Debi’s workshop was over and she had one day to see some of the things she had missed in Prague. I had been telling her about my adventures throughout the week. From my adventures, we came up with a list of highlights: Museum of Communism, Speculum Alchemiae, and the Waldstein Gardens. We also managed to buy tickets online for the Clementinum (best way to get tickets, but plan in advance as they go quickly).
Since I had already done the first two, the plan was that she would buy tickets for herself and I’d just wait outside and read. That worked out well. I finished up a book while waiting for her at the Museum of Communism, then started another book while waiting for her at the Speculum Alchemiae. I also wandered around a bit while she was at the Speculum Alchemiae to find us a place for lunch. A friend had recommended I try the pickled cheese (Nakladany hermelen) while in Prague. Just down the street from Speculum Alchemiae was a small pub/restaurant that had it on the menu, so we headed there for lunch. Debi got gnocci and I got the pickled camembert cheese. The cheese was fine; didn’t taste very pickled, to be honest (I love a good pickle). But Debi’s gnocchi was really amazing.
From there, we walked over to the Waldstein Gardens and enjoyed them for a bit. I took another photosphere from a different vantage point:
We then headed back across the Vltava River toward the Clementinum and our 2:00 tour, but were a bit early, so we found a nice place to sit and enjoy the views for about 20 minutes before heading into the Clementinum complex. Also, beside one of the entrances into the monastery (on the inside), is the meteorological measurement station that has been gathering data from the 18th century on weather in Prague. It’s one of the oldest continuous measurements in Europe and cool to see.
The Clementinum was originally a monastery and then a school run by monks but now houses a beautiful, baroque library, some churches, and other libraries. With the tour, you get to see inside the library and also climb the observatory tower.
Our guide, a young man in his twenties, spoke very good English (he was Czech) and started out his tour with a note I found fascinating. He said right at the beginning, “While Czechs were forced to convert to Catholicism, today, most Czechs, like myself, are atheists. In fact, we’re the most atheistic country in the world.” Given my research interests, it was fascinating to hear him say that. (FYI, measuring religiosity is complicated and belief is only one dimension. Czechia is one of the least religious countries, but see here for a more careful analysis.)
Like the Strahov Monastery, we didn’t get to go into the library, just view it from the doorway, but it was even more impressive than the Strahov Monastery. Absolutely amazing.
We then got to climb up to an observation deck on one of the towers. A useful bit of advice: If you’re young, spry, and good at climbing stairs, try to position yourself first in line. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting quite a while to get up the stairs as people need to pause and rest. It’s a fair number of stairs. As an avid hiker, I realized that after the first set of stairs and then went first after that.
The views from the observation deck are amazing. Definitely worth visiting. Along the way, you also get to see how they determined noon in Prague before modern clocks and see a number of scientific instruments that they used before modern instruments were developed. If you can procure tickets, the Clementinum tour is worth doing. We both really enjoyed it.
After the Clementinum tour, we headed back to our AirBnB to take a break before dinner. A friend recommended a medieval show and dinner, so we bought tickets.
The show was at U Pavouka, which runs a couple of these a night (at 5:00 and 8:00). The shows are in a basement room with wood tables and benches that is decorated in a semi-Gothic and semi-medieval style. We ended up being seated next to another couple from the US (Syracuse, New York) who had just arrived that day for a 3-week Europe trip. They were super nice.
Our meal consisted of unlimited drinks (we don’t drink so, that was largely lost on us), a bowl of soup, rye bread, an option of main courses (we got the chicken and the vegetarian options and shared them), and a piece of apple cake for dessert. The entertainment was intriguing… Bagpipes and drums, belly dancers, a pirate act, fire twirling, and fire breathing. Debi quickly pointed out the odd mix but I told her that the real motif wasn’t “medieval” but rather “entertain people.” Cheap food, cheap drinks, and cheap entertainment. Got it. If you plan to do a medieval dinner, don’t go in with high expectations and definitely don’t bring a scholar’s perspective on what medieval entertainment in Czechia would have been. But it was fun.
After dinner, we headed back to our AirBnB to pack, then slipped out for gelato one last time.
One final note. If you read about our travails in Norway the previous year trying to get our phones to work (using Ting), I just want to mention that our service worked flawlessly this year with Google Fi. I was a little anxious about it, but, when we landed, Debi’s phone immediately recognized it was in Prague and gave her a reassuring message that they had her covered. With mine, I had to change my carrier (an option in Google Fi’s settings) but it then gave me the same message and I was good to go after that. With Google Fi, we could call, text, and use data as if we were in the US and it didn’t cost extra. It was as if we were still in the US. That saved me a lot of anxiety. Even though we pay more than we did with Ting, this made it all worth it.