Vienna & Prague (April 9-12, 2015)

It’s spring break for the schools, so Charlie was able to take time off this week. After being home from the Netherlands for two days, it was time to hop in the car and start our next adventure. We left Thursday around 8:00am and didn’t arrive in Vienna until after 5:00pm.  After checking into our hotel, we walked about ten minutes to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. There was a Mass going on, so we were only able to look from the back, but it was still impressive. We continued our walk and saw the Opera House, which was broadcasting Die Rosenkavalier live out front on a huge screen!  How amazing to just stop (on a beautiful evening, no less) and listen to incredible live music for free?

Watching a few minutes of Die Rosenkavalier outside the Wiener Staatsoper
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Starving and tired (especially Connor, who wouldn’t take a nap in the car today), we found a restaurant for dinner. I had an authentic veal Wiener Schnitzel, Charlie had a stuffed pork schnitzel, and Connor continued his new trend of pretty much only eating French fries when we are at a restaurant. (He had to balance out the 3 fruit pouches he had for a snack earlier :).)  Back to the hotel…time for bed! Lots to squeeze in tomorrow!

Friday
After an early wakeup from Connor, we were dressed, done with breakfast, and ready to checkout of the hotel by 8:30am.  Our first destination was the cemetery on the outskirts of the city, so we took a tram to get there. The cemetery was huge, but we had a map showing us the area where the famous musicians were buried. We saw graves for Beethoven, Brahms, von Suppe, Schubert, Schoenberg, Johann Strauss, and Ligeti. There was a high school orchestra group that was also walking around the cemetery.  They were from Walton, which is outside of Atlanta and not too far from where I went to high school. Small world!  Connor enjoyed carrying a stick through the cemetery and pretending to dig and do some gardening everywhere he could.

Gravesites of Beethoven, Brahms, and Schubert
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We boarded the tram and got off at Heumarkt, where there was a beautiful fountain and Russian WWII memorial. Connor ran around for a bit before we continued to sightsee. We walked to see a Beethoven statue, the Konzerthaus, and the shop at the Opera House. With Connor asleep on my back, we went to the Haus der Musik, an interactive museum with exhibitions on the Wiener Philharmonik, composers, sound production, and more. Connor woke up partway through, and he had fun with some of the interactive displays. Holding a special baton, he conducted a video of the Wiener Philharmonik playing Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The audio and video was controlled by his baton!  The look on his face was priceless. We also spent a while with another interactive exhibit exploring the sounds of various instruments.

Fountain and the Russian WWII Memorial
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Beethoven Statue
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By now we were all starving and getting cranky. Connor and I stayed to play near another fountain while Charlie went to look at a sheet music store. We found an Italian restaurant and Charlie and Connor each ordered pasta dishes. I only got a small salad, thinking that I would share Connor’s tortellini, but he only left me about two bites. Hungry boy!  We walked a couple blocks to look inside the Austrian Academy of Sciences, but the man said it was closed…even though he let others in right after us. There was a Jesuit church in the same square, so we walked inside and were not disappointed with the ornate interior.

It was almost 3:00, so we decided to head back to the hotel and get our car.  There was certainly much more we could have seen in Vienna, but we had more than a 3-hour drive to Prague ahead of us.

By the time we arrived, parked, checked in, and got settled in our room, we were more than starving for a late dinner. After finding an ATM to get the local currency, we went to an Italian restaurant right next door to our hotel. Charlie and Connor each had a pasta dish, and I had an amazing salad with arugula, beets, roasted potatoes, pumpkin seeds and whipped goat cheese. Connor was a perfect gentleman during dinner, and the poor guy passed out almost immediately once we finally laid down for bed at 10:30pm.

Saturday
Our day began with breakfast at the hotel and then a short walk to the Old Town Square. It was one of the most amazing town squares we have seen!  We admired the astronomical clock for a few minutes and watched as it chimed the hour, then meandered through the square to admire the other buildings. It was the last weekend for the Easter Market, so the square was filled with stalls selling all kinds of food, crafts, and souvenirs. We walked into the impressive Church of Our Lady before Tyn, then stopped in the square again to enjoy some live music. Next we walked to the top of the clock tower on the Old Town Hall and admired the view.

Astronomical Clock
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Old Town Square from the top of the clock tower (Church of Our Lady before Tyn in the center)
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The weather was perfect today!  High 60s, a slight breeze, and enough clouds that the sun wasn’t beating down on us all day. It’s amazing how last weekend we were bundled up to sightsee in Holland, and today we broke a sweat with no jackets!  We walked a few minutes to the Jewish Quarter, but the cemetery and all of the synagogues were closed because of a Jewish holiday. From there we crossed the river (admiring the view of the Charles Bridge, which we would cross on our way back) and strolled uphill through the Little Quarter. It was quite a hike!  We stopped to look inside St. Nicholas Church, then continued uphill.

Charles Bridge behind us
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Finally we arrived at the Prague Castle, which is an impressive complex of buildings surrounding St. Vitus Cathedral. We toured the inside of the Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, and an armor display. Connor finally fell asleep before our last stop, St. Vitus Cathedral. It was massive!  We took our time enjoying the interior, then headed outside to the castle courtyard to find lunch. As we strolled past the stalls of food deciding what to try, we ran into another family from Charlie’s unit!  We chose our lunch and talked to Stu and Ekaterina while we ate. I had a huge fried potato pancake topped with sauerkraut, and Charlie had dumplings with sauerkraut. Connor woke up and ate some of the dumplings but wasn’t into the potato pancake.

St. Vitus Cathedral
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Refreshed after eating and taking a break from walking, we started the trek down the hill. We crossed the river on the famous Charles Bridge, which was packed with tourists, musicians, artists, and souvenir carts. Connor was particularly excited about our next destination:  the Lego store we had spotted last night!  Connor had fun looking at all the sets and playing in the giant container of Lego pieces.  Next we went back to our hotel to relax for a bit.  I love seeing all of Connor’s energy and creativity once he finally has the freedom to play on these long sightseeing days!  He always manages to find so much to do in our hotel rooms. We lucked out with another huge room!  Well, Charlie might not exactly agree, since it is a loft room with low and angled ceilings :).

Two of my friends visited Prague recently and they both went to a train restaurant which sounded like lots of fun. I looked it up and was able to make a reservation for tonight.  There are model trains running all around the restaurant!  Every table is next to part of the tracks, and your drinks arrive on the back of a train car! Connor had fun watching the trains, and we all enjoyed our food. Connor ate just about every bite of his soup from the kids menu, which had carrots, pork, and little noodle dumplings.  Charlie and I both ordered the same dish, which was good, but not at all what we were expecting!  The English translation in the menu was something like “fried wheat pancakes with beans, spicy pork, and cheese.” It turned out to be similar to southwest egg rolls, complete with salsa for dipping. Connor and I were in heaven with our desserts (and we even shared some with daddy). Connor had a kids sundae with gummy bears on the bottom, and I had a sundae with coffee ice cream, dried figs, and chocolate sauce.

Ready for dinner!  See the train track next to us?
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After dinner we looked at a few more Easter Market stalls as we walked through Wenceslas Square. They were selling a lot of the same items that we saw this morning in the Old Town Square, so I picked out a hand-painted egg ornament and a beautiful table covering that I had my eye on earlier. We walked back to the hotel and relaxed before bed. Time to head home tomorrow!

Sunday
After breakfast at the hotel, we walked about half an hour south along the river to the Vyšehrad Cemetery to find the graves of Dvorak and Smetana. We didn’t realize the cemetery was on top of a hill! Charlie’s back was killing him, and my shoulders and hips were tired from hauling Connor on my back, but we made it. Luckily there was a map to show us the grave locations. It was a long walk back to the hotel, but we were grateful for nice weather again.

Smetana and Dvorak’s gravesites
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It was around 12:30 when we started our journey home. We only made two quick stops and made it home just after 6:00pm.  We had such a fantastic weekend, but we are ready to relax!  No more trips on the horizon…it’s time to start getting things organized for our big move back to the states this summer…

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