UK / Iceland – Saturday: Snæfellsnes

Having spent Friday on the primary tourist loop, we wanted to take a different excursion on Saturday.  We had dinner reservations (more on that later), so our range was not unlimited. We decided that a drive up to the Snæfellsnes peninsula would be a good day trip.

A word on pronouncing “Snæfellsnes”: We have no idea how to pronounce “Snæfellsnes”.  We kept saying “Snuffalupagus”, which is probably insensitive.  We apologize.

The drive up the coast was, unsurprisingly, stunning.

Lots of volcanic mountains.  Also sheep.  Lots of sheep.  Those were less stunning, however.

We made a stop at a cafe for baked goods, and then another at a volcano that you can, in theory, hike to.  However, the hike turned out to be a bit longer than we had budgeted, so we stopped to look at some goats and then moved on.  I am not a good judge of goats – these may be stunning, I’m not sure.

Our next stop, however, certainly was: The Gerðuberg Cliffs, (seriously, we have no idea how to pronounce this stuff, please stop asking) an ancient wall of basalt columns.

And legally mandated panorama.  Seriously – it’s worth clicking on.

Continuing up the peninsula, we reached the farthest north point of our trip, the fishing village of Stykkishólmur, which we also have no idea how to pronounce correctly.  This is also the farthest north we have ever been, full stop, surpassing Jyväskylä, Finland, which we also also have no idea how to pronounce correctly.

We had a delightful lunch of local seafood in an appallingly quaint little restaurant, and then hiked up to the top of the overlook point on the north side of town.  Once again, pictures say it better than words.

After our hike, it was time to return to Reykjavik for dinner. Where Thursday’s meal represented a cutting edge culinary experience, Saturday’s was fine dining that focused on traditional Icelandic culture and ingreedients.  We did NOT choose to experience rotted shark, but instead feasted on lamb and an entire cod head glazed in blueberries and honey:

The fried bit on the upper left is the cod’s tonsils.  Did you know cod have tonsils?  Me neither.  Tasty, tasty tonsils. (Lower left is nothing more unsettling than potatoes.)

Saturday was probably our least touristy day in Iceland, and we really enjoyed just driving and walking ourselves around looking at stuff.

Next up: Lava and Lobster!

UK / Iceland – Friday: The Golden Circle (Part 3)

Having successfully acquired fish, it was now time to get something to put under the fish.  Even though we had decided not to actually pay the fee to sit in the hot spring, we nonetheless drove back to the one we had previously considered to acquire another Icelandic traditional food item: fermented shark.

No, just kidding. We wanted to get some geothermal rye bread, baked right in the hot springs.  Purchasing a loaf was straightforward, but locating knives proved trickier.  We checked at a nearby restaurant, and while they didn’t have any plastic silverware, the proprietor noticed our loaf and was at pains to warn us not to eat more than a slice or two, lest we suffer acute gastric fluidity.

So now we had lots of fish, suddenly suspicious bread, butter, and no way to combine same.  There was obviously no alternative – we went to a gas station, which meant driving even further back the way we had come.  At said gas station we acquired a loaf of presumably safer paprika bread and a box of plastic knives.

From there it was time to visit one of the most important national parks in Iceland, Þingvellir. Since I’ve now gone four paragraphs without a picture, let’s make up for that right now:

And, how about another panorama? (It’s the law.)

And in case the scale of that big pile of geology isn’t quite coming across:

Þingvellir literally means “Assembly Field”, and it’s where the ancient parliaments of Iceland met.  We found a picnic table surrounded by ducks and ate our bread and fish, and it was delicious.  The ducks weren’t allowed to have any.

By this point, it was after 9 PM, but there was absolutely no way to determine that from the ambient lighting, which was pretty much the same as it had been all day long.

Did we mention that Iceland is spectacularly pretty? I think we mentioned that.  At any rate, after a hike around this corner of the park, we were about out of gas, so we returned to our AirBnB in Reyjavik where, at 11:30, it was STILL just as bright as it had been all day.

Next up  – Snuffleupagus, volcanoes, and goats!

UK / Iceland – Friday: The Golden Circle (Part 2)

After our tomato lunch, it was time for lots more geology.  Iceland is basically covered in geology, and our next stop was Gullfoss waterfall.  It sort of speaks for itself:

After Gullfoss, we headed to Geysir hot springs area.  Geysir is both the name of the park, and the name of one specific geyser in the park.  This is the ur-geyser, the Platonic Ideal of geysers, the one true geyser for which all other geysers are named.

Sadly, it almost never erupts any more.  Fortunately, there’s another one about 50 meters away that erupts every five minutes. It erupted several times while we were there, and we somehow still failed to take a decent picture of it.  The whole area was very reminiscent of Yellowstone – lots of random very hot things in unnatural colors that smell like sulfur. 

We climbed up the hill at the back of the area and took another stunning panorama.  Honestly, Iceland almost demands that you leave your camera in panorama mode the whole time:

Continuing around the circle, we decided it was time for ice cream.  The ice cream place had a good view of the suppliers:

From there, our plan was to visit a geothermal bath, but when we got there it just didn’t speak to us.  We decided it would be more fun to keep seeing the Iceland than sit still in a tub.  But first – fish!

I had printed out directions to a place that sells smoked fish.  The place had been highly recommended by one of the online blogs I had read while researching the trip ahead of time, and it was only a short distance from the spa.  Or at least, that was my recollection, since the directions were sitting on my desk in Michigan. But we decided to try to find it, because adventure!

First we turned down a medium-sized road which was being resurfaced.  So it was dirt.  Then we turned down a small gravel road, which matched my vague mental recollection. Then we turned down what were essentially ruts between houses in a tiny little village.  Then we pulled into a driveway in front of a private home with a detached garage, that had a sign on it in Icelandic that we couldn’t read and a picture of a fish.

We got out of the car, and wandered into what appeared to be a private garage with no one around.  And there was fish: 

We were trying to decide if we should just put money in the cashbox when two adorable preteen girls came out and started putting out samples and chatting with us in perfect English.  A further difficulty arose when we realized that a) we had no Icelandic cash and b) neither of their credit card readers was working.  Eventually their grandmother came out and was kind enough to accept $10 US for some smoked trout. She even tried to offer us change!

Coming up in part 3: Bread! Birbs! More Geology!

UK / Iceland – Friday: The Golden Circle (Part 1)

The top of every guide to what to see in Iceland starts with a day trip from Reykjavik called “The Golden Circle.”  It’s a round trip that takes about 3 hours or so of driving, but much more time out of the car looking at stuff.   There’s a lot of stuff.  It’s pretty good stuff, too.

So after starting the day with some excellent pastries and coffee, we hopped in our rental car and set off.  There’s two options for the first leg of the drive, and we took the gravel road for more scenic views and less traffic.  It seemed to work.  There was quite a bit of scenery:

Scenic scenery, even:

Also an angry squid:

But it was a scenic squid.

We got out of the car a few times and just marveled at the landscape, occasionally hiking up into the rocks to fail to find a geocache or two.  But who cares when you have these views?

Eventually, we rejoined the main road and made our first official Golden Circle stop – the volcanic crater at Kerið. (In case you’re wondering, ‘ð’ is a “voiced alveolar non-sibilant fricative.” So there you are.) It took about 20 minutes to walk around the whole perimeter. Not for the only time this trip, Leigh took the appearance of this striking piece of geology as proof that the Earth is trying to kill us.

We still had a little time before our lunch reservations, so we visited the church at Skálholt. Skálholt was the center of power for the Bishops of Iceland for rather a long time, until the Reformation. The bishop and his sons, were understandably, not really interested in being reformed, so they were put to death. There’s a memorial stone here, as well as a set of excavations of one of the many prior churches on the site.

One o’clock, and it was time for lunch! We had made reservations at a tomato greenhouse. I’m not quite sure how they managed it, but the owners of this greenhouse have parlayed themselves into a tourist attraction. You sit among rows of tomato plants, and eat all you can snarf tomato soup and bread. There’s also a pot of basil on your table with a pair of scissors for dismantling said basil into your soup.

Next time: Dan and Leigh continue the golden circle! Geysir fails to erupt! Fish! Stay tuned…

UK / Iceland – Thursday

We started Thursday separately – I took a red-eye flight from Detroit and landed at about 11 AM in Iceland, and Leigh was to join me a few hours later.  Given a rental car and a bit of time to explore, I took off to see the Reyjanes peninsula, which is the part of Iceland closest to the airport.  But first, I found out what airplanes hatch from:

The weather was grey and rainy, and that wouldn’t change for the duration of the trip, but the scenery was unreal.  The southwest corner of Iceland is basically one big lava flow, and every time I got out of the car it felt like I had another planet to myself.

One of the sights you can see in this part of the world is the place where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge comes ashore.  The Ridge is the place where two tectonic plates are separating, and most of the time it has the common decency to stay underwater where you can’t see it.  But not in Iceland.  Oh no.  Not only is their plate separation flagrantly above ground where everyone can see it, they’ve even built a bridge over it.

That’s Europe on your left and North America on your right, for those keeping score at home.

Once again, Leigh and I had decided that it would be a great idea for the pair of us to arrive at a location in a foreign country where our phones didn’t work by separate routes.  After all, it wasn’t at all terrifying the last time. However, in this case, the location in question was an airport, my rental car did not get stuck behind a flock of goats, and we reunited without a hitch.

From the airport, it’s about a 40 minute drive into Reykjavik proper, where Leigh had found us an adorable little AirBnB right next to the most famous building in the city, the Hallgrímskirkja. (And if you think I’m not cutting and pasting all of these Iceland words into the blog, you’re nuts.) Since we each took a picture of it, I’ll let you, the reader, decide which one you liked better.

I’m not, of course, going to tell you who took which one, because then I’d have to admit that I took the one with the trash can in it.

To finish our first day in the land of Ice, we took a restaurant recommendation from a good friend of ours who knows from food.  We did an 8 course tasting menu at Nostra, which is a restaurant much too hip to have allowed us in.  There must have been a mistake somewhere.

Still, the food was amazing.  I don’t recall everything, but we had pressed lamb with tomatoes four ways and salmon roe, celeriac combined with celeriac puree and beef, arctic char with parsnip two ways, and a bunch of other things that were all too amazing to mention.  Leigh and I don’t go to fine dining restaurants that often, because we live in a mitten, but if we could go places like this more often, we’d have no money left at all.

One more peculiarity of this trip – since we were there right around the solstice, it never got dark.  Reyjavik is below the arctic circle, so the middle of the sun went below the horizon, but the whole thing never entirely set.  Walking home at 10 at night looked just like noon the same day.

Bonus Iceland Picture:

Prague/Dresden Day 10: Vyšehrad

It was the last day of our trip, and we had a carefully selected agenda of “Places That are Open on Mondays.” To be fair, these were places we actually wanted to go, we just timed them so we could visit the not-open-on-Mondays places on other days.

First up, Vyšehrad, the OTHER major castle in Prague, and home to a number of famous Czechs’ burial sites, as well as another random diacritical mark. Sadly, we don’t appear to have taken any good pictures of the OUTSIDE of the castle, since it’s rather far from downtown, so here’s the Wikipedia link for reference.

Vyšehrad has a long and complex history that we’re not going to into here, because you can just read the link, and that’s where I’d be cribbing it from anyway. But here’s a picture of a building with a cannonball stuck in the side, just to pique your interest. (Cannonball is just to the right of the top of the window.)

It’s quite a large area, and we decided to violate our usual habit of wandering around going “What the hell is that?” by buying a guidebook, and taking turns reading to each other out of it.  This allowed us to replace the “What the hell is that?” habit with a new policy of reading a section of the guidebook and then wandering around going, “Where the hell IS that?”  Also, here’s another “Leigh and Dan take a selfie with a statue that looks like it’s taking a selfie” (this TOTALLY needs to become a Tumblr):

In addition to the impressive cathedral, the most interesting part of visiting Vyšehrad is the cemetery, where a number of famous Czechs are buried.  There’s Dvořák:

Smetana:

And lots of other presumably famous people, none of whom we’d ever heard of. On our way out of the fortress, we discovered that we were just in time to take a scheduled tour of the casements.  “That sounds like fun”, we thought. “By the way, what are casements?”

Oh.  How’s that fear of dark enclosed spaces working out for you there?  [Note from Leigh: This was the lit portion of the walk. The rest was pretty much pitch dark.] Seriously, you couldn’t see the floor, and the walk was about a quarter of the mile from the gate to the gallery and back.  It was at least nice and cool.  The walk did turn out to be worth it, however – the gallery at the end of the walk contains the originals of some of the sculptures from the Charles Bridge. (Did we mention that the ones out there now are almost entirely copies?)  This was a quite impressive and imposing way to view them.

Just try not to think about “Blink” while you’re in here. These casements apparently used to hold ammunition and supplies for whoever was currently in control of the castle complex.

The rest of the day was fun, but not terribly photogenic.  We did visit a building which was deliberately designed to look like Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire dancing: (You can decide for yourself how successful you think the architects were.)

After this, we went to a modern art museum on the north of town, where they didn’t allow photography, so no pictures.  It wasn’t really all that exciting a collection anyway, although there was a David Czerny on the roof.  We decided to finish the day by using our transit pass to find a few more far-flung geocaches, and then headed back to Wenceslas square for a final walk though Old Town.

Since we had a very early flight the next morning, we had decided to eschew a hotel room, and just spend the night in the airport.  We’ve done this before, in Helsinki, and it wasn’t much fun then either.  We discovered that if you attempt to lie down in the Prague airport, the cleaning lady will start screaming at you in Czech.  At least, we assume it was Czech. But it was definitely screaming.

Total Statistics for the Trip:
Czerny Statues Seen: 7
Geocaches Found: 31
Posters Presented: 2
Fireworks Displays: 1
Diacritical Marks: Many

Prague/Dresden Day 9: Dvořák and Dead Guy

With our last two full days in Prague, we had a number of remaining sights we wanted to visit. Prague was home to the two most famous Czech composers, Dvořák and Smetana. We had already wandered into the Smetana museum on our first evening, so today it was Dvořák’s turn. Incidentally, in order to get the diacriticals right, I’m having to cut and paste the name “Dvořák” each and every time it appears in this post. I hope you appreciate how much work we put into this blog that we haven’t finished writing nearly two months after the fact.

Um. Hey look! A dog wearing a hat!

That’s right – Pavlov got a metro stop named after him, and a picture of a dog to boot.

We got off the metro at the Pavlov station, because the bell rang and we felt strangely compelled to. Also, it’s where Dvořák’s house is. Well, not at the station … just nearby.

Dvořák’s house is a quaint little abode with lots of memorabilia and recordings to listen to. There was a lot of nice information on the composer, and a whole set of displays about how obsessed he was with trains. (Hint: very.)  Dvořák would apparently send letters to people whose sole contents were a detailed description of the list of trains that could be expected to carry the letter to the recipient and deliver the reply.  While he was a brilliant composer, I get the impression he’s not someone you’d actually want to spend a lot of time talking to, if you get my drift.

While photography wasn’t allowed in the building, we discovered a statue in the backyard that looked like it was taking a selfie. So we took a selfie in front of it, trying to look like the statue. This should totally become a thing:

From there, we were off to the Vitkov National Monument. This is a giant structure that was originally built in the twenties to commemorate Czech legionnaires, but also hosts the largest equestrian statue in Europe:

Seriously – it’s big. But it’s not the most remarkable thing about the monument. No, that would be the dead guy.

Klement Gottwald was the first communist president of Czechoslovakia, and was Not A Nice Man. When he died, party leaders decided that anything creepy and cult-of-personality-esque that the Soviet Union could do, they could do just as well. So they mummified him. Still visible at the memorial are the room where his body was placed on view for many years, and the control room.

Yes, I said control room. Apparently the equipment for keeping Mr. Gottwald looking fresh as a Twinkie requires approximately as many dials as a medium sized shuttle mission:

I’m not sure, but I think the phone was a hotline so that Zombie Gottwald could receive orders from Zombie Lenin. And it turns out that all this equipment was for naught anyway, because the mummification process was screwed up and he started to rot, so they had him cremated in the end.

There was also an interesting museum on the premises about the history of the Czech Republic, but it was pretty much an anticlimax after that. [Leigh notes: there was also a really cool exhibit on music and protest movements in the Czech Republic, including the subversive role of punk music. My favorite part was the old museum docent who we caught rocking out to some of the punk music being played on the exhibit’s audio stations.]

From there, we wandered over to the base of the TV tower that we mentioned in our earlier post about creepy baby statues, and got to see the creepy baby statues from really close up. They were just as creepy. We had a nice tea up in the elevated restaurant, and then headed back to the west side of the river to see more stuff. (This was a busy day, I tell you.)

This stuff included finally getting around to riding the funicular railroad up to the top of Petřín Hill. (More diacritically-based cutting and pasting there.) There was an observation tower which had a spectacular view of the city, and also a great vantage point of one of the most amazing architectural white elephants in the world.

You’re looking at Velký strahovský stadion, or the Great Strahov Stadium. In case it is not clear from this photo, it is gi-friggin-normous. The field is as large as nine regulation soccer pitches. It seats a quarter of a million people. Surprisingly, it is not a communist relic, but dates from the 1920s. It was originally intended to host mass exercise demonstrations.

That’s right. 250,000 people came and watched other people exercise. Here’s a clip from one such demonstration in the 1980s. Including swan dives.

Because swan dives. No one can figure out what the hell to do with the stadium today. Even the Rolling Stones couldn’t get it more than half full.

We continued the evening with a nice trip through a mirror maze (as one does). This one was left over from an exhibition in the 1890s.

To finish our penultimate evening in Prague, we found a few geocaches, and then had Lebanese food. Because why not? [Note from Leigh: Really, it was because as we were walking back to our hotel/trying to find somewhere to eat, we got caught in a MASSIVE crowd for some music festival that was happening in Wenceslas Square and we could barely move. Dan was highly amused by the fact that I got so frustrated that he swears he can identify the point where I dropped my shoulder and started playing roller derby in the crowd just to get people out of my way. (He was right — that’s totally what I was imagining!) I acted as a wrecking ball enough to get us to a side corridor that happened to have a Lebanese restaurant in it, and we both agreed that that was where we were eating.]

Horse statues photographed: 2
Stairs avoided in Petřín Tower: All of them

Prague/Dresden Sidebar: David Černý

In our post on the second day of the trip, we mentioned running across some creepy baby sculptures in a park in Prague. And by “creepy,” we mean “baby sculptures the size of a Honda Element with slot machines for faces.” These sculptures are by a Czech artist named David Černý. Leigh had come across some discussion of Černý while she was doing research for the trip, and once she saw (and fell in love with) the creepy baby sculptures, it became a running theme of our visit that we tried to find as many of his sculptures as we could during our time in the city. Rather than scatter them across the posts in chronological order, here they are all in one place, for maximum effect.

Černý is a sort of an enfant terrible of Czech art. Most of his pieces offer a wry commentary on politics, society, or both. Luckily the citizens of Prague seem to appreciate and enjoy that sort of thing, because Černý’s pieces are displayed publicly throughout the city. Thanks to Uncle Internet, we managed to find quite a few of them.


Hanging Out
It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this is Sigmund Freud. Well, It’s a statue of Sigmund Freud hanging by one hand forty feet above the streets of Prague. Because of course it is. The sculpture is actually hinged so it waves back and forth in the wind. Many pedestrians walk right under it without noticing it. Here’s a closer view of Siggy, just hanging out with one hand in his pocket.


Piss
The base of this fountain is shaped like the Czech Republic, and the two gentlemen are motorized such that their hips and, erm, appendages swivel and move up and down. They’re controlled by microprocessors so that over time, the streams of water they are emitting spell out quotes from Czech politicians in the pool. As we said, Černý is not given to subtle political statements. You used to be able to text messages to the sculpture and they would spell that, but that feature seems to be disabled.

Oh, and the whole assemblage is in the courtyard of the Franz Kafka museum, because of course it is.


In Utero
Yeah, so… this is a pixelated naked woman.  The, erm, undercarriage is hollow, so you can climb up inside, and then emerge. There used to be a sound and light show inside the sculpture that contained red lights and vague watery whooshing sounds. This one was right near our hotel, so we walked past it three or four times a day.


Horse
Located just steps from the terrifyingly improbable elevator described in our last post, and within a luxurious retail plaza’s atrium, this is a parody of the statue of St. Vitus on Wenceslaus Square nearby.  Given that the one on the square is an important national symbol, this is about as unsubtle a skewering of the Czech polity as one could imagine.


Quo Vadis?
This is located in the garden of the German Embassy, which does not allow visitors to come in and wander around at random, so the picture is a bit farther away than ideal. It’s a Trabant.  On legs. Here’s a link to a closer picture so you can see that yep, it’s a Trabant with legs. In the summer of 1989, hundreds if not thousands of East Germans came to Prague and occupied the then-West German embassy in hopes of being able to leave East Germany and move to the West. Many of them abandoned their Trabants on the street when they were finally granted passage to the West. This is Černý’s response.

And finally – remember those creepy babies?


Yep. Babies. Creepy ones. Crawling up the Zizkov TV tower, which is the highest tower in the Czech Republic. You can see the creepy babies from pretty much everywhere in town. Apparently Černý was asked to do an installation on the tower, and this is what he proposed — and people not only approved it, but liked it so much that it became permanent. In other words, awesome.

We actually ran across one more of his later on, but we didn’t realize it was his, so we didn’t take a picture. It’s a giant skull on top of the modern art museum.

It turned out that pursuing Černý sculptures around Prague was a great way to see lots of the city, and to learn yet more about Prague’s history. The more you know…

Prague/Dresden Day 8: Taste of Prague!

We’re going to divert from strictly chronological reporting here slightly, and talk about what we did Saturday morning as part of a separate post later.  So this is about Saturday afternoon and evening. [Note from Leigh: the vast majority of this post is Dan speaking; my comments are interspersed throughout in this fashion.]

Before we left, I had run across the website of a tour company called “Taste of Prague.”  I was mostly looking for good places to eat, but when I ran across a guided tour that was focused on restaurants, only took small groups, and appeared to have a sense of humor, we couldn’t resist.  We met our guide, Jan, in front of a church near our hotel along with one other young American couple.  The format of the tour was simple – we walked from restaurant to restaurant, trying food at each location.  The five of us got to know each other, and Jan told us a bit about the last 100 years of Czech history, sometimes assisted by an iPad.

First stop was a meat market.  We had what was essentially pub food – sausage, ham, and pickles. All of it excellent.  That’s Jan on the left, or at least half of him.  On the walk to the next stop, we learned a lot about how Czechs dealt with the aftermath of World War II, the Soviet occupation, and their feelings on potential monetary union.

We also saw a pimpmobile:

OK, probably not actually a pimpmobile.  [Leigh: Jan actually knew the owner of this car.] Next stop was a wine bar.  Interestingly, there is very little Czech wine for export, so if you want to experience it, you’ll just have to visit the country.  Not a serious drawback, if you ask me. (I don’t drink, so I’ll let Leigh describe the wine itself.) [Leigh: I had a Pinot Noir that was pretty tasty; I’ve had better in Oregon, but that’s not a fair comparison.]

Now it was time for the main event. This was a steakhouse named Čestr, where in addition to beef stew, we were also feted with Czech sourdough bread with cream cheese with herbs and chives, beef spare ribs marinated in red wine for 24 hours and cooked under the lid in red wine for 16 hours, beef neck slowly stewed in paprika sauce with sour cream, slow-grilled chicken with truffle stuffing and juice from the grill with black truffles, chicken schnitzels, Czech salmon trout roasted on butter and served with carrot and orange sauce and peas, potato dumplings, garden salad, Czech escargots boiled in root vegetables, baked in mushroom and served with Sabayonne mousse, “Olomoucke tvaruzky”: aged cheese deep fried in bacon and breadcrumbs and served with home-made mayonnaise, beef steak tartare with quail egg, fried bread and raw garlic, and new potatoes with curd cheese. (My memory is NOT that good: they emailed us the list after.)

While we were being astonished by the food (my favorite was the chicken with truffle stuffing) Jan regaled us with some commercials from the Soviet era.  Bear in mind: there was no actual competition, so there was no need to produce commercials.  But full employment had to be maintained, and so we now have this to remember the era by.

After absolutely stuffing ourselves we stopped briefly to take a picture of me pointing at a cow…

…and then proceeded to our final stop. Pastries. Oh god.  Such pastries:

Om nom nom.  Video at this point was of some hilariously awful synchronized exercise demonstrations from the 1980s, to which we’ll include the link in an upcoming post.

On the whole, the tour was fantastic, and we would recommend it wholeheartedly to future travelers in Prague.  In retrospect, it seems obvious that there was probably some financial understanding between the tour company and the restaurants that wasn’t made clear on the surface. Frankly, we don’t care, because the food and company were both great.

One other thing that Jan stopped to point out over the course of our tour was this improbable device – a Paternoster elevator.

In case it’s not clear from the photo, and of course it isn’t, because no such thing should actually exist in the real world of people who aren’t completely out of their minds, this is an elevator that never stops moving. [Leigh: link contains a quicktime movie with Jan explaining and Dan expressing disbelief.] The cars on the right are continuously moving up, and the ones on the left continuously moving down. There are no doors.  That’s right – you have to fling yourself on and off a moving elevator to get from floor to floor.

Of COURSE I wanted to ride it.  Sadly, it was a private elevator that we just stared at through a window. While it moved. Continuously. [Leigh: I was so incredibly glad that we couldn’t ride this thing. I used to have nightmares about elevators when I was a kid, and this horrific contraption is SERIOUSLY straight out of those nightmares.]

After Jan dropped us off, we went and saw Prague castle, one of the most historic and important sites in the city, but frankly after lunch it just felt like an afterthought.  A massive, historic afterthought [for which we will have to write a different post].

Food Eaten: All.
Calories burned stomping up and down hills: Many, but probably not enough.

Prague/Dresden Day 8: Concluded

The highlight of Day 8 was the food tour, but that ended at 4, and we didn’t just go back to our hotel room and fall into a food coma.  From the dropoff point we wandered up into a park on the west side of the river which had a beautiful view of the city, and failed to ride the funicular railroad for the second time on our trip.

From there, we walked up the hill to Prague castle, featured in the last picture of the previous Day 8 post.  We didn’t go into any buildings, just wandered around the various courtyards lookin’ at stuff.  Of which there was definitely some.

From there we walked through the palace gardens, which feature not one, but two different structures designed to grow completely inappropriate fruit for the Czech climate.  Neither of which we photographed, for some reason.  Instead, here’s us standing in front of the Prague:

As we made our way along the hills north of town, we came to a plaza which apparently used to house a giant statue of Stalin pretending to be on a Madness album cover. It now has a giant metronome, which is only slightly less weird.

Also a whole lot of skateboarders.  By this point we were pretty beat, so we headed back into town, where we finished our day with the traditional Czech delicacy of pizza.  One final thing to give you nightmares – this sculpture of Kafka riding a headless man which is not, oddly enough, by David Czerny.

Things Pointed At: 2
Amazing Food Consumed: Much
Geocaches found: Many fewer than looked for
Funicular Railroads Ridden: Still 0