On the third day finally it was Jewish quarter time. Got up as usual around 9am we had our Lucullan breakfast (note the sarcastic tone) and then decided to hit the road. To reach the traditional Jewish quarter in Prague you most probably have to pass through its main square, this means that again today we ended up doing the same way downtown as the previous days and had again the opportunity to assist at the automaton show at the astronomical clock. Well, no way… There were far more interesting things to do eheh.
This time we turned into the right way and started looking around. This street was also the fancy shopping street of the city with all the glamorous brands of haute-couture and jewelry creations. In face of us, on the other side of the river and on the top of a hill, was standing a huge red metronome ticking the time (this image was quite fixed into my mind since my first trip here in my young and effortless high-school years).
We reached almost the river banks when we started spotting at our left louder and thicker creeks of people. We had finally reached our destination, yeah!
I think I have already mentioned the peculiar topography of the city, with its sudden changing in ground level; the Jewish quarter was one of this spots. It is located in a low point of the city and this makes the view from the main street very pretty.
Quite immediately you reach the old cemetery that “standing, imposing” on your left, makes you feel like a fish at the bottom of the sea such is its height. Through a metal fence you can have a peek at the hundreds of tomb that it hosts on its surface and the thousands it has hosted since the ancient times; unless you are really into it or quite lucky, the equal amount of people queuing at its small and beautiful entrance makes you think twice about visiting it. That’s why we ended up wondering around peeking into the various souvenirs shops in look for the perfect gift to bring back to family members and friends. Just behind a gray building, quite amorphous but with a peculiar curved profile, we found a pretty French bistro where we decided to relax a bit.
The place was pretty big actually; with an L shape, its main tones of beige and brown woods made you feel like it was winter already. The menu did look interesting actually with its traditional French bistro food like “Moules marinieres” or lobsters from their tank (its water probably as old as the quarter itself). Anyhow, we had a nice drink, relaxed our old and aching extremities till the hunger had the best of us and we went looking for our restaurant.
In the day before, when we visited everything but what we were intended to, we found near a monument to Franz Kafka a set of informative flier discretely hung to a metal fence showing the prizes of a traditional kosher restaurant: The King Solomon that we decided to try. It wasn’t very far from our position; we had just to follow the street in front of us going back downtown.
On our way we crossed again other creeks of tourists wondering around the streets that were just the reason for their trip in this magnificent European capital. Same old, same old but…. one tourist guide.
Oh my, we were feeling like standing in front of the podium of a politician giving a speech to the crowd in the good old days. She was almost screaming to the American students she was guiding and the tone of her voice made everything quite surreal (even 2 cameramen for some local TV-station that were a little bit further down the street, stopped handling their camera to stare at her passing by). Whatta scene lol! (allow me this chatty jargon please “quanno ce vo, ce vo!”).
Little bit further down, among beautiful buildings, we reached the crossing street were our restaurant was standing. The entrance was quite narrow, made of glass and clear wood. We were pleasantly surprised by writing on the glass window reporting a citation from the First Lady Michelle Obama who was here few months before us, when her husband was visiting the city.
The size of the door quite tells you a lot about the size of the interior. It was a pretty narrow space but quite long with a charming winter garden where the hugest table I have ever seen (just to give you a measure of their size, our arms stretched barely reached the center of the table, and they were for only 4 people) were lining up on both sides of the hallway with benches dividing them. Sparkling white table clothes were scattering back the light they received from the glass ceiling.
The menu, printed in a sheet of paper, was quite huge, elegantly presented and highlighted by traditional Jewish recipes with a touch of Czech gastronomy. I was the bravest one and took a braised cockerel (the rest got a Schnitzel; well they were in the mood for it since some time actually). The portions were quite hefty and beautifully presented on nicely embossed white china.
My cockerel was nicely cooked with a slightly bitter tomato-cream sauce; it also featured a traditional soft bread dumpling and a dollop of cream. Quite a good idea that of including the whipped cream, it adds a nice fresh but still clingy sensation that can mellow down the bitter tones of the sauce; if it wasn’t actually vegetable cream what I had on my dish (again…). In this case at least there was a good reason for its use; in fact to be Kosher the dish has not to mix milk and meat.
It was time to head to our hotel rooms and freshen up; we had great plans for the evening: a relaxing cruise on the Moldava.
The bus that was supposed to pick up part of the participants to the cruise came by our hotel at around 7pm. We headed then for an adventurous ride through the city. High and lows, slopes and paved streets made us bounce around like jumping beans in a bottle. We picked up other 4 people that joined us on the ride toward the boat that was landed close to the bridge facing the big metronome.
The cruise was supposed to last a couple of hours and from everybody’s past experiences, we were expecting a sort of “calm” public. Even though we were among the youngest participants, the others were quite interested in the cruise and lively. Some of them had a guide with them and we could eavesdrop on the Italian speaking one sitting on the table right behind us. She was not alone, at the same table another guide was supporting her efforts in communicating interesting facts about the city; or better he was trying to (between one glass of wine and the next one). Even the live jazz band playing was quite good!
When they started bringing in the inserts for the steam tables that were holding our dinners, you could literally feel the blast wave hitting your face when the whole hungry mobs run to fill up their plates.
The dinner featured various fritters among which cauliflowers and eggplants, a pasta salad with tuna, chicken legs, fish sticks and desserts like sugar biscuits and roulade filled with buttercream. The food was not so bad after all.
The cruise started by going upstream and our table was facing the right side of the boat so we could see the castle side of the river banks.
Beautiful indeed till, at a certain point, we stopped... What was happening? Oh well, we thought it was some sort of traffic jam but we were actually risen to the level of the second portion of the river (it took half an hour!). Once this was done we found ourselves beside what looked like the site of the modern art museum of the city with nice wooden sculptures (and plastic yellow penguins lit up, lining up on the bank side). This side of the city rapidly fades away into luxurious vegetations when on the other side some of the architectonical jewels of the city start their catwalk.
First of all the famous “Dancing House” with its protruding rounded corner bejeweled by six rows of zigzagging windows and what looks like a glass and metal porcupine on the roof. Its embossed and wavy side was not perfectly highlighted by the sunlight at that part of the day, but it surely seemed an interesting place were to have a coffee or a meal (it features a restaurant on its roof). The aquatic visit continued with what looked like the rests of a fortification (it was actually the river side part of the Vysehrad castle) high on a rocky spur immediately followed by double towered gothic looking church (the towers were actually quite similar to those of the cathedral of Cologne) on the background. On the same river bank then made its appearance a low pink and gray building, one of the few examples still enjoyable of Prague art deco
It was sunset time, the cerulean sky was beautifully feathered with light clouds that started to get a pinkish-purple hue encrusting it as gems an enameled Faberge object. A big flock of dark birds crossed the empty space from bank to bank, while white swans were placidly swimming in the golden sunlight.
The night fast followed in the daily consecutio temporum. The city started to shine through its windows, balconies and lamp posts. The shimmering surface of a rippled river added a magical dimension to the scene with its reflections; like a twin city living on the other side of a mirror still not perfectly discernable by our rational senses.
Once landed, another bus ride brought us back to Wenceslas square that welcomed us with its colorful lights and frenetic night life. Back to our hotel, time to have a restful sleep pondering on the day just concluded.