After our adventure at the raptor center, Hubs and I drove to Mainz to visit with a colleague from our graduate student days. Our friend retired from the University of Mainz, where she was a Professor of Genetics, several years ago, but even in her 80s, is still healthy and vigorous. She has a massive garden outside her house, a cat named Ivan (I think that’s right), and still actively works for the benefit of the University. Lizzie is also a talented artist and has painted the outer walls of her house and garden.
We had a lovely dinner with her, recalling old friends, and then stayed at a forgettable hotel in downtown Mainz before driving on to Prague the next day.
We stayed at the Hotel Josef, which we would highly recommend. It is air-conditioned, which was welcome in the growing temperatures of a heat wave, and is located about 5 minutes’ walk from Old Town Square. Our first night in Prague, we ate at a very traditional Czech pub and had vepřo knedlo zelo – roast pork in sauce with flour or potato dumplings and sauerkraut., a very traditional Czech meal with good Pilsen beer.
The next day we took a long walk through Prague, with some tram rides, to get to the ridge along which is a monastery, national library and of course the Prague castle-government complex. The Strahov Monastery is a Premonstratensian abbey founded in 1143, a medieval monastery with a vast library and a baroque church.
It was a hot day, so naturally we stopped to have a beer and enjoy the spectacular view…
After liquid refreshment, we walked down and along the ridge to the castle- government complex. The line to get into the castle was hours long, and since we had visited it many times during our year in Prague, we contented ourselves with watching the changing of the guard, which we had never seen.
I do highly recommend that anyone visiting Prague for the first time visit the castle complex, and spend some time at Svaty Vit, St. Vitus Cathedral, inside the complex. The first church built on the site was an early Romanesque rotunda founded by Wenceslaus I in 930 (yes, that good King Wenceslaus). Construction of the present-day Gothic Cathedral began in November of 1344. You can see Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements in its construction which continued until the 1920s!
After weaving through the masses of tourists in the square in front of the castle, we walked down the long street to the bottom of the hill, marveling that some of the vinarnas (wine bars) that we had visited forty years before, were still there.
Along the way, we stopped at Svaty Mikuláše Mikulas (Saint Nicholas), a baroque church in Mala Strana (New Town), one of Gene’s favorite churches.
We were heading for lunch at U Tomas, an underground restaurant serving black beer that had been part of the Prague scene for centuries. It was closed for renovations, so we just picked a place for a small bite before heading on across the famous Charles Bridge, that crosses the Vltava river. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues, most of them in a baroque style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas because of deterioration.
We finished by taking a tram back to a stop near our hotel, thoroughly exhausted!