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.