lots of people here taking photos. If you want individual photos, I recommend coming in the morning.

And we followed the road down to the Charles Bridge. On the way, we admired the old buildings and its colors, the brick road that mixed in with the new concrete roads, and the smell of fresh Trdelnik.

The view of the Bridge and from the Bridge were both amazing! There were lots of status on the Bridge that made it interesting to cross. And from the Bridge, you could see the Prague Castle and the view was just beautiful! There were not a lot of people when we got there but there were several photoshoots happening.

Once you cross the Bridge, you see a street full of shops, cafe, and restaurants. We found a small cafe and enjoyed breakfast. We only saw trdelnik at the Christmas Market and they only had 2 options (plain and nutella) but the cafe/restaurants had several different ones, including savory options. They were making it enjoyable for all occasion.

We were slowly making our way up to the Castle when someone approached us about a concert. Since it was Christmas, the family decided to make it special and bought tickets for it.

We eventually made it to the top of the hill. There was a Starbucks here that provided a good view and also a small Christmas market here as well. While taking pictures, we had a bit of a crisis and had to take a break. I ended up using the bathroom at the Starbucks and they had a turnstile entry. If you bought a drink from Starbucks, you would get a code at the bottom of the receipt. If not, you had to pay to get in, so bring coins with you!

Once the crisis was averted, we headed back towards the Castle. It was interesting because I always thought a “castle” was a one large building. However, the Prague Castle wasn’t just one building but rather a complex. It included the Saint Vitus Cathedral, the largest church in Czech Republic.

After taking this photo, it started to pour! We wanted to see the Golden Lane but decided to come back tomorrow and headed back down. Before heading home, we wanted to grab lunch and headed to a restaurant called U Glaubiců. This place was good! A bit on the pricier side but I think that has to do with location. We were seated outside and because of this, service was a bit slow. But the food was good! We ordered duck, ribs, and pork knuckle, and shared family style. The portions are pretty big so you can definitely share.

After a filling meal, we all headed back to the house and took a nap before heading out to see the concert. There were multiple concerts happening that night (even in the Prague Castle) and ours was in the Liechtenstein Palace. It was a small venue but very pretty. Getting to see a concert on Christmas day in a different country’s palace! What a dream!

I knew all the pieces so the concert was very enjoyable. We thought it was going to be an orchestra but it was only a quartet. However, they were very good and filled the room with beautiful music. What a great way to end Christmas night!

[Day 11 +12] Relaxing like the locals in Madrid

I am combining day 11 and 12 because most of the days, I just hung out with my brother and sister-in-law. After our other brother’s family left, we just wanted some time to be lazy.

My brother and sister-in-law really wanted me to try this restaurant called Taberna El Sur so we headed there for dinner. This place was really small and I would recommend that you make reservation in advance. There are lots of bar seating if you are ok with that as well.

It was tapas style and we tried different things from the menu. We all got sangria first and ordered tapas like ropa vieja (braised flank steak) and carrillada (braised pork cheeks). They were so good. And the portions were good too. We ordered 4 tapas and it was enough for us.

After our filling meal, we walked to Plaza de Cibeles to see Cibeles Palace. I saw this place while driving by so I wanted a closer look. The building is all white but during the night time, they flashed different color strobes on it, making it look green, red, and more. We tried to go inside but they were closed.

TIP: I also did not realize how close this place was to Retiro Park. I would see this Palace first and head into Retiro Park for a half day tour.

And because it was the holidays, the streets were full of decorative lights. And by the Metropolis Building, they even had a giant Christmas Ornament. While walking back to Puerta del Sol, we saw several Christmas trees as well. It was really beautiful during the night time.

Our Sunday morning started with us visiting a church. We walked most of the way to church but on our way back, I got to ride the metro for the first time. The ticket was easy to use but we ended up getting off at the wrong stop and had to buy another ticket. They had pretty bad customer service.

We didn’t know what to eat for lunch and ended up at Tierra Burrito Bar and it was similar to Chipotle. But the portions were huge! They couldn’t even roll the burrito all the way, which was better for me 🙂 I think this solved my craving for American food.

Afterwards, we headed to the Royal Palace of Madrid. I just wanted to see what it looked like. There were lots of street performers outside the Palace and many tourist and locals taking walks. It was pretty peaceful. I did not get to go inside since I did not have tickets but by the size of it, you would need to spend at least 3 hours to see the place.

I also got to see the Catedral de la Almudena and this was impressive. Even more so than the palace! The architecture was stunning. We couldn’t go in because it was too late but still amazing. I would recommend staying here and seeing the sunset. It would make a killer photo.

Happy New Year

I cannot believe 2019 is over already. I don’t like that I will be getting older but I think I accomplished things this year that makes me proud of myself.

One being this blog. I have been saying “I will start a blog!” for ages. So starting was a step I took that I’m proud of. I hope I can continue this in 2020.

So everyone. Thank you for following me in my travels and I hope I can continue this with you all.

Happy New Year!

Salzburg, Austria