Viking’s Danube Waltz (7)

Viking’s Danube Waltz (7)

con­clud­ed from part 6…


June 7-9th: Prague, Czech Repub­lic 

“You Must Remem­ber This…”

8a-OverviewPragueTwo full days in Prague, an option­al extra on the Danube Waltz Tour, costs an addi­tion­al $1500 per cou­ple, and includes three nights at the very hand­some new town Hilton. Break­fasts there are the same com­pre­hen­sive assort­ment from nuts to soup that we encoun­tered aboard ship. The coach ride from Pas­sau, Ger­many, takes four hours through the his­toric Sude­ten­land, the dis­pute over which end­ed in the fate­ful Munich Agree­ment of 1938. last stop on the road to World War II.

8e-CanalPragueViking starts you off with a com­pre­hen­sive guid­ed tour of Prague, using a coach with walk­ing inter­vals. The city struck us as at once the most pros­per­ous we’d seen, and the grot­ti­est, with a lot more rub­bish about than Pas­sau, Vien­na, Salzburg, Bratisla­va and Budapest. Every­thing I could hope to tell you about Prague, an archi­tec­tur­al won­der, you can find on the web, so this report is restrict­ed to what we saw on our own and rec­om­mend see­ing.

gismonda_detailAt the charm­ing Mucha Muse­um you’ll find many images by Alphonse Mucha, who defined art nou­veau and made Sarah Bern­hardt immor­tal. His pre­cise lith­o­graphs dec­o­rat­ed every­thing from bis­cuit tins to cig­a­rette ads, and he was a pret­ty fair oil painter too. His small, one-floor muse­um with a fine 30-minute video is well worth a stop. Mucha devot­ed the sec­ond half of his career to patri­ot­ic themes dur­ing the Czech nation­al reawak­en­ing 1900-18 and the repub­lic 1918-38. As a local fig­ure of repute, the Gestapo arrest­ed and ques­tioned him, then let him go, but he died in the ordeal, aged 78. He’d be pleased with the revival of his coun­try, albeit trun­cat­ed since the divi­sion with Slovakia—certainly the Czech Repub­lic is one of the most pros­per­ous in the old east­ern bloc.

Lobkowitz PalaceThe Lobkow­icz Palace is part of Prague Cas­tle, restored to the fam­i­ly after the Bol­shies were thrown out in 1989. The present Count has spent half a life­time and lots of trea­sure find­ing and restor­ing the art trea­sures. This proved a per­fect place for a con­cert of flute, vio­la and piano offer­ing Bach, Beethoven, Vival­di and the great Czechs Dvo­rak and Smetana, whose “Moldau,” the nation­al con­cert piece. It sound­ed as good on one piano as it does with a full orches­tra. This is one impres­sive coun­try, thanks to nation­al hero Vaclav Hav­el, who brought it back to life in 1989.

With the aid of Yelp and some locals, we were delight­ed with the restau­rants we chose for din­ner on two evenings, which we can rec­om­mend with every con­fi­dence.

8p-CafeImpPragueCafé Impe­r­i­al, Na Poříčí 15

CafeImperialSuzanne’s hor­ror over the size of her mar­ti­ni was the only bad news at this place. Yelp it and you’ll see what we mean. Barbara’s mar­i­nat­ed foie gras was spec­tac­u­lar. The chick­en roulade with Ital­ian sausage and bar­ley risot­to out of this world, and, though busy, the ambi­ence and ser­vice were equal to the food. You dine in big Vic­to­ri­an easy chairs sur­round­ed by porce­lain mosaics and art nou­veau ceram­ics. The bill is enough to keep your socks on. Din­ner for four, includ­ing three drinks and a bot­tle of wine, came to $80 includ­ing the tip. Yes, that is twen­ty dol­lars per per­son.

Blue Duckling/Little Blue Duck, Malá Strana

CasablancaPoster-GoldHon­est to gosh, the piano play­er gave us a good imi­ta­tion of Sam at Rick’s Cafe Amer­i­caine in Casablan­ca, play­ing As Time Goes By. Remem­ber?

Rick: (Bogie): “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world she walks into mine….You know what I want to hear.”

Sam (Doo­ley Wlson): “I don’t think I can remem­ber….”

Rick: “If she can stand it I can. PLAY IT!”

I half-expect­ed Ilsa/Ingrid and Victor/Paul to walk in that very moment. There were no Nazis in the cor­ner singing Die Wacht am Rhein, and no Laz­lo to drown them out with Le Mar­seil­laise. Sim­i­lar atmos­phere, though.

BlueDucklingThe cab­bie said it was one of the most expen­sive restau­rants in Prague, and the bill real­ly rocked us. Two bot­tles of wine (one an unpro­nounce­able blend of Caber­net and Czech grapes that could pass for a clas­si­fied bor­deaux, two drinks, starters and duck entrées for four plus bot­tled water, cof­fee, dessert and tip came to a stag­ger­ing $57 per per­son. The entrées includ­ed one duck dish list­ed under “veni­son,” pos­si­bly because the
duck had wad­dled under the deer when the deer was shot. Also, the cab fare back with tip was $8, which will get you through two traf­fic lights on Park Avenue. If you get the impres­sion you can dine like a king in Praque for very low bucks, you are right. We could have spent a week sam­pling the bistros.

Avoid Heathrow Ter­mi­nal Trans­fers!

No mat­ter where you fly from, and where you’re going in Europe, avoid any route requir­ing you to change ter­mi­nals (typ­i­cal­ly from 5 to 3 or vice-ver­sa) at London’s Heathrow Air­port. It took us most of an hour, with lengthy walks, long queues, a shut­tle bus, a tran­sit train and com­pli­cat­ed secu­ri­ty lines. For­mer­ly on inter-ter­mi­nal trans­fers, you were bussed in a sealed shut­tle and passed through with­out anoth­er dose of frisk­ing. Not any more, prob­a­bly because of enhanced secu­ri­ty against the lunatic­swe have to share the world with. Heathrow is  a vic­tim of its suc­cess. Many years ago when the essen­tial deci­sions were tak­en, the present scale of air trav­el was unfore­seen. North Lon­don is crowd­ed, yet each time anoth­er huge invest­ment was made, it became the more dif­fi­cult to aban­don Heathrow as Britain’s major air­port. Now after many years of dither­ing, a long-await­ed report will decide between expan­sion at Heathrow and expan­sion at Gatwick. It had bet­ter be the lat­ter.

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Viking’s Danube Waltz (7)

  1. thanks for a great arti­cle. have you done any oth­er riv­er cruis­es?
    regards, joey

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