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  #1  
Old Posted Jan 29, 2024, 12:38 PM
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Vienna, AT / Prague, CZ: The spiciest obituary it has ever been my pleasure to read

My husband and I recently returned from a trip for his birthday, for which he wanted to go big and definitely not go home. Thus, we went to Vienna for four days, then Prague for four more. My husband loves opera and going to one of the great opera capitals of the world, Vienna, suited him well. The opera we saw in Vienna though, suited neither of us well.

But we'll get to that.

First though, when you travel for about fifteen hours straight after having worked an eight-hour day before driving from Greenville to Charlotte, flying from Charlotte to London, sitting around at Heathrow on a layover, flying from London to Vienna, and then sitting on the train from the airport to the central city, clutching your enormous suitcase lest it hurtle off on its own and injure a bystander, what you see your first night in Vienna is whatever is still open late enough for you to see it, and whatever will let you in despite the fact that you are giving off visible stink lines like in a cartoon. Hours-long flights do nothing good for a person's hygiene.

What was open and willing to permit entry to two smelly tourists turned out to be the Kunsthistorisches Museum, open late on Thursdays. We staggered around, dead on our feet, and I actually remember very little of what we saw beyond these photos. I know there was a lot more to it though.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Vienna, Austria: Visiting a Total Kunst


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This was our first dinner in Vienna. My husband is one of those people who wants to eat what's local to wherever we're visiting, but with both of us exhausted and smelly, we understood we were eating at a tourist trap. It was what was available near the hotel and, most importantly, open. The food called itself by the authentic names, but it wasn't authentic. The wienserschnitzel was basically breaded cube steak, and my goulash tasted like Dinty Moore's finest -- but it was hot, it was plentiful, and it all tasted just fine to us. Sometimes needs must.



Note this cake. Considering that coffee, confections, and pastries are an integral part of Viennese culture, and that coffee, confections, and pastries are an integral part of my identity, not to mention my wobbling gut, everywhere we went I kept an eye out for cakes. I actively and aggressively sought them out. This wasn't bad at all.

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Old Posted Jan 30, 2024, 4:33 AM
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I'm looking forward to the rest of your trip!

I'm glad that I live close by to so many airport options. There are quite a few airports within a few hours for international flights, and even more options for national flights.
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Old Posted Jan 30, 2024, 1:57 PM
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I'm looking forward to the rest of your trip!

I'm glad that I live close by to so many airport options. There are quite a few airports within a few hours for international flights, and even more options for national flights.
You're relatively close to the one and only US airport, JFK, with direct flights to Prague. Newark, JFK and Dulles have direct flights to Vienna.
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Old Posted Jan 30, 2024, 3:26 PM
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I'm looking forward to the rest of your trip too!

I've never been to Prague, but I've been to Vienna, and it's one of my favorite cities. I have really good memories of Vienna. Did you find the people to be very friendly? That was my experience.
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Old Posted Jan 30, 2024, 6:58 PM
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Friday, January 12, 2024

Vienna, Austria: The Biggest Balls of Them All


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On our first full day in Vienna we had scheduled a couple of things to fill the day before attending an opera at the Vienna Staatsoper, or the State Opera House. First we went to the Narrenturm, or "Fool's Tower," the world's first psychiatric hospital. It now houses a museum of medical specimens such as horrifically deformed fetuses in jars and a diabetic's necrotic foot, also in a jar. Just lots and lots of things in jars, basically, plus skeletons, wax models of various disease progresses, skulls half-dissolved by long-term syphilis, and such. One skeleton was of a 19-year-old woman, so twisted by scurvy and stunted by malnutrition that she could have fit into a large backpack with undue strain.

The Narrenturm was a panopticon-style asylum, a circular building designed so that the patients/inmates could be easily observed. The various displays are in the original cells where people were locked up. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed inside the museum, but remember it if you really just have a passion for heads and other body parts in jars.

En route to the Narrenturm:



































































The museum is on the campus of the University of Vienna, where there was also a small Japanese garden.



The second item on the agenda was a tour of the Vienna Rathaus, or City Hall, where we learned that they were having a do that very night. The whole place was decorated with flowers for the Blumenball or, if you prefer, the Flower Ball. Vienna is extremely big on balls. They have hundreds a year for every conceivable occasion and every conceivable trade union. We saw signs for the Policemen's Ball and the Pharmacists' Ball coming up. Meanwhile, our tour guide informed us that for the Blumenball, they were expecting more than 3,000 guests, and that Vienna City Hall hosts upwards of a thousand events a year.













































Lunchtime in an extremely quiet Italian restaurant:











Someone was kind enough to climb up there and put a scarf around the neck of this statue on such a cold day. However, this raises an issue. In both Vienna and Prague, the buildings are bedecked with statues, everywhere, and the statues are always doing things. They point, they gesture, they swoon. Arms flung everywhichway. And the question this raises is: How often do those arms break off? What about fingers? Or legs, if they too are flung out in a kick? It seems like the stress of the wind, not to mention the stress of cold and heat, would eventually have limbs raining down on hapless pedestrians below.

Discuss.











Chinese for dinner.



That night was the opera, and the opera was La fanciulla del West, The Girl of the West, by Puccini. And it turns out that The Girl of the West is perhaps the silliest damn thing I've ever seen, and I had to watch West Side Story in high school so that's saying something. Perhaps the only performance I can think of any more ridiculous would be Cats. It's one of those shows where you have to ask how on earth someone got grown adults to agree to behave this way to tell that story. For example, the opera ends with the two main characters flying away in a hot air balloon singing about how they will miss their beloved California.

Did I mention it's set in California? Well, it is. It was written in 1911, set in California during the gold rush, and the opening scene is in the Polka Saloon. It gets worse from there. For instance, if the characters are flying away in a hot air balloon, where are they going? It's California. You can't go any farther west. I suppose they could go to Oregon, or Washington, but where's the glamor. I suppose they could go to Nevada, but where's the water.

Imagine going all that way, to Vienna, to the State Opera, to see that. We've now made it our life's mission to go see Porgy and Bess at the Sydney Opera House at some point, just for spite, considering that Porgy and Bess is set in South Carolina where we live.





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Afterward, still in shock at what we had seen, we elected to go eat cake at Cafe Mozart, followed by a walk.





















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Old Posted Jan 31, 2024, 4:53 AM
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The amount of neoclassical buildings in Vienna is amazing.
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Old Posted Jan 31, 2024, 10:41 AM
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The amount of neoclassical buildings in Vienna is amazing.
More so when you consider that many of them either had to be extensively repaired or rebuilt outright after the war. Only the front half of the opera house, where the lobby and stairs are located, is original. The auditorium itself was bombed and had to be reconstructed.
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"To sustain the life of a large, modern city in this cloying, clinging heat is an amazing achievement. It is no wonder that the white men and women in Greenville walk with a slow, dragging pride, as if they had taken up a challenge and intended to defy it without end." -- Rebecca West for The New Yorker, 1947
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Old Posted Jan 31, 2024, 12:25 PM
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Saturday, January 13, 2024

Vienna, Austria: Mew in the Zoo


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As the residents of any former imperial capital will surely tell you, sometimes there is baggage that comes with all that grandeur. Palaces litter the landscape. Grand parks and gardens taking up large areas of the city. Statues all over the place. And someone has to maintain all of that detritus of conquest now that there are no more emperors. Vienna, once the capital of an enormous swath of central Europe, has been faced with the task of what to do with its imperial leftovers.

It has elected to transform it all into a machine specially designed to surgically extract money from tourists' wallets. There are three especially significant palaces in Vienna: Schönbrunn, Hofburg, and Belvedere and we eventually visited all three. And Vienna, like any good tourist town, has honed the craft of soaking tourists to an artform. You can go into the palaces of course, but you can't take pictures. The more you want to see the more you have to pay. However, sometimes you can still get a decent deal in spite of it all. Schönbrunn Palace was the first one we visited and in addition to getting to tour a portion of the palace you also get access to the palace's absolutely vast gardens, which are so large that they can comfortably accommodate the Imperial Zoo.

It's a two for one. Go for the palace, stay for the elephants at Schönbrunn, while Belvedere houses two art museums (each sold separately), and Hofburg houses a convention center and is still also the official residence of the Austrian president. You've got to do something with a palace if you have one lying around, let alone three, so you might as well try to make them pay for themselves.

Our first palace was Schönbrunn, where we walked around inside, not taking pictures like the dutiful little tourists we were, before heading out to the gardens.

























It was frigid the entire time we were in Austria and the Czech Republic. Everyone was taking pictures of everyone else out walking around on this frozen fountain.



































Not only was it cold, but it was windy, and most of the animals at the Imperial Zoo had the good sense to stay inside.











The Imperial Zoo is well-acquainted with the trope that elephants are terrified of mice. To prevent stampedes in the elephant house, apparently, there are...





A sign near the giraffe exhibit explained that when the very first giraffes arrived at the Imperial Zoo in the 1820's it ignited an absolute sensation in Viennese society, to the point that the giraffes inspired fabric patterns, a cake designed to look like giraffe hide, and even a waltz. This might sound silly until you consider that modern day sensations mostly revolve around TikTok dances and idiotic "challenges." We are no different from our ancestors whatsoever.























































Do you know what's illegal in the US, but not illegal in Austria? "Doctor" fish, that's what. Stick in a hand or a foot, and they congregate to nibble off your dead skin. There was a tank of doctor fish in the greenhouse, so I gave it a shot.





















Schönbrunn Palace is accessible via public transit (as all palaces should be, really), so after spending literally all day there we headed back to our hotel near the Karlsplatz station.













This was the lobby of our hotel.



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"To sustain the life of a large, modern city in this cloying, clinging heat is an amazing achievement. It is no wonder that the white men and women in Greenville walk with a slow, dragging pride, as if they had taken up a challenge and intended to defy it without end." -- Rebecca West for The New Yorker, 1947
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Old Posted Jan 31, 2024, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by sopas ej View Post
I'm looking forward to the rest of your trip too!

I've never been to Prague, but I've been to Vienna, and it's one of my favorite cities. I have really good memories of Vienna. Did you find the people to be very friendly? That was my experience.
I think we found the people in Prague to be friendlier, actually, which was at odds with what we'd been told to expect.
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"To sustain the life of a large, modern city in this cloying, clinging heat is an amazing achievement. It is no wonder that the white men and women in Greenville walk with a slow, dragging pride, as if they had taken up a challenge and intended to defy it without end." -- Rebecca West for The New Yorker, 1947
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Old Posted Feb 2, 2024, 12:38 AM
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Sunday, January 14, 2024

Vienna, Austria: In Which Statues Critique Meat Thrusting


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Vienna seemed to be very big on breakfast. It seemed that most cafes and restaurants advertised that they offered it, including this place around the corner from our hotel and across the street from the opera house.









Of course, considering that I had decided I was absolutely participating in Cake Quest '24, when I saw that this cafe also had a dessert case I decided it's never too early for cake.









The stop today was Hofburg Palace, which today houses museums, a convention center, and the official residence of the president of Austria. After having visited Schönbrunn the day before, honestly we were a little palaced out and decided to save a little money, not go in, and only walk around the gardens. We did decide to pay the nominal fee though, to go inside the Butterfly House at Hofburg Palace because of course it has one. And why not? When you rule an enormous chunk of central Europe, why not build yourself a butterfly house? All the leading emperors are doing it.





































A statue entitled "The Grindr Hookup Who Wanted to Cuddle".



















This was interesting. In Michaelerplatz, just northeast of the palace, some of the square and the ground beneath it has been peeled back to reveal several layers of ruins dating all the way back to the Romans. Little signs indicate what's what. There are Roman ruins, medieval ruins, a 17th Century building, and a 19th Century drain all layered atop one another.















Inside the Butterfly House:

































































































The Plague Column, erected in 1694 to celebrate the end of the Great Plague of Vienna in 1679.

























































Something I found deeply funny was not the way the human figure had been pressed into service in Viennese architecture, holding up doorways or balconies, holding up the buildings themselves sometimes, but the way that very often, either the human figures looked extremely put-upon, or else they looked as though one had just said something to appall or offend the other, as with this doorway.



Amusing anecdote: I took that photo of the doorway while my husband bought food from a street cart. That transaction started a joke that ran the rest of the trip. You see, the street cart sold sausages and hot dogs and was run by an attractive Middle Eastern man who took his meat, thrust it into a bun, and gave it to my husband. We talked at length about how he had thrust his meat into the bun and then gave his meat to my husband. For the rest of the trip we kept an eye out for other attractive Middle Eastern men who might be willing to give their meat to my husband -- for a reasonable price, of course.

Maybe that's what appalled the men holding up the doorway. I don't know.

I've got to say... The Vienna waterfront along the Danube River, was not at all what I was expecting. It's like they put so much into the rest of the city that they had nothing left for the riverside.























In this photo is the oldest church in Vienna, St. Rupert's, whose building dates partially from the 11th Century and partially from the 13th. A church has stood on that same site though, since approximately 740CE.









The look of a man pondering whether he wants double meat, double cheese, or both on his six-inch ham on whole wheat. Definitely extra onions, though. That's a given.







































We had to take a breather at our hotel before heading out to dinner at an Indian restaurant where I spilled curry on my sweater.



After dinner it was off for dessert, this time at a Vollpension, a restaurant whose mission is to connect older generations with younger ones. It employs grandparents and incorporates their treasured family recipes into the menu. It's decorated like your grandmother's tacky living room.









Then back out into the cold.



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Old Posted Feb 2, 2024, 8:37 PM
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I'll have to look at your last post later, but what did you think of the desert area in that conservatory? Did it feel like being out in Arizona or something?

How did it feel after you had the doctor fish work on your hand?
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Old Posted Feb 3, 2024, 1:17 PM
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Hey, I don't see any EU flag over this imperial town. Not a single one!
While we have plenty of them over here in Paris, to remind us about our duty towards the European community.

That's how the French nationalists say - this EU ideal is stupid. We're the only ones to believe in it and should stop being that naive.

They could do an effort in that matter. Come on, show your Euro pride!

My country is a net contributor to the EU budget too, huh.
That means we give more money to the EU than we get from it.
Still, the EU flag is all over the place in Paris.

Edit: my bad. There it is.



There is one to begin with. Lol.
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Old Posted Feb 5, 2024, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by xzmattzx View Post
I'll have to look at your last post later, but what did you think of the desert area in that conservatory? Did it feel like being out in Arizona or something?

How did it feel after you had the doctor fish work on your hand?
It didn't feel like being out in Arizona, but it sure felt nice after walking around out in the cold. I don't think there was a day when we didn't need coat, hat, and scarf.

As for the doctor fish, I really don't know how to describe the sensation... I guess it just felt like dozens and dozens of little nubs bumping relentlessly against any exposed skin. Apparently doctor fish are big in central Europe. Prague in particular was absolutely infested with Thai massage places, many of them with tanks of doctor fish. You'd walk by and see some hapless person with their feet in a tank, just sort of staring into space self-consciously while this blur of little dark shapes swarmed around their feet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mousquet View Post
Hey, I don't see any EU flag over this imperial town. Not a single one!
While we have plenty of them over here in Paris, to remind us about our duty towards the European community.

That's how the French nationalists say - this EU ideal is stupid. We're the only ones to believe in it and should stop being that naive.

They could do an effort in that matter. Come on, show your Euro pride!

My country is a net contributor to the EU budget too, huh.
That means we give more money to the EU than we get from it.
Still, the EU flag is all over the place in Paris.

Edit: my bad. There it is.

[SNIP]

There is one to begin with. Lol.
If it makes you feel better, Vienna took the euro for payment without a second thought (that was how we paid for the thrusted meat), whereas in Prague we had to pay in Czech krona -- while simultaneously being begged by shopkeepers not to pay them in cash, but with a card.
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Old Posted Feb 5, 2024, 12:19 PM
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^ The point I made was only about the political will to make the population of a member state feel like it's been committed to the project of a federal EU, to some greater or lesser extent.
It was a bit ironic because the French centrist parties seem to have been preaching in a desert in that matter so far.
A flag may seem dull, it's nonetheless something of a symbol. And when you've always seen it over your place, you end up with a feeling that it makes some sense somehow.
It was nothing related to the currency you had to use anyway.

Of course Austria belongs to the Eurozone, whereas the Czech Republic wouldn't meet all requirements yet. It's only a matter of time before they get in.
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Old Posted Feb 5, 2024, 12:43 PM
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Monday, January 15, 2024

Vienna, Austria: Authoritative Declarations on the Nature of Art


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This was the view that greeted us each morning from our hotel room.



Our last day in Vienna was filled with more palace antics, this time at the Belvedere Palace, which houses two art museums. The Upper Belvedere is older art while the Lower Belvedere is a modern art museum.

Each sold separately, of course.



























I'm not a fan of modern art, especially if it's of the "banana taped to a wall" genre. Despite the fact that most of the art at the Upper Belvedere was of the sort that obviously took skill, talent, and effort, an ultramodern interloper stood out in the midst of actual artworks. That blank white square on the floor is the art in this room. I initially thought it was the platform where some large sculpture had been temporarily removed or something, and if you looked closely you could see what appeared to be collected dust, hair, and detritus like you'd find collected on any large white square of flooring. According to the explanatory plaque however, that was the art, and the artist had meticulously recreated dust and hair of friends and family so that the square would appear just like any similar large white square of flooring frequented by their friends and family.

That isn't ingenious. It's stupid. It's a wall banana, and you get wall bananas when a culture gets so beaten down and/or drunk on its own masturbatory self-affirmation that the very idea of "talent" inverts on itself and you actually, seriously start to believe that literally anything is or can be art. It's what happens when the line between talent and outright bullshit gets pulled up like painter's tape. By contrast, I could actually appreciate the big sculpture of the spider lurking in the Belvedere gardens. It's modern, even ugly, but you can tell that at least it took some effort -- and if you wanted to, you could make a case that it's representative of the kind of evil that can lurk beneath a relentlessly cultured, relentlessly beautiful facade. Together with its location, you could even call it a metaphor for the kind of dynamics that landed a place like Vienna in something like the Third Reich.

























This painting, from a series called The Terrible Mothers spoke to me. I bought a print of it in the Belvedere gift shop to add to our collection of creepy art at home. We'll probably put it in the dining room.



I made a point of photographing every cat in every painting in the Belvedere that I could find.

























































































Another delicious meal of thrusted meat.



Dinner that night was at a place that promised filling portions of tasty, traditional Austrian food. It delivered exactly that, but it turns out that Austrian food is still Austrian food. There is a reason no one will ever confuse it with Italian, Indian, Caribbean, or Mexican when it comes to flavor. However, 10/10 for the decor.









This was the bar at our hotel, where we would retire to eat cakes collected en route from dinner and I would drink surprisingly delicious cappuccino while my husband enjoyed an adult beverage.





Note the offering on the right. That is "sisitorte" a cake named after Empress Elisabeth "Sisi" of Austria, who has something of a Jackie Kennedy mystique about her. There are entire museums devoted to her. And this cake, which consists of a layer of dense chocolate cake, red courant jam, another layer of cake, more jam, more cake, and is topped with marzipan. I loved it, and I'm going to try to reverse engineer the recipe.

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"To sustain the life of a large, modern city in this cloying, clinging heat is an amazing achievement. It is no wonder that the white men and women in Greenville walk with a slow, dragging pride, as if they had taken up a challenge and intended to defy it without end." -- Rebecca West for The New Yorker, 1947
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Old Posted Feb 7, 2024, 12:51 AM
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More! I want cake. I have spoken.

Can't wait for Prague
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Old Posted Feb 7, 2024, 11:43 AM
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More! I want cake. I have spoken.

Can't wait for Prague
There was so much cake...
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"To sustain the life of a large, modern city in this cloying, clinging heat is an amazing achievement. It is no wonder that the white men and women in Greenville walk with a slow, dragging pride, as if they had taken up a challenge and intended to defy it without end." -- Rebecca West for The New Yorker, 1947
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Old Posted Feb 7, 2024, 12:15 PM
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Now, before we get into the real meat (and cake) of Prague, I would like to first discuss with you the hotel where we stayed. It was the Art Deco Imperial Hotel, which I chose solely for the name, which drew me in to look at its photos and then I was smitten. The price was right. We ended up in a corner suite on the fifth floor, where we enjoyed what was perhaps the finest hospitality experience we've ever had in travel.

We've stayed in a great many hotels around the world, many of them, like the APA Hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo, very comfortable and very modern. Others, like the ME Hotel in London were terminally chic, of the sort where you have to just be innately hip in order to even find your room's door in the black painted, dimly lit hallway because it's set flush into the wall. Hip people just know the door is there. We aren't hip, and had to grope for it every time. We've stayed at a charming but cramped townhouse converted into a hotel in Paris, unremarkable historic properties in Vancouver and Toronto, an historic but down at the heels hotel in Chicago, unremarkable modern properties in New York and Boston, an ugly concrete relic from the 70's that overlooked the Post Office Tower in London, an airport hotel that had the charm of a water treatment plant at Heathrow, various chain motels that should have been condemned in Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale, and more in other locations that were too bland to even leave a memory. But this hotel in Prague was the perfect blend of beauty and comfort. I loved coming back every day and seeing the tilework. I loved the views from the room. I only wish we had been able to eat in the restaurant itself, but it turns out that they're usually booked out a week in advance, so all I could do was press my face to the glass, watch my breath bloom and retreat, bloom and retreat until I unnerved the seated diners, and take a photo or two with my phone.

These photos, in fact.

Tuesday, January 16 - Sunday, January 21, 2024

Prague, Czech Republic: Enjoy Your Stay


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Exterior:



Vestibule:











Restaurant:



Lobby:

















Since we were on a corner, our room faced out in two directions. These were the views, at various times of day and in various weathers.















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"To sustain the life of a large, modern city in this cloying, clinging heat is an amazing achievement. It is no wonder that the white men and women in Greenville walk with a slow, dragging pride, as if they had taken up a challenge and intended to defy it without end." -- Rebecca West for The New Yorker, 1947
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  #19  
Old Posted Feb 8, 2024, 4:39 PM
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hauntedheadnc hauntedheadnc is online now
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Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Prague, Czech Republic: The Titillation Before Dinner


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The long and short of it is that our very first day in Prague was mostly spent fighting with balky machines at a laundromat, because we'd only packed a week's worth of clothing in order to save space in our suitcases. We needed to wash away the filth of Vienna in order to begin collecting the filth of Prague, and the washing machines weren't especially interested in letting us do so, let alone the dryers. But in the end we got it taken care of, although the process involved having to ask at three different businesses if we could break large Czech krona notes, and eventually having to negotiate the process, because nothing is so repulsive to Czech business owners, apparently, as their country's own currency. In the end we ended up having to purchase coffees, a chocolate tart, and a piece of carrot cake to make it happen, and we sat there chewing, drinking, and watching our clothes thrash around behind the glass.

And once that was all over, we headed over to our hotel, were utterly charmed, unpacked, then headed out to the Sex Machines Museum and then dinner.

These photos are fairly tame, considering what all you could view at the Sex Machines Museum.

The titillation:













The dinner:



__________________
"To sustain the life of a large, modern city in this cloying, clinging heat is an amazing achievement. It is no wonder that the white men and women in Greenville walk with a slow, dragging pride, as if they had taken up a challenge and intended to defy it without end." -- Rebecca West for The New Yorker, 1947
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  #20  
Old Posted Feb 9, 2024, 7:00 PM
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hauntedheadnc hauntedheadnc is online now
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Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Greenville, SC - "Birthplace of the light switch rave"
Posts: 13,208
Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Prague, Czech Republic: The Fog in Prague Moistens Mainly Dogs.


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The first thing you need to know about Prague is that because it is in the Czech Republic, it is contractually obligated to speak Czech. Prior to going on this trip my husband endeavored to learn enough German to get us through Vienna, and got to the point of being able to hold basic conversations. It was certainly enough to get by as a casual tourist. It seems relatively easy to learn once you accept that the guiding principle of German, a language which sounds like angry people coughing (this is to differentiate it from Dutch, a language which sounds like angry people burping), is that one must never settle for one syllable when eight will do just as well. Thus, the word for "goose" in German is something like "das güsenhönkenpüpendëmön."

Czech is an entirely different kettle of fish or, as the Czech would say. "kotlík na ryby." Czech is one of the few languages on earth to dispense with letters entirely, consisting solely of a blizzard of accent marks: little u's, little v's, little o's and apostrophes wagging this way and that. The only guiding principle in Czech is that the more accent marks you can squeeze in, the better. I watched an interview on TV one night with some poor man who had three accent marks in his name alone.

Perhaps being assigned so difficult a language is why we were warned ahead of our visit that Czechs are a dour, scowling people who detest tourists and actively discourage commercial transactions. We did not make the mistake of asking how to experience the city "like a local," but did read a few online threads asking such and were struck by how similar those threads are whenever anyone anywhere asks about how to experience any city, anywhere, "like a local."

Pro tip: The only way to experience any city like a real local is to locate a dismal suburban apartment, sit in the living room in the dark, and frown at a blank wall. Locals don't "do" their cities, and God help them if they are found to be consorting with a tourist attraction -- none of the other locals would let the offender sit with them at lunch anymore. No, the only way to experience a city like a local is to openly and loudly disdain interacting in any positive way with any possible reason that a tourist might have to visit the city, be it Biltmore in Asheville, the Statue of Liberty in New York, or the Old Town of Prague. You must feel nothing but the bitterest contempt for tourists and tourist attractions and be ready to express it at a moment's notice.

That being said, despite the warnings and the discouraging online posts, we observed the Czechs to behave in shockingly humanlike ways: We saw several of them smiling, heard some of them laughing right out on the street, saw the occasional held hand or embrace, and Czechs seemed more or less willing to exchange money for goods and services, despite not wanting to do so with paper, strongly preferring credit card transactions instead. We also saw a great many citizens of Prague out on the streets walking small dogs, many of them (the dogs) wearing just darling little coats and sweaters. The Czechs: They're just like us. In fact, we only encountered one dour scowler the whole time, when we entered a shop that closed at 7PM at 6:58 with the intention of purchasing two pieces of pre-sliced cake from a cooler. Instead, the woman behind the counter scowled at us, pointed to her watch and tapped it, and scowled us back out the door. It was okay. We were coming back from dinner and were pretty full anyway.

And all that being said, this was our first real day out in Prague, doing Prague things.



































The famous -- extremely famous -- Prague astronomical clock. If you want to see it without having to stand ass cheek to humid ass cheek with thousands of other tourists, do what we did: Visit Prague on a Wednesday in the bitterest heart of winter and go see it early in the morning. You'll be rewarded with the 15th Century equivalent of virtual reality when all the little automatons do their animatronic dance. We passed by again on Saturday afternoon and the clock was thronged with tourists, phones in the air to capture the moment.

































The Charles Bridge offers a bridge and bridge accessories.

















A very good boy indeed.

























































Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle complex on earth. It hosts multiple museums, cathedrals, palaces, gardens, and is also the official residence of the Czech president.







































Everything you just saw since the last mention of Prague Castle was still part of Prague Castle. It goes on forever.

An Italian restaurant whose promise of grilled octopus seduced us and lured us in.



A water goblin.









This is "chimney cake" a delicacy you absolutely must not partake of if you want to experience Prague like a local. It's basically dough rolled in cinnamon and sugar, roasted over a fire then filled with either whipped cream or ice cream, and accoutrements. Locals don't eat them. Locals, like locals everywhere, eat gruel flavored with bile and loathing.







By this point it was starting to snow.







Dinner was Chinese. It wasn't bad at all.







__________________
"To sustain the life of a large, modern city in this cloying, clinging heat is an amazing achievement. It is no wonder that the white men and women in Greenville walk with a slow, dragging pride, as if they had taken up a challenge and intended to defy it without end." -- Rebecca West for The New Yorker, 1947
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