Thursday, January 8, 2009

Prague, Day 1

To get to the subway from the train station passengers must descend the steepest, longest, fastest-moving escalator imaginable. The escalator has roughly a 65º pitch; escalators in the U.S. are to stairs what these escalators are to ladders. And the signs for movies, shows, etc. that line the descent are leveled so that they are perpendicular to the escalator rails; a viewer never squares up to the signs, for if he does he risks tumbling to the center of the earth and being eaten alive by the monstrous escalator. Enough about escalators.

We arrive at our pension just after 8:00. We arrive after office hours, so we have to follow the 7-step directions that we received by email in order to get in. There’s a white box, a black box, a pass-code, a dial, and keys in envelopes with names on them. We find our envelope and let ourselves in. We’re on the fifth (top) floor of a building that seems to house all sorts of offices. The building itself is a little on the spooky side, in fact an American horror movie could be filmed here, and all of the lights are activated by motion sensors. The pension is nice, and hot.

We drop our bags, turn off the 24-square foot radiator, crack an overhead window, and head out for, uh, Thai food. After dinner we wander through the maze of cobblestone streets, never quite prepared for what will be revealed at each turn. Photographs will never capture what it is to be immersed in the beauty of Prague, this we realize almost immediately upon arrival.

Breakfast is included. Zach is determined not to eat meat and cheese today. If he succeeds, this will be the first day since we got to Europe that he would not have eaten meat and cheese. Fortunately, breakfast is more than just meat and cheese. Yogurt, breads, honey, meat and cheese, etc., and a “nutrition bar” that tastes like mashed up dates and coconuts soaked in rum and coated with chocolate, kind of like the one piece you hope not to end up with when you select a chocolate from a box of See’s.

After breakfast we walk along the Vltava River, over the Charles Bridge and up to the Prague Castle. We eat lunch at a restaurant that our waiter insisted had been a restaurant either since 1605 or for 1605 years. Either way, that’s impressive, though after our rather strange lunch experience it is just as likely that he was lying as telling the truth. Nothing that we order is available, and so our waiter ends up more or less choosing everything for us. The food was alright, but we conclude that we’ve been swindled (lunch was almost $50!). We head back to the town center, tired of being treated like the tourists that we are.

The Black Madonna House houses the Czech Cubist Museum and the Grand Café Orient. We stop in at the Grand Café Orient, a large, fully-upholstered, greenish, very-early-20th-century café/bar with waiters in bow ties for refreshments (and ice cream), and then up the Cubist stairway to the museum.

After the museum we head back to the pension for some rest, but we turn on the television and can’t help but be troubled by the news. Tonight we’re planning on dinner at the Café Louvre and then we’ll likely lost again in the cobble stone labrynth that is the Staré Mêsto before bed.

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