Creme de la Creme

High tourist season begins in May here, so I thought this would be a good time to share and promote my favorite gelateria in Prague. Many of you know that I spent a semester living in a town in Italy. I ate gelato almost every day because Orvieto had a magnificent gelateria, so I’m kind of particular. Creme de la Creme comes pretty close to that experience. They have nailed the texture and their flavors are beautifully concentrated. Now, I don’t get gelato almost every day like I did when I lived in Italy, because Creme de la Creme is a few metro stops away and I’m lazy. This is probably a good thing because I would binge on this gelato ALL THE TIME if the shop were closer. I took my aunts there when they visited, and between the three of us, we had five cups of gelato. Creme de la Creme has their standard flavors of gelato and sorbets, but they also have a few seasonal choices that I have thoroughly enjoyed, like Bailey’s gelato and peach-Prosecco sorbet (okay, maybe I enjoy a little alcohol in my ice cream). My favorite of their standard flavors is the salted peanut butter. It is just unreal how good it is. Creme de la Creme even has a handful of vegan, non-fruit choices and a couple sugar free gelatos. It’s a charming place without much seating, but gelato should be enjoyed outdoors most of the time anyway, right? If you are visiting Prague, go here for your sweet tooth.

IMG_0852 copy

IMG_0851 copy

IMG_0848 copyIMG_0849 copyIMG_0850 copy

Tagged , , , ,

Croatia: Krka

During our stay in Croatia, we wanted to see waterfalls, and this country has plenty of them. Probably their most famous park for waterfalls is Plitvice Lakes, but since we were in Croatia outside of high tourist season, it wasn’t the easiest place to get from where we were. I definitely would like to get there someday, though. Instead, we went to Krka National Park for a day, and we were not disappointed. If anything, we were surprised and delighted by how much there was to see. We took a morning bus from Zadar to Skradin, a tiny town that hosts one of the entrances to the national park. After purchasing park tickets, we hopped on a boat for about a 25-minute ride to the waterfalls and hiking trails.

Krka is a massive conglomerate of cascading waterfalls. We had a delightful picnic at the base of the lowest falls, enjoying the view with our salami, gouda, bread, and pears. We then followed the pretty easy trail around and over the falls, working our way up into the hills and down again. Every lookout point had a worthwhile, gorgeous view of another part of the falls. There is also a large portion of the walk in which you take a boardwalk out over the streams and little waterfalls, and it is so peaceful and relaxing. The water was a spectacular color and so clear. If it weren’t for the water’s chill, we would have thought we were in the Caribbean! We only waded in up to our ankles, but there were some brave (crazy?) people who swam in the pools of the falls. Krka is a great day trip, and the trail we took is manageable for families.

I mean, just LOOK at this place!

IMG_1094 copyIMG_1116 copyIMG_1127 copy

The water was so clear! It was quite chilly, but for any of you who have ventured into the Great Lakes in America or the northern Atlantic, it was tolerable.

IMG_1151 copy

This is the waterfall and pool in which we waded. It’s about halfway through the walk, and it was refreshing to our feet as well as our spirits.

IMG_1152 copy

Here is my view from a large rock on which I sat and just observed and read a book. We also shared Oreos and watched the crazy few who ventured out into the pool.

IMG_1166 copy

This is the view of Skradin from the town’s ancient fort. This successful day was my favorite part of our lovely vacation in Croatia.

IMG_1169 copy

Tagged , , , , , ,

Croatia: Zadar

We had a few days off surrounding the Easter holiday weekend, so Jen, Shelby, Rachel, and I took a vacation to Zadar, Croatia. Now, you may think that is a random place, especially since Dubrovnik, the Jewel of the Adriatic, is in Croatia, but I will get there someday. Zadar is smaller, more affordable, less touristy, and closer to the national parks we wanted to visit. Zadar is at the northern end of the Dalmatia coast, Split is somewhere near the middle, and Dubrovnik is at the bottom. Zadar has passed through many hands, including Roman, Byzantium, Venetian, Turk, and Austrian. It’s an interesting city with many layers to its history and architecture. Overall, it was a successful trip, and our Airbnb was charming, cozy, and our hostess was above and beyond. We even received a loaf of homemade Easter bread (light and citrus-y) for Easter morning!

On our first full day in Zadar, we played an interactive game that is a cross between an escape room and The Amazing Race. It’s called Jadera Secrets (when Zadar was a Roman colony, its name was Jadera), and as you solve the puzzles and riddles, you also learn about the history of several locations in Old Town, including the history of Zadar’s famous liquor, Maraschino. It was a fun, interesting way to get acquainted with the layout and landmarks of Zadar. Though the company was on a break until high tourist season, Shelby emailed them and they graciously set aside a morning for us to enjoy the challenge. I highly recommend it!

IMG_0994 copy

This is one of the ancient locations in which we had to solve a puzzle to find the combination to a lock. A more modern cafe is in the front part of the building, and I loved the juxtaposition of the old architecture with the new.

IMG_1001 copy

Another place we were able to visit on our adventure was St. Anastasia’s Cathedral. The facade of the Roman Catholic cathedral was completed in 1324. It was the day before Good Friday, so much of the church was shrouded in darkness with relics covered until Easter Sunday. However, the sun shone through the oculus above the altar, and that beam of light in the quiet and darkness was really beautiful.

IMG_1012 copy

Since Zadar was a Roman city for quite some time, there are Roman ruins in the old part of the city! Below is a view of the old Roman forum. This is a gathering area, and children played among the ruins, a market was set up nearby, and adults enjoyed ice cream and/or drinks at the tables in the square. The forum is just a neat at night, when everything is lit up.

IMG_1024 copyIMG_1063 copy

After wandering the old part of Zadar all day and enjoying a delicious dinner at Restaurant Bruschetta (highly recommended by our Airbnb hostess), we bought a bottle of red Macedonian wine and settled along the sea wall promenade for one of the spectacular sunsets the Dalmatian coast is known for. We were not disappointed.

IMG_1073 copy

After the sun set, we wandered down to the Sea Organ, which is a truly unique experience in experimental music. White marble steps lead down from the promenade into the sea. These steps have openings and tubes in them. When the waves of the Adriatic come in, harmonious organ sounds are created. It is at the same time relaxing and moody, a lovely experience in sound.

Next to the Sea Organ is the Greeting to the Sun. The largest piece of this installation is the 22-meter diameter circle of solar panels representing the sun. The solar panels absorb the energy of the sun during the day. At night, the solar panels light up and change colors, and it is really lovely. The other planets of our solar system are represented the same way, relative in size to, and distance from, the sun installation.

IMG_1080 copy

IMG_1191

My parting image to you is that of an old fisherman sailing along the coast of one of the many islands surrounding Zadar. I was so relaxed here! I definitely want to go back to this jewel of a country.

IMG_1185 copy

Tagged , , , , , ,

Catching Up…

Guys, I’m a bad blogger, and I apologize. All of a sudden, it’s May, and I haven’t posted anything since early March. Life here in Prague has been crazy. Between holidays, my aunts visiting me, the end of the quarter at school, and a trip to Croatia, I have fallen behind in my updates. Here is a relatively brief catch-up, complete with photos. Thanks for sticking with me!

First up is Saint Patrick’s Day. I know, it was a long time ago by blogging standards. Prague has a few Irish pubs, though, and Jen and I were determined to get some fish and chips and Guinness. Alisha, Andrea, and Rachel joined us at Beckett’s to celebrate, and our Irish cravings were mostly satisfied. We had this randomly gorgeous day in Prague, and it was so nice to finally be able to sit outside again.

BeckettsStPatty

Next up, my mom’s sisters paid me a visit! I think I showed them a pretty good time, and it was nice to finally be able to show some of my family what my life here in Prague is like. We explored Old Town one afternoon on a beautiful day. I couldn’t believe the crowds already, and it wasn’t even tourist season! Old Town Square was founded in the 12th century. A handful of beautiful churches are in the area, and the architecture of the buildings surrounding the square is unique and colorful. If you are curious, here is some great, concise history on Old Town Square and its surrounding landmarks.

IMG_0853 copy

The Astronomical Clock is one of my favorite features in Prague. It isn’t really action-packed, like the glockenspiel in Munich, but I think it’s just really beautiful. Here is more information about it.

IMG_0855 copyIMG_0857 copyIMG_0858 copyIMG_0862 copy

My aunts really enjoyed the old part of the city. I took them out to a few different restaurants, including my beloved Luka Lu, and we took a day trip to Kutna Hora so they could explore the Bone Church as well as St. Barbara’s. They also enjoyed the unique multi-cultural experience that is my church, Do Slova. Below are my aunts and I, enjoying our last evening in Prague together!

IMG_0882 copy

Finally, throughout April, the Easter markets are open! Christmas markets are a big thing here, and the Easter markets are equally enjoyable, if not more so, simply because they bring with them the promise of spring and rebirth. Hand-painted eggs are a big tradition here, and I stocked up on plenty! Below are pictures from the Easter market in Old Town.

IMG_0955IMG_0956IMG_0957

And with that, we have entered the last two months of the school year, which means life is not going to slow down any time soon. Stay tuned for posts about my Easter vacation in Croatia and Creme de la Creme, my favorite gelateria in Prague…

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Devin Castle

Devin is a sleepy borough of Bratislava. Jen and I hopped on a bus to get there, and to explore the fantastic ruins of Devin Castle. The ruins stand on a high cliff overlooking the Danube and Morava Rivers, overlooking the border between Slovakia and Austria. The day we were there, the wind was incredible – strong and chilly. The highest parts of the ruins were therefore closed to exploration, but we didn’t feel that we missed out on anything. The medieval castle became ruins when Napoleon’s army blew it up. The ruins also consist of Roman fortifications and an ancient well. If you find yourself in Bratislava, you should hop on bus 29 under the UFO bridge and explore Devin Castle.

IMG_0576 copyIMG_0581 copyIMG_0601 copy

Below is the part of the castle that was closed off due to the high winds. They didn’t want anyone being blown off the cliff!

IMG_0607 copyIMG_0611 copyIMG_0626 copy

An interesting legend involves the tower on the right in the photo below. It is called the Maiden Tower. The story goes that a bride threw herself from this spot after her husband was killed.

IMG_0629 copy

Tagged , , , , , ,

Bratislava Eats

One thing I quickly noticed in Bratislava was its plethora of food options. Many cultures and menus are represented, and one would be hard-pressed to not find a good place to eat. On the gorgeous Thursday when we just wandered town and explored, Jen and I grabbed gelato at Luculus Ice Saloon. I didn’t get a picture, but this gelateria is just great. The gelato was smooth with complex flavor, and the service was friendly, patient, and attentive to these native English speakers. You have to go there if you’re looking for a perfect treat.

For dinner Thursday night, we visited La Pala, an Italian trattoria on one of the town squares. The restaurant itself reminded me so much of places I ate at during my semester in Italy. The service was good, but the food, at least for me, was a little lackluster. The pasta was cooked perfectly, but as a fan of pasta carbonara, I was disappointed by the lack of flavor and the dry presentation.

IMG_0533

Urban Bistro is where Jen and I began Friday, when we went to tour Devin Castle. We had lovely French omelettes, which gave us the strength we needed for the incredibly windy adventure we had at the castle ruins (stay tuned). Urban Bistro has one of those interiors that look like a restored, hip factory of some kind. The service was great; Jen and I got there before they began serving, but they let us come on in and have a seat anyway. The food was delicious and stayed with me a long time. Their menu is interesting, and I would recommend a stop here, especially for a good breakfast.

IMG_0534 copy

After nearly blowing away at Devin Castle, we returned to the Bratislava city center. At this point, we were quite cold, so we went to visit Black, a specialized coffee shop. Here they really focus on the origins of the various coffees they serve. The baristas are highly skilled and create your cuppa based on the coffee experience you want to have. The barista was wonderful, the coffee was delightful, and we managed to relax and warm back up. Next time, I’ll show you images of the beautiful ruins of Devin Castle, a highlight of our trip.

IMG_0630 copy

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Bratislava

For our next adventure out of Prague, Jen and I took a train ride to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Bratislava had never been on my radar, so I let Jen take the lead on this trip and I’m so glad she let me follow her around. The old part of Bratislava is so charming and lovely. We spent the day wandering around the city, visiting a few churches, the castle, and simply enjoying the sites. And there was gelato. Below is Michael’s Gate, welcoming you to the old part of town. It’s the only gate remaining from the original fortifications of the medieval period.

IMG_0469 copy

The blue church is very unique. It looks like a church that has been covered in fondant, all smooth edges and soft corners. The inside of the church has the same color scheme. The church was designed by a Hungarian architect in the 20th century. I’ve never seen anything like it!

IMG_0484 copy

St. Martin’s Cathedral really stands out in the cityscape. It was the coronation site of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1563 to 1830. The real treat was when Jen and I went inside, a choral group was singing choral music. It echoed everywhere and was really a beautiful way to experience the cathedral.

IMG_0517 copyIMG_0489 copy

Below are a couple of photos from the castle. We didn’t do a tour so there wasn’t a ton to see, but it was worth it to walk around the grounds and see the views of the city. As you can see, we had a gorgeous day to explore.

IMG_0501IMG_0511 copyIMG_0513 copy

Finally, Bratislava is known for the whimsical, life-sized statues located around the city. You can read more about them here. Below is one of the most famous of the statues, of a worker coming out of a manhole cover. The statues are so fun and add a real playfulness to the surroundings. Stay tuned for the next post, when I talk about some of the eats in Bratislava!

IMG_0526

Tagged , , , ,

St. Barbara’s Church

If I may be so bold, St. Barbara’s Church is the crown jewel of Kutna Hora. It is really a beautiful piece of architecture. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site and is famous for its Gothic design. It is a Roman Catholic cathedral, begun in 1388, but not completed until 1905 due to various hindrances, such as war. The church’s construction also depended upon the production of Kutna Hora’s silver mines. When the Jesuits took over the church, they added Baroque designs. The original design for the church called for it to be much bigger, which is difficult for me to imagine, as it is already so huge. There are hours of operation as well as an entrance fee, but this beautiful place is not to be missed.

IMG_0409IMG_0415IMG_0418IMG_0420IMG_0424IMG_0450IMG_0459

Tagged , , , , , ,

Sedlec Ossuary

Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora is also known, perhaps more famously, as the Church of Bones. This unassuming little church, erected around 1400, is home to more than 40,000 artistically arranged human skeletons. Not a place for the faint of heart.

IMG_0391 copy

The story is that a Cistercian abbott was sent to the Holy Land, where he gathered earth from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and scattered it about the grounds of the Sedlec Ossuary. The story of this act spread, and people began to bring their dead to Sedlec to be buried. During the Plague, many came to Sedlec to die there. Due to the sudden volume of people needing to be buried, the idea for an ossuary was born, and a half-blind monk began to arrange the bones of the dead into pyramid shapes. In 1870, a local woodcarver was commissioned to decorate the ossuary with human bones. Below are pictured some of the results. I’ll leave you with the little angel statue in the cemetery gardens…

IMG_0377 copyIMG_0383 copyIMG_0384 copyIMG_0385 copyIMG_0393 copy

Tagged , , , ,

Kutna Hora

Kutna Hora is a town about an hour away from Prague in the Czech Republic. Jen and I had last week off of work for “Spring Break”. In February. Anyway, this is one of the places we ventured to on our time off. We wandered the town from one end to the other, beginning with the Sedlec Ossuary to St. Barbara’s Church (respective blog posts to follow) and back to the train station. It was a lot of walking, but we had a gorgeous day.

IMG_0396 copyIMG_0397 copyIMG_0398 copyIMG_0399 copy

The Stone House, an important piece of European Gothic Architecture, is now home to the Czech Museum of Silver.

IMG_0401 copy

Here is a view of Kutna Hora from St. Barbara’s Church. The cathedral had been quite chilly, so we purchased mulled wine and sipped it while enjoying the view, pictured below. The tiniest chocolate museum I’ve ever been in was another stop we made. The “tour guide/barista” was wonderfully informed and very friendly. We tried a few things, made purchases, and indulged in sipping chocolates: cinnamon for me and rose petal for Jen. We had schnitzel for lunch at a little cafe on one of the old town squares. All of this fortified us for the long, roundabout walk back to the train station.

IMG_0460 copy

Tagged , , , ,