Monday, 8 April 2013

Berlin and Prague

Welcome back, Blog Fans.  We've just returned from a well-deserved and interesting "holiday" in Berlin and Prague.  Though the calendar says Spring, it certainly didn't feel like it.  However, we were well prepared for the cold so it didn't alter our plans.

We took a 2-hr flight from Birmingham the Thursday night before Easter and spent 5 nights (4 days) in Berlin.  We then took a train to Prague where we spent 4 nights (3 days) before flying home on Saturday.  Two new countries for most of us (Kuk had been to Germany for work) and a nice contrast to some of our other destinations--certainly more of a 20th century feel for Berlin.

Though it won't seem like it, I have trimmed the pictures down but it will be a long entry.  Hopefully I won't bore you to death -- feel free to skim the photos and come back another time.  As usual, I will be going chronologically, which will seem a little more haphazard that normal since we went back to revisit some sites in more detail in both places.

Note, all the foodie bits are at the end for those interested.

Friday, March 29
Walking Tour

I've gotten pretty good at this travel planning thing, if I do say so myself.  Part of that is experience -- learning where to look for the information that is helpful.  Just as important, though, is learning what works well for us as a family.

One thing that works well for us is an overview walking tour in a new city.  We actually went a little heavy on that this trip with 3 walks in total.  On day one, we took the Discover Berlin tour from Original Berlin Walks.
And so we begin . . .

After meeting up with the group (rather large despite the snow due to the holiday weekend), we walked over to Museum Island for a quick historical overview.

Menacing statue in the museum complex.  Decidedly under-dressed for the snow.

Berlin Cathedral

Memorial to The Fallen Soldier -- fittingly covered in snow (there is an opening in the top of the building)

Humboldt University -- also the site of the infamous Nazi book burning (more on that later)

Parisian Square near the Brandenburg Gate.  Hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby out the window.

iconic Brandenburg Gate

This is the unique Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe -- 2711 uniquely shaped concrete slabs.  Purposely abstract and thought provoking.  Rather treacherous with ice on this day.

from the inside looking out

this is one site that we came back to the next day (to visit the museum) -- this map shows "Sites of Persecution and Extermination" by the Nazis.  It wasn't just a few well known concentration camps.  The museum was very informative and shocking though we have seen the message a few times now.

the Reichstag in the distance

a parking lot and apartment building atop the site of Hitler's bunker where he committed suicide -- they've understandably decided to take a low-key approach

Saturday, March 30
Berlin 20th century sites

Day 2 was much like day 1.  We re-traced some of our steps to spend a little more in-depth time at the sites we wanted to revisit.  Still cold, but less snow today.  We hopped on the "subway" (U-Bahn) and then one stop on the "train" (S-Bahn) to pop out back at Brandenburg Gate.

had to get the one cheesy shot it

First stop of the day was the Reichstag (pre-booked).  The Reichstag now houses the German legislative body (Bundestag) after recent refurbishment.  It had fallen into disrepair during Communist times.   It housed the Imperial Diet (Assembly) of the German Empire from 1894 until 1933 until it was destroyed by a fire.  The fire was [conveniently] blamed on a Communist and was the catalyst for Hitler and the Nazis coming into (absolute) power in 1933.

up top and outside the dome

Views from the dome.  Berlin is not a pretty city.  The reason to visit is for the history and the sites.

outside Brandenburg Gate from above

infinite Nicoles in the elevator mirror on the way down

the Reichstag was also the last stand for the Nazis in WWII -- here's what it looked like on that day

a few random walking shots as we made our way from the Reichstag back to the Memorial of the Murdered Jews and points farther south -- odd profile amongst the trees

note the colorful above ground pipe -- our guide from the previous day mentioned that whenever there is a pipe there is construction (and there is a lot of construction in Berlin).  The water table is so high that construction pipes have to pump out the water when digging

side by side of the iconic crossing lights in East Berlin

leftover Communist Propaganda on government building

The next site was the Topography of Terror Museum at the former headquarters of the Gestapo and SS (part of the museum is outdoors).  Here you can see a good chunk of the remaining Wall.  We were told of a successful escape from the rooftop across a rope line to the other side (including mother and son).

happy book burners (from the outdoor display)

photo of book burning

I didn't take too many photos inside but this one from Auschwitz was really creepy.  Party time, really?

The museum was a good overview of how the Nazi's came to power and what they did when they had it.  Recommended.

Next we walked towards Checkpoint Charlie and read the (free) info boards near the Museum of the Wall (and C.C.).  Reminder of how things looked at the end of the war.

Outside of the Brandenburg Gate and no-man's land.

Perhaps I'm the only idiot, but for some reason I had assumed the Wall was to keep the East Germans in but it actually encircled West Berlin.  Recall that Berlin was divided up between the Soviets (pink above) and the French/British/Americans.  However, Berlin was well inside East (Communist) Germany (see map on right).  It was a conduit to freedom and many chose to use it that way until the Wall went up "over night" in August 1961.

Creepy photo of Churchill, Truman and Stalin all smiles (from Potsdam conference).  One lunatic dictator at a time I guess.

Checkpoint Charlie, then and now

back on the trains to head a little north to the Berlin Wall Memorial -- re-bar from a section of the wall and the outer wall in the distant background

photo of inner/outer walls and no-man's land back in the day

kids and the wall -- obviously they are growing up post-wall and don't fully understand the significance but perhaps one day they will.  The museum had a moving video that showed people crossing the border after it was opened in 1989/1990.  Important to see.

Sunday, March 31
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

We thought we would take the time to visit a concentration camp given the opportunity -- another worthwhile learning opportunity for all involved.  We decided to do a tour with Berlin Walks (again) and glad we did.  We've heard of many of the atrocities over the course of our travels but seeing it is something else altogether.

Sachsenhausen was the closest camp to Berlin and was in fact where the concentration camps were managed.  It was a "working" camp rather than an extermination camp (like Auschwitz) but to say it was anything but horrible would be untrue.  It started as a camp for political opponents to make sure all that challenged the Hitler/Nazi way were removed.  Then, with complete power, the purification plan could be put in place.

The message that stuck with me the most was how off-balance the prisoners were kept.  Try as they might to follow the rules; the rules would always change.  They had no control and it's amazing any survived at all.

main entrance gate through which prisoners would march

work will set you free (if only) -- the concentration camps were billed as rehabilitation centers early on

prisoners would be shot if entering the "neutral" zone -- a story was told of one who was forced to retrieve a hat and then shot when doing so

barracks to one side from the courtyard where roll call was performed (twice daily at 3+ hour stretches).  It was fitting to come on such a cold day with snow on the ground.  We had our thermals, coats, hats and gloves and could only imagine what it would be like in a typical prisoner uniform.

a few rebuilt barracks on the other side -- the camp seems more open now than it would have then with all the buildings still standing

bunks inside the barracks -- tight quarters as you can imagine

execution area -- I got the impression that they worked most of them to death at this site rather than actual execution, though they did show us a smaller facility for that purpose.

Today was more a day of reflection than photos.  It's hard (impossible?) to imagine what it must have been like.

Monday, April 1
Berlin -- Museum Island 

Berlin also has some fine museums that showcase things prior to the 20th century as well.  Monday was our day to see those.

back to Museum Island with the Berlin Cathedral in the distance

Our first stop was the Pergamon Museum and its Pergamon Altar.  The alter dates back to the 2nd century BC and was excavated in the 19th century by German engineer Carl Humann.

In addition to the altar, a huge frieze wraps around the room.  Athena and Nike fighting Alkyoneus, a titan with snake like legs.

Zeus having a go as well

and another -- don't recall which one this was

kids on the steps -- this was by far Alex's favorite site as he is into the Percy Jackson (Greek Gods, etc.) right now

a mosaic from the upper room

in another room -- the Market Gate of Miletus (95' x 55')

Nebuchadnezzar II's Ishtar Gate (a reconstruction from some original elements)

lion detail

 colorful wall/temple in the Islamic art section

Next was a quick visit to the Neues Museum (Kuk would say too quick).  The star of the show was this 3000 year old bust of Queen Nefertiti.  [No photos allowed unfortunately -- this is from the web.]  It really is an amazing sight and seeing it in person was very impressive.

For additional information on how it came to reside in Berlin (and the political tangles since), see the Wiki link.

Another interesting item is the Golden Hat, also ~3000 years old made of paper thin gold.  It was created by an early Celtic civilization in central Europe and shows the sun and the moon in different phases.

After a quick lunch break, it was off to our third museum of the day:  the German History Museum.  I knew this museum would take some time (and energy) and was why the Neues Museum unfortunately got the short shrift. 

The museum was well laid out and described German history from the early years through the 20th century.  We tried to get to WWI since we've got the 20th century bits from other sources.   Unfortunately, it was a little much to take in and neither Kuk or I felt like we "got it".  I bought the museum book/guide to read up further.  [The kids were disinterested by this point and mainly just walked from seat to seat to wait it out -- oh well.]


various shields from the Middle Ages

Luther nailing his 95 thesis against the church

On the Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther, 1521

early bible - by the time of Luther's death, 1 million bibles had been printed in Germany

figure of Victory (Napoleon's defeat) -- she is the one riding atop Brandenburg Gate

model of Carl Benz's first motorcar

Otto von Bismarck -- "We Germans fear God, but nothing else in the world" (1888)

Tuesday, April 2
travel to Prague 

The train ride from Berlin to Prague takes 4:45.  We turned it into a day of rest by leaving around 10:30 and not doing much besides checking into our B&B in Prague.  It was good to refuel the jets.

I splurged (an extra 20E) to travel 1st class.  Couldn't tell much difference honestly.  We were in a 6-person berth/compartment.  We were joined by another person from Berlin to Dresden and then it was just us the rest of the way.   At any rate, train travel is a leisurely (and largely stress free) way to travel from city center to city center.

Prague is an interesting city.  It has a certain charm that we all liked.  Its "doors" have been open a short time (since the fall of communism in 1989) while it has quite the medieval connection with its "castle" high on the hillstop and it cobblestone streets in Old Town relatively unscathed from WWII.

The Czech Republic is in the EU but not the Euro-zone.  As a result, we had to get some local currency (ATM's are everywhere).  Fortunately our credit union doesn't charge per withdrawal so I was able to get some each day so I didn't end up with too much at the end.

Fortunately, the exchange rate inched up such that it was 20:1.  Makes the math a little easier.  These big bills seem like monopoly money though and it's easy to lull yourself into thinking you aren't spending much when you could be.  So the bills shown are equivalent to $50 and $10.  The 50 and 20 CZK coins are $2.50 and $1 respectively (more or less).  The coin on the right is 1 euro for reference.

Wednesday, April 3
Prague Overview -- Personal Tour

As I mentioned above, we like to take a walking tour on the first day to get an overview.  Typically, this is done with a group.  For Prague I noticed we could book the highly recommend PragueWalker company for just a little more and get an individual guide.  In fact, we scored the ultimate scoop and were able to book the owner Katka Svobodova herself.  What a wonderful way to spend the (half) day.  This was the highlight of the trip for me.

It was great to get a tour of the city with Katka and her immense knowledge.  More importanly though, she shared with us what it was like to live through the huge changes in her city.  Imagine becoming "free" while going to school?  and to see the changes that has brought to Prague?  For instance, she went from having to learn Russian in school to switching over to English -- her teacher was learning on the fly and was basically one lesson ahead!

I can't recommend her enough.  Even if you don't get Katka directly, I'm sure others in her company would also be rewarding.

We met at our B&B which was in "Lesser Town" across the Charles Bridge and below the castle.  We start with a leisurely (i.e. slow) walk up the hill to the castle.

Many houses along the street maintain their connection to days gone by when houses had names, not numbers.  The above is a collage of various "names" above the door:  3 violins, golden wheel, two suns, green lobster, red lion, golden key and the red lamb.

We finally make it to the "castle".  I say "castle" because it's not the Normanesque, gray fortress that we have in our minds.  The castle is more palace and is the office (but not home) of the President.  Technically, it is the largest ancient castle in the world.  The castle dates back to the 9th century.

[The red carpet, alas, is not for us.  The President of the European Commission, Jose Manual Barroso, was making a historical visit to raise the EU flag for the first time in Prague.]

warning to those who would try to attack?

in the courtyard of the castle is the massive St. Vitus Cathedral

Gothic architecture -- this part of the cathedral was built in the 14th century.  The newer "half" wasn't completed until the 19th & 20th century.

We came back the next day to get a better look (in the "fee" section) but I thought I would put them here for better flow.  This is the stained glass window designed by the famous Czech Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha.

another impressive stained glass facade

Royal Tomb, including the first Habsburgs to rule Bohemia (Ferdinand I, Maximilian II)

a sample of the Baroque silver artwork on St. John of Nepomuk's tomb (which contains more than a ton of silver in total)

Okay, back outside on the tour -- a rare family shot in front of (one side of) the castle

the old and new portions of the cathedral are more distinguishable from the outside (though some of the old has been cleaned like new)

close up of the mosaic of the Last Judgment on the south exterior wall

view from the castle across Mala Strana (Lesser Town), the river and into Stare Mesto (Old Town) [apologies for being too lazy to duplicate the Czech alphabet]

panning to the right and the Charles Bridge

We then walked back down to Mala Strana and across the Charles Bridge.  There are quite a few statues along the way.  This one is of St. John of Nepomuk (of silver tomb), a 14th-century priest.  Legend has it that the Queen confessed her sins to him and the King wanted the dirt.  John kept quiet and was tossed over the bridge.  When he landed, five stars appeared.

Looking back up at St. Vitus and the caste

King Charles IV (on the Old Town side of the bridge) -- Holy Roman Emperor who ruled from Prague in the 14th century

the famous astronomical clock (1410) in Old Town square -- on the hour "death" (the skeleton on the right) starts jingling and the doors open for the apostles to make a loop around for all to see.  The clock has all sorts of astronomical information -- pretty amazing.

Tyn Church through a passageway

After saying our thanks and good-byes to Katka, we wondered a bit on our own:

Market stall with Trdelnik, a traditional treat made from rolled dough, wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix. It is quite yeasty and we found we liked it better with Nutella rather than plain.

entrance/gate/tower to the Charles Bridge (Old Town side)

on the bridge with castle in the background

After a short break to rest our weary feet, we were back out.  Aiming for the unique, we went to the Communism Museum (tucked in next to a casino of all places).   Very informative and interesting.  We particularly liked the short video that showed how demonstrators were dealt with over the years (it was police training footage).

Talk about your planning mistakes.  Look at the size of this Stalin monument.  Since torn down, thankfully.

Ah, a little Communist propaganda . . . all is good.

victory in sports = food for the machine

chemical warfare protection against the evil capitalists who could strike at any time

look, affordable food for everyone -- too bad there wasn't much to go around (and the black market reigned)

scenes from the 1968 protest that drew Russian tanks (wiki link) -- over 100 killed

street signs were destroyed to confuse the invaders

A young Czech student, Jan Palach, decided to sacrifice himself in protest of the invasion and set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square in January 1969.  The march of citizens honoring his sacrifice was for a long time the last demonstration against the communist regime.  Palach was originally buried in Prague but his body was moved to the country where it was less likely to become a place of pilgrimage.

gathering in Wenceslas Square

After that rousing bit of recent history, we decided to battle the cold and walk Wenceslas Square ourselves. 

Note from Wiki:  Saint Wenceslaus was Duke of Bohemia in the 900s until his assassination.  His martyrdom, and the popularity of several biographies, quickly gave rise to a reputation for heroic goodness, resulting in his being elevated to Sainthood, posthumously declared king, and seen as the patron saint of the Czech state. He is the subject of Good King Wenceslas, a Saint Stephen's Day carol written over 900 years later, in 1853, that remains popular to this day.

[Our guide, Katka, wasn't aware of this song until she heard it in England!  Wenceslas is known as Václav in Czech.]

and looking back down the "square"

the art noveau Grand Hotel Europa along the square

statue of a ghost (only a blanket) in front of Estates Theatre where Mozart's Don Giovanni premiered in 1787

bonus treat:  after dinner we stopped to listen to these two "street" performers play a few songs.  Before we left they played Pachabel's Canon in D, one of my favorites (and played at my Grandfather's, Grandmother's, and Father's memorial services as well as at my wedding).

night shot of the castle from Charles Bridge -- not bad for my point and shoot

Thursday, April 4
Prague Day 2

As with Berlin, we decided to go back to some of the sites from our tour to visit them in some more detail.  This included the castle complex (St. Vitus, etc.) and the monastery near the castle.  We were smart this time and took the tram to the top of the hill though!

Additional St. Vitus photos were shown above.

As part of the castle complex ticket, we got to tour the Royal Palace.  It was a little lacking, in my opinion.  They did have this print depicting a coup, or Defenestration.  [Defenestration is the act of throwing someone out the window, evidently.]   This one, from 1618, was the second official one and involved anti-Hapsburg aristocrats tossing out the pro-Catholic, Hapsburg supporters (literally out the window).  It lead to the Thirty Years War.

another interesting thing in the palace were these large, ceramic heaters

next stop was Golden Lane, a row of small houses next to the castle -- today they are filled with various little shops and a few museums

above the houses they had a medieval armory of sorts including this crossbow demonstration (Alex got 3 shots)

next, we walked back up the hill (poor planning?) to the Strahov Monastery and its libraries -- really old book here:  Illuminations of the Evangelists from the End of the 10th Century

 symbolic map of Europe, 1592

 early bible (I think)

 the "Philosophical Hall"

the "Theological Hall"

another shot looking back at Prague

 same view with family

 back up at the monastery

we walked back down the hill and stepped inside the Church of St. Nicholas (in Lesser Town).  As you can see it is decorated in the ornate Baroque styel

 I liked the angel on the right pointing (and saying check this out)

 and this guy asking "why is there a donkey in my tomb?"

later that evening (after a rest), we walked to the nearby "Lennon Wall", a free-expression area where graffiti is allowed.   It started around the time of Lennon's death and became an outlet for expression against the regime

 an idea of the size of the wall

 iconic water wheel shot from the Charles Bridge -- Kampa Island on the left

back across the bridge to Old Town -- the end of Old Town actually.  The Powder Tower marks the end of Old Town and the beginning of New Town

nearby Art Noveau Municipal House -- we stuck our head in for a quick peek

this night's performer "played" water-filled crystal

 night shot of the Church of St. Nicholas (just about from our B&B)

Friday, April 5
Prague Day 3

Final full day in Prague.  We decided to head back to Old Town to walk around and see a few sites.  Prague is more about the walking/observing than the sites, but there were a few good ones too.

this is the Jan Hus Memorial in the center of the Old Town Square -- Hus was essentially Martin Luther 100 years too early (he did pave the way for the Reformation)

 National Gallery

close up of part of the Jan Hus memorial -- mother and children symbolizing the rebirth of the Czech nation (in 1915)

we then walked behind Tyn Church, through the Ungelt Courtyard (bought a print) and to the Church of St. James.  I took this quick (illegal/discouraged) photo to remind myself to find a better one on the web -- but I couldn't!  The blue light is shining on the bejeweled Madonna Pietatis (Jesus is skeletal).  It was an impressive sight.

Next up was probably our favorite site in Prague.  We took a short, guided tour of the Old Town Hall and Clock Tower.   The Old Town Hall, which houses the Astronomical Clock shown earlier, dates back to the 14th century.  

we got to see the apostles that move around inside the clock -- I was disappointed that I didn't get to see more of the inner workings of the astronomical clock

 three variations of the coats of arms over the years

our excellent tour guide for the hour in the ballroom of the Old Town Hall

now to the good bits -- the tour took us underground to the basement.  It was pointed out this was ground level 700 years ago but now sits some 15-20' underground.  Former houses now comprise the basement.  If you look closely, you can see some bones in the cement -- it was thought to be good luck to save animal bones in this way

 a view looking up and the now closed off (and below ground) window

charred cross -- as mentioned Prague was relatively unscathed from WWII, however the Nazis were hemmed in on the last day of the war and took some pot shots including destroying a section of the Old Town.  These burnt logs were saved from that episode.

Czech mosaic -- this was plastered over when the Nazis came to town to save it

after the excellent tour, we zoomed up to the top of the tower (via a lift/elevator) to get some fantastic views

Prague Castle again -- too bad we didn't get any sun while we were here

Church of St. Nicholas and the Strahov Monastery

 street towards the Charles Bridge

the other Church of St. Nicholas and "Paris" Avenue

 continuing around with a glimpse of the square

 the Old Town Square -- an Easter market was set up while we were there

Tyn Church

and another

And finally, one last event.  Prague is full of musical concerts and performances.  We decided to take in a 1-hr classical concert in the Klementinum (National Library).  Yet another Baroque setting with some Baroque music to go with it.  Glad we went (and the kids were glad it was only an hour).

Enough of the sites, now on to:

The Food!

As I mentioned (way, way) above, I've learned a few things along the way in terms of planning these trips.  One of the key items is that we like to eat.  In fact, Kuk's happiness is through her stomach (okay, mine too).  The spontaneous approach just does not work.  It pays to research ahead of time.  In fact, I actually booked all but one meal prior to our leaving for Berlin.

. . . and it worked great.  We ate well and didn't break the bank.  Success all around.  I even expanded my normal radius and had a few "destination" meals, particularly in Berlin.

Top to bottom, Berlin had the better food but Prague had the best restaurant.  In chronological order:

Georgbraeu House -- good German "pub grub" a short walk from our hotel.  Traditional look/feel.  Kuk's little lager and my larger dark one.  Pork, cabbage and dumplings for the kids.  Sausage, sauerkraut and potatoes for the adults. 
Gugelhof (Alsatian -- i.e. German/French).  Piglet Pork Knuckle with cabbage and dumplings for me.  Sea bass for Kuk.  Both good but I really liked mine.  Reminded me of "suckling pig" in Segovia.  The photo of my dark beer was poor (the beer wasn't) so the local pilsner will have to do.

Asador (Argentinean Steak House).  After our great experience in Amsterdam and the yearning for good, reasonably priced, streak I sought this restaurant out.  Very, very good.  My filet (above) had a garlic sauce.  Kuk's had a redwine sauce and Nicole's rump steak had a mushroom sauce and all were very tasty.

quick interlude here as I get ready to sample a currywurst, a Berlin tradition (or at least a new one).  It's a sausage cut up with a curry-ketchup sauce.  Not bad.

Marjellchen (traditional "Prussian" / German).   This was about 5 miles across town (two U-Bahn trains there, we took two buses including the touristy 100 on the way back).  Great place -- our favorite in Berlin.  It has a personality and charm about it in addition to the great food. 

Kuk's girlie beer w/ some green liqueur and mine from a bottle.  My roasted duck was outstanding.  Kid's creme puff dessert and our crepes also shown.

On to Prague . . .

Lokal (Lesser Town) -- traditional Czech food and a huge vat of Pilsner Urquell.  Like our first meal in Berlin, we opted for a close, convenient pub.  Not up to the same standards, but not bad.   Goulash, sausages (hot dogs) and pickled Camembert.

The Prague Beer Museum --  me, me, me.  With approval, I made this selection purely based on the beer.  I e-mailed ahead of time to see if the kids could come and that they served food (yes and yes).  It was a longish walk across town but oh, was the beer good.  Czechs are known for their beer but unfortunately, any given restaurant is aligned with a single provided (e.g. Pilsner Urquell).  Not this place -- 30 on tap.  And they have these little taster glasses too.  So, I got to try 5 8.  (All) Four darks plus another above but 3 more later.  All good.  The bar food (wings, quesedilla, and salad) was surprisingly decent.  The only downside was the smoke.  We all stunk after this -- quite a shock to our systems these days.

Klasterni Pivovar (Monastery Brewery) -- stopped here for lunch.   A new beer, some onion soup and funky cheese toast.

Pasta Fresca (Italian) -- wow.  This was our favorite for the trip.  Fresh pasta, great flavors, excellent service.  I could go on and on. Outstanding.  Calamari (not fried) for a starter -- we had two since the kids wanted in as well.  Kuk's stuffed pasta w/ sea bass and a white wine sauce.  (I had soup and helped the kids finish their separate pastas so I got to try all 3).

Tri Stoleti (fancy Czech) -- I wanted to give Czech food another try since the earlier pub wasn't outstanding.  This place was stumbling distance from our B&B and highly rated.  It was fine but not spectacular like I was hoping (perhaps unfairly).  Service was top notch.

Kuk had a smoked salmon starter; I had a Greek salad.  Kuk and the kids each had goulash and I had duck.


Well, I'm sure only my mother has read this far (Hi, Mom) but it case any others have skipped to the end . . .

I'm glad we did this trip.  It went well and was low stress.  We got to see a different part of the world and learn some history and a few cultural tidbits along the way.  It's true that these cities don't compare to London, Paris and Rome but I'd rather visit them for the first time than a repeat visit to the others.

I've probably not done a good job conveying how neat it was to mix in the more recent history of these cities with the more "ancient" history of our UK (and other) travels.  WWII was not in my lifetime but it wasn't that long ago.  The Wall and the communist regime coming down was though.  Imagine, freedom when you had none.  It's easy to take for granted but I bet far fewer do in these two cities.

Thanks for reading.  Take care everyone.


  1. Great overview of the two cities. We made the reverse trip several years ago and stopped to see knut the polar bear when he was alive. I remember that the train trip between the two cities was almost twice as much as the two flights combined on easyjet. But we liked the food more in Prague as well as the beer.
    One small museum we loved in Prague was the Mucha museum- check it out if you go back.

  2. Ray -- we actually did make it to the Mucha Museum. I didn't put it in because I didn't take any pictures! (oops) We also liked it even though I knew nothing about him before hand.

  3. Sounds like a good trip! Crazy that y'all had so much snow in Berlin. Berlin was the first European trip that Doug and I made last March and it sunny and almost warm! We also played Pachelbel's Canon in D at our wedding. Good stuff about Prague, we are headed there over the first May bank holiday, so I'll have to refer to this post as our guide.

  4. Two cities in one trip? Did you lose a bet? It'll be interesting to hear how this type of trip contrasted to your usual one week in a city trips.

    I had to chuckle about the long museum day for the kids in Berlin. Must be a Germany thing.

    Interesting history stops. I agree on the recent history lessons and on what you have seen. When we were touring the Roman Forum all I could think was "eh, we've seen older". To bad about the weather and outside pics.

  5. We're heading to Prague in 2 weeks. This is really good stuff. I definitely want to check out the beer museum.