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Matthew Grant

Restaurants in Prague

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Rehovot:

I think my words came out differently than intended. As I noted, I had some wonderful meals in Prague that weren't high-end at all.

But I detected no inclination on the part of any locals to sample haute French, Asian, etc. I had a long discussion on this topic with staff at the Black Rooster -- and this was their assertion. (we were wondering whether they received much local business...they do not.)

On my last trip my friends kept asking cab drivers, hotel staff and the like for recommendations (I'm not sure where the idea comes from that cab drivers know where good food is, in my experience no matter what part of the world you are in -- including New York -- they don't) and we were constantly steered to what were obviously tourist traps.

Curiously, when we were debating going to Alcron my friends asked staff at a couple different restaurants if they had gone to Alcron. They all claimed they had and said that it wasn't very good. Although our meal was indeed, uneven, we also ended up convinced that they had simply lied when they said they had been there.

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I realized, reading over my initial post...how it might have gotten confused.

I wasn't telling her to eat at a herna or dismissing some of the excellent pivnice food we had (and I gave recommendations on that score)....merely pointing out that a pivnice is where locals eat out.

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Megan, we're also going to Cerny Kohout, aka the Black Rooster, based on Mark's recommendation. I wonder if anyone has eaten at U Modré Kachnicky fairly recently - a friend recommended it highly, but Mark did not - and I've come to trust his recs so much that I'd love more recent input. Also wonder about U Patrona and V Zatisi, which my friend also recommended??? Thanks in advance for the help.

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i really liked U Zavoje (was there about a month ago). click here for the Prague Post review (it's from 2004, but it gives you an idea). cool place.

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i really liked U Zavoje (was there about a month ago).  click here for the Prague Post review (it's from 2004, but it gives you an idea).  cool place.

Oh, my, that does look good!

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On September 29th, LouisaWhite and I headed off on American Airlines, bound for Prague, Strasbourg, Champagne, and Paris. The French leg of our journey will be recounted in the France forum, but I'll be posting here about our time in Prague.

We landed around 11:30 on Saturday morning after a breakfast of yogurt and shortbread on the plane from Brussels. We wanted to save room for dinner before the opera (we had tickets to Turandot at the State Opera), but I saw these during our walk through Stare Mesto (Old Town), and just had to try one. If anyone can tell me what it's called, that would be great! It almost seemed like a grilled puff pastry, with some nuts, cinnamon, and vanilla flavoring...

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And, of course, coated in lots of sugar. This is how they were made:

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We walked all over the right bank of the Vltava on our first day, then went home, showered, and got gussied up for l'opera! I snapped this picture as we walked along the riverbank on our first afternoon:

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We weren't sure where we would go for dinner. We hadn't really explored the area where the opera was, and had no idea how close we were to all the cafes on Wenceslas Square. So, we were really excited to discover that there was a restaurant right next door to the opera, called The Garden in the Opera (in English, at least...I've tried to find the name in Czech, but with no luck).

No pictures from that dinner, but I can report that the room was really pretty and modern - it's in the Radio Free Europe building, and there are glass walls on two sides. Indoors it's got a definite botanical theme going on, with dried grasses and live flowers weaving through bamboo screens.

Louisa started with an arugula, ham, parmesan and pears, a salad which seems to be quite popular in Prague right now. I had two head-on shrimp served in a buttery sauce with an edible flower salad on the side.

We both had the "tagliarini piri-piri" for our main course - a chicken breast, coated with mysteriously crispy mix of spices, served with fresh pasta and a tikka masala-like sauce. I had a mojito to drink, and then we headed off to Turandot, and our box seats! :shock::biggrin:

The next day was my 27th birthday. I woke up early and took a long bath, and then Louisa and I headed off to explore more of Prague. It was pretty rainy, so we decided to head down to the National (Narodni) Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square (little did we know how close it was to the opera). On the way there, we stopped for lunch at Cafe Savarin on na Prokipe, a pedestrian street full of shopping arcades.

Lunch for me was a capuccino and a chicken sandwich with "garlic cream," which I think was just aioli. Louisa had a cappucino and a savory crepe. The cafe was recommended by my Rough Guide and by Louisa's Hedonist's Guide to Prague, but neither of us was bowled over by the food. The coffee, however, was pretty good. We had the same brand (Darboven) in a couple of places, and loved it every time...

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From Savarin, we walked up Wenceslas Square toward the National Museum...


Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

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We really enjoyed the National Museum, especially the frescoes depicting several scenes in the history of Prague. Our favorite was the ploughman receiving the crown, even though he was replacing the female ruler whose vision had identified him as her successor. :sad:

By the time we came out of the museum, the rain had stopped (though the sun had not reappeared). We decided to stop in at the Grand Hotel's Cafe Europa, and discovered what is undoubtedly the ultimate achievement of Czech cuisine (aside from their liberal use of the cucumber): hot chocolate. Europa's wasn't the best we had, but even as the worst, it was pretty damn good. Amazing. Thick, rich, dark - served with sugar on the side! (Neither of us used the sugar.)

Loved the mugs!

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The interior of the Cafe Europa was very pretty - Art Nouveau architecture only slightly faded with time and tourists.

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We followed Narodni down to the river from the bottom of Wenceslas square, noting with awe the HUGE number of KFC's - can someone who knows more about the Czech Republic than I do explain the popularity of KFC in Prague? It's amazing the market penetration they have.

After our walk down to the river, we decided a glass of wine was in order. We visited Kavarna Slavia, which is at 1 Narodni, right across from the National Thatre. We each had a quarter litre of the Frankovka, a Czech wine. Very drinkable!

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Oh, Megan, I gotta go to bed! I CANNOT stay up to read the undoubtedly wonderful posts you are writing even as I type this. In the morning, friend, I expect to read more about Prague. SOOO glad you are back and are telling your tales...

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From Kavarna Slavia, we took a cab home to soak our tired feet and get ready for dinner out that night. We had decided to go to Pravda, a place we'd seen on our walk the day before. It's a beautiful space - all white, with high ceilings, mirrors, and red and black accents. The menu is really fun - very international, and each dish is named for a different country.

I started with the "Scandanavia," which was seared scallops served on green bean puree with a strawberry sauce and mint foam. The strawberry and mint were delicious - the green bean puree was a little tasteless. My main was the "New Zealand," featuring - you guessed it - lamb. The lamb was grilled with rosemary and served with eggplant stuffed with goat cheese and peppers. For dessert, Louisa and I split the tiramisu, and we shared a split of Taittinger with the meal.

After dinner, we went to Bugsy's, a block or two back toward Old Town Square, for a cocktail. We had high hopes, but were rather let down. I had a pretty tasteless Ramos Gin Fizz, but my second drink was definitely better. It was a champagne cocktail with calvados, apple juice, mint, and brown sugar - I really enjoyed it, but I still can't quite forget the fizz.

One of the best parts of Prague was being able to walk home at night feeling completely safe - so that's what we did. :biggrin:

The next day we got up a leeeettle late and decided to grab coffee at Ebel (a great coffee house with a couple of locations - I had a "long black coffee" and a bagel with cherry jam) before a walk over to the funicular up Petrin Hill. The walk was long, and we were psyched to ride the funicular up the hill and see the fantastic view. On the way, we passed a pastry shop on Karmelitska, where they were selling sunflower seed cookies and marzipan pigs.

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We walked back down toward Nerudova, a twisty little street in Mala Strana. We were headed for Cafe Carolina in the Hotel Neruda.

Of course, what could I have but more hot chocolate? Louisa was a bit warm from the walk (as was I, it just didn't stop me), so she got the cold chocolate.

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To eat, I had the apple streudel, and Louisa had the honey cake!

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The hotel did a really neat job of modernizing the old courtyard space...and Louisa did a good job of enjoying her cold chocolate!

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Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

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That night, we decided to try and find some traditional Czech food. My Rough Guide suggested a spot in the basement of the Municipal Building, which was on Namesti Republicky, just a block from our hotel on Trulharska. However, when we got there, the restaurant was closed! So, we wandered around Stare Mesto until we found a little place right behind Tyn Church

We started with dark beer on tap - sorry for the blurry pics, but I was using my "night" setting to avoid using the flash!

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We both had a "salad mix," which had nice lettuce, good tomatoes, some corn, and cucumbers (!) - the dressing was milky and not terribly tasty, but thanks to the Czech custom of putting various condiments on the table (including vinegar, oil, and a vinegary hot sauce), I was able to spice things up a bit.

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For my main course, I had a pork cutlet "Verona style," which seemed to mean buttery, garlicky sauce, with coleslaw and frites on the side. Odd, but not bad.

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Louisa ordered well - half a roast duck and these DELICIOUS potato pancakes - they had these creamy centers that were just to die for.

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On the side, she had two kinds of cabbage. Delicious! That night, another lovely, cool walk home to the hotel.

To be continued tomorrow, folks...still to come, one more night of traditional Czech food, and even more hot chocolate! :biggrin:

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Megan, I'm really enjoying this. The last (and only) time I was in Prague was 7 years ago, and I don't remember KFC having much market penetration then. Still, at that time I was less interested in food and more interested in finding beer for 25 cents. I must go back and do it properly.

Oh, and Happy Birthday!!

Si

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I think those puff-pastry things are called "trobičky", little tubes (or little trumpets).

Too bad the Municipal House's restaurant was closed; their cafe is lovely... (So many good cafes, here...such lousy service...) :wink:

Yay, dark beer!

I look forward to reading more!

Edited to add: strange about the KFCs. I have yet to go in one. They are ubiquitous. As is McDonald's. (I only go in those to fit in.) :raz:


Edited by Rehovot (log)

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Lovely, Megan. I am so looking forward to the rest of your report, and the French part as well!

It's great to have you back.

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Wonderful! My sister didn't take NEARLY enough pictures of food in Prague, so I'm kind of re-living her trip vicariously as I enjoy your trip vicariously!

P.S. And how was the opera? Can't go past the human voice where music is concerned...


Edited by helenjp (log)

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I think those puff-pastry things are called "trobičky", little tubes (or little trumpets).

Too bad the Municipal House's restaurant was closed; their cafe is lovely... (So many good cafes, here...such lousy service...)  :wink:

Yay, dark beer!

I look forward to reading more!

Edited to add: strange about the KFCs. I have yet to go in one. They are ubiquitous. As is McDonald's. (I only go in those to fit in.)  :raz:

I KNEW you would know! :biggrin: I was hoping you might also know about the KFC phenomenon. I'm telling you, there's a great market strategy lesson to be learned there.

Your recommendations are coming into play shortly, Rehovot...

Oh, and Happy Birthday!!

Thanks! :blush:

Lovely, Megan. I am so looking forward to the rest of your report, and the French part as well!

It's great to have you back.

Thanks, Chufi...it's good to be back. :smile:

P.S. And how was the opera? Can't go past the human voice where music is concerned...

The opera was very good. I'd never seen Turandot before, and it's such a fun opera. I'd only ever been to the opera at the Met and at City Opera before this, so the experience was really different. Smaller (we didn't even need opera glasses), more casual, and the set was creaky. (Of course, I went to La Boheme two years ago at City Opera, and the snow they dropped made NOISE.)

But Turandot WASN'T a screamer, and even though the tenor wasn't fabulous, he wisely saved everything he had for Nessun Dorma. :wink:

Being in that space (and in the red velvet box) made me feel like I was in a scene straight out of Amadeus, though, which was priceless.

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On day three, we booked a tour to Terezin through our hotel, and were told to be downstairs and ready to go by 10 AM. Now, 10 AM was earlier than we'd been getting out and about to this point, plus we knew we couldn't face Terezin on an empty stomach, so we got up a little early and hit the breakfast buffet in our hotel.

We were pleasantly surprised by the offerings...it was a big buffet, with hot food (eggs, bacon, sausage), cold savory food (meats, cheeses, cucumbers (!), tomatoes), breads and rolls, yogurt, granola, cereal, juice, fruit...I had yogurt and granola, which were both really good. I then went back and grabbed us each a slice of the Czech bacon, which we really liked. It was slightly more cured than smokey, and more akin to pancetta than to American bacon. Quite yummy.

After our outing to Terezin (which was extremely affecting and absolutely worthwhile), we needed a bit of a pick-me-up. Rehovot had emailed me boatloads of recommendations for my time in Prague, one of which was Cafe Louvre on Narodni.

You walk up a flight of stairs and enter a lobby between a more formal restaurant and the casual cafe area, which looks like this:

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Even though we knew we'd be having dinner in a few hours, we were too hungry for just a snack. Luckily for us, the menu boasted a section called "meals for small hunger." Louisa had a delicious chicken ragout, flavored with worcestershire sauce and mustard, and served with toasts - almost British-tasting, really. I had an omelet with bacon, potatoes, and onions - it looked more like a frittata than an omelet, but whatever it was, it was goooood. Totally hit the spot.

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Our bread basket and placemats...

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For dessert we had - what else - hot chocolate!

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We then had a nice walk home past the Powder Gate and the Municipal Building...it was definitely time for a nap.

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Our second night of traditional Czech food (at the same little restaurant, same little table) was an up night for me, a down one for Louisa. I had another mixed green salad to start, and Louisa had shopsky, which, based on my extensive research, seems to be a Bulgarian specialty. It was tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers, chopped up, topped with a vinaigrette, and covered in salty cheese. (No pics of the shopsky from that night, but scroll down to check out Cafe Louvre's version.)

For my main course, I chose the Czech plate. This turned out to be three kinds of meat, plus a kielbasa-like sausage, served with a gravy and the traditional Czech dumplings. Now, they may know their way around a killer potato pancake, but the dumplings in "Czech lands" (as our guide to Terezin called it) leave something to be desired. I bought a "Czech Cookery" book on our last day in Prague, and it explained that the dumplings are essentially boiled rolls; one variety made of potato flour, and one of wheat flour. (Here's a link to a recipe I found online.)

However, I also got two kinds of cabbage (yay!), and Louisa was kind enough to grace me with one of her potato pancakes.

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From left to right on the top of the plate, you've got potato dumplings, wheat dumplings, and the potato pancake. From left to right on the bottom, sausage, ham, beef, and a pork chop hiding. Also, the cabbage!

Louisa got something that was named mysteriously (so mysteriously, in fact, that I cannot recall it), which turned out to be a veal chop topped with ham, white asparagus, and cheese.

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One note about most of this food - it was very salty. We noticed that the traditional food tended to be either very salty, very sweet, or bland. The condiments brought to the table helped alleviate this somewhat, but it was a definite trend.

The next morning, we got up early (sunrise was our goal, but we didn't quite make it) to walk across the Charles Bridge in its relatively empty early-morning state. It was a drizzly day, so our fellow walkers were equipped with umbrellas...this is a view of the bridge, looking back toward Stare Mesto.

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We had a destination all planned out, a cafe in Mala Strana that was highly rated by The HG2, and which opened at 8 AM. However, when we got there at 8:30, it still wasn't open. Grrrrr...so, being all European and go-with-the-flow (at least for the two weeks we were on vacation), we found a restaurant called Sqaure, right around the corner from St. Niklaus. It's owned by the Kampa Group, the sort of Steve Hanson restaurant group of Prague. Louisa had hot porridge with fruit, and I had the continental breakfast - brioche toast, ham, parmesan, jam, and butter. It was good (Illy capuccinos to drink, BTW), but way overpriced.

We hopped on the tram to head up to Prague Castle, where we spent an excellent morning looking at art, churches, architecture, and learning about the defenstration that precipitated the Thirty Years' War. Excellent times.

After the Castle, we took the tram back down to the funicular, and rode up to the halfway point. There's a restaurant and a cafe there, and we thought it would be a neat (if hopelessly touristy - but we were tourists, after all) place to have our last lunch in Prague.

The cafe only served drinks, so we opted for Restaurant Nebozizek, which had glass walls and amazing views. To start, I had a cucumber, tomato, and avocado salad, dressed with vinegar, oil, red onion, and "pickles!"

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Did I MENTION how much I loved all the cucumber?

Louisa had a delicious (but really not photogenic), creamy salmon soup to start, and then another version of the arugula, parm, ham and pear salad...

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This one had some green leaf lettuce mixed in with the arugula, but it was still pretty good.

I had a duck dish...duck breast with purple cabbage, white cabbage gnocchi, roasted apples, and crispy potatoes. I really enjoyed it, and it was so pretty!

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We were pretty full, plus we knew we'd be having an early dinner, so we opted for coffee only after the meal, and then headed outside to take some pictures of the view.

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That's Prague Castle, with Mala Strana just in front of it and the funicular stop in the foreground.

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That's Tyn Church in Old Town Square!

For our last dinner in Prague, we went back to Cafe Louvre for some more hot chocolate and some quality time with our books. Louisa got ghoulash (her husband had been begging her to do so for days - every time they talked, it was ghoulash this and ghoulash that), and I decided to go for some pasta. But first, SHOPSKY! And bread.

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The pasta was billed as "spaghetti with garlic, cheese, chiles, and Italian bacon." It had all those things, but also tasted mysteriously un-Italian. Very odd. Not bad, just not Italian.

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And so, with a final cup of hot chocolate and a tram ride back to Namesti Republicky, we ended our time in Prague...we left the next morning for Strasbourg, and my continuing chronicle can be found over here!


Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

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Thank you for sharing the wonderful photos and descriptions of your time in Prague. Your duck breast dish looks wonderful.

...

For my main course, I chose the Czech plate.  This turned out to be three kinds of meat, plus a kielbasa-like sausage, served with a gravy and the traditional Czech dumplings.  Now, they may know their way around a killer potato pancake, but the dumplings in "Czech lands" (as our guide to Terezin called it) leave something to be desired.  I bought a "Czech Cookery" book on our last day in Prague, and it explained that the dumplings are essentially boiled rolls; one variety made of potato flour, and one of wheat flour.  (Here's a link to a recipe I found online.)

...

I wonder if it is just hit or miss to get good dumplings in restaurants because the Czech Moravians and Bohemians are certainly famous for their variety of dumplings! There is an art to making them so perhaps some restaurants take shortcuts or prepare them indifferently.

Bread dumplings can be very good and are also popular in Austria with saucy dishes that have a gravy. There are also potato dumplings, dumplings made with or without yeast, with or without meat fillings and dumplings made from Farmer's cheese which may or may not be served sweet as dessert or as a meatless main dish. The sweet ones can be filled with apricots or plums and may or may not be sprinkled with poppy seeds or butter-sauteed ground nuts sweetened with sugar. (See the photo in my profile... :wink: )

Did you see kolaches being sold in bakeries? I'm not sure if they are a more seasonal treat for the Christmas/New Year's holidays. Another dish I associate with the area is goose although that also might be seasonal.


Edited by ludja (log)

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Another great travelogue! I've just come from reading Peter Greene's Bangkok thread, and now this taste of Prague. Those hot chocolates had me dreaming of cooler climes. How were things priced there - for example, how much was the average hot chocolate? Did you find it expensive to visit, overall?

As to the popularity of KFC, I'm at a complete loss to explain that. One opened here recently, and it's considered terribly cool and rebellious to go there.

I guess freedom really does come with french fries.

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"it's considered terribly cool and rebellious to go there."

I've never thought of KFC is such a light. :smile:

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Megan, now I've lost sleep twice in two days over you. I went to bed last night later than usual but was up at 4:15 this morning, so I promised myself a nap between lunch and taking one of my children to an appt, but just kept sitting here at the 'puter reading...

Great job, though. I love how writing about my travels cements the whole experience in my mind and turns it into a firm memory.

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Another great travelogue! I've just come from reading Peter Greene's Bangkok thread, and now this taste of Prague. Those hot chocolates had me dreaming of cooler climes. How were things priced there - for example, how much was the average hot chocolate? Did you find it expensive to visit, overall?

Prague was, by far, the cheapest leg of the trip. Meals at the more traditional restaurants were very reasonable, no more than $30-35 total for two people. Pravda was on a level with New York restaurants in price, coming in at about $200 for two, including wine, tip and tax.

Hot chocolate was between 30-60 koruny (about 20-25 koruny to the dollar), so not too expensive, especially given the quality and the fact that it was served in sit-down places, not at a Starbucks.

One odd thing we noticed (and there was a bit of this in France, too, though not on quite the same level) was the obsession with coin. Everyone wants it, and no one has it. When we arrived, our first stop was the ATM. The ATM's dispensed 500 and 1,000 koruny bills, and most places (including our hotel) refused to change them. So we spent the first couple of days building up our stores of coin (a link to a Wikipedia entry on the koruna can be found here).

For instance, at the National Museum snack bar, we tried to buy two mineral waters (for a total of 80 koruny), but the cashier refused to take our 100 koruny bill. :blink: It was hilarious. Things got better on the Monday - maybe because banks were back open and people's stores of change were replenished? For whatever reason, it continually cracked us up.

As to the popularity of KFC, I'm at a complete loss to explain that. One opened here recently, and it's considered terribly cool and rebellious to go there.

I guess freedom really does come with french fries.

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

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If anyone can tell me what it's called, that would be great!  It almost seemed like a grilled puff pastry, with some nuts, cinnamon, and vanilla flavoring...

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And, of course, coated in lots of sugar.  This is how they were made:

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i've been asking around what this thing is called ever since january. i've got some photos of this delicious thing with CZ text but apparently it doesn't really have a name :( any CZ speaker can help us out?

i love this snack! so much that i ate one a day :)

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i've been asking around what this thing is called ever since january.  i've got some photos of this delicious thing with CZ text but apparently it doesn't really have a name :(  any CZ speaker can help us out?

i love this snack!  so much that i ate one a day :)

It most certainly has a name. It is called Staroceske trdlo (Old-Bohemian muff) and it is food from medieval times. It is also made in Hungary and Romania. I love them. The first time I had them was in a medieval city in Romania.

You went to the city of my forefathers. My great-great......grandfather from the 1600s rebuilt the Alt-Neu Shul in Prague. This where my title of Baroness comes from. Did I forget to mention that in my blogs? :wink:

I haven't been to Prague in about three years, but there was a restaurant I went to in a cellar near the Church of St Nicholas (I think) that is below the Castle. I will have to find the name of it. They had great beer and also served some wonderful plum dumplings.

The truth is I have been to Prague three times and I have yet to be wowed by the food, but I am definitely wowed by the city.


Edited by Swisskaese (log)

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It most certainly has a name. It is called Staroceske trdlo (Old-Bohemian muff) and it is food from medieval times. It is also made in Hungary and Romania. I love them. The first time I had them was in a medieval city in Romania.

thanks a lot, Swisskaese! now i don't have to describe to people what it is. next time i'll remember to take a photo of the stall's sign. apparently the text shown here is simply a description of the delicious sugar and nut coating.

cheers

[actually i don't mind the food, just can't eat heavy meals everyday. you're right about the city. i'm into medieval stuff so i was incredibly impressed, and equally impressed with the beers being a beer fanatic.]

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