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Monday, September 19, 2016

Czech Please!

Czech countryside scenery... or is that Hungarian scenery?
Today we took a train from Budapest to Ĉeské Budějovice in the Czech Republic. The train ride was rather mind boggling but I won't go into it here. Let's pretend we just got to the Ĉeské Budějovice train station which looked like a holdover from the days of the cold war.
The Train Station
We got a cab and soon we checked into the Grandhotel Zvon. Our room surprised us with its charm and art deco-ish looks. 

I can't swear this is truly 'art deco' but that is my interpretation.

I mention the room mostly because it puzzled us at the start. The lights didn't work at all, which seemed kind of dicey for such a 'grand' hotel.

We called the front desk and soon a clerk was at our door. He asked for one of our plastic key cards.


He slipped a key card into a slot by the room door & voila, the lights went on. Turns out that only with the key in the slot did the room's electricity work. That seemed kind of strange but but it means when guests leave the room, all the lights are out. Clever way to keep hotel costs down. I wonder how many times a day the clerks have to explain such to their hotel guests.

View through the curtains

For the record, the elevator would only take you up to your floor if you pressed your room key against the sensor. Lots of safety measures.

Here is the view out of the hotel room window. There was a truly 'grand' view of the fairy-taleish main square.
View from the Grand Hotel room window
The Baroque Samson Fountain is currently surrounded by a humongous wooden structure which is all a part of an artsy project. The overhead bridge runs from the window of a nearby art museum, to a view of the Samson fountain. Why? Uh... don't ask me, I'm not an artist! What I do know is the buildings surrounding the square are in beautiful pastel colors - as you can see above - and they gave me the feeling I was engulfed in magic.

There were loads of places to visit

We decided although it had already been a long day, we ought to take a walk to stretch our legs after our train trip from Vienna. There were loads of places to visit which was daunting. Ignoring the town's high points, we just started meandering around the town. We were hungry so we were also searching for a place to grab a bite.

Oh yeah, this menu seems... um... foreign... to me, anyway

Spire of a local art gallery with a name translating as 'Gallery under the stone frog'
Many tiny & quaint shops on the back streets 
I absolutely HAD to go into U Dobraka, a little grocery store

Yet again, I cannot believe I got in and out of that store without buying up all the sweets.

I was just as taken with the veggies they had... Jo and I had a nice discussion about several of the veggies, not to mention the 'Paprika'

Am still not sure which of the veggies was Paprika and if it is the same as what I know as being Paprika.

... not to mention the yogurts, cheeses, puddings and whatever-else-the-heck was in the fridge.

Oh yeah... and the colorful, Claire-baiting Marzipan candies.... good heavens!
Back on the streets there were decorative building gew-gaws
The lions must get tired of hosting those pesky humans
Before it got dark, we found the Masné krámy Restaurant. It was a long building, rather plain on the outside but on a grand scale at the interior.
Dining to the left, drinking to the right
Jo ordered the beef neck in horseradish which didn't taste like horseradish back in the states, but it was good. I had rabbit pate with apricot marmalade and bread to spread it all on.
Jo's beef neck with horseradish sauce.

I had homemade bunny-pate with a savory apricot marmalade jam on toast. It was really good, and for me, it was unusual.

My dessert was even more unusual and strangely tasty. Doughy potato dumplings like long sausages, buried under a white and tan powder of poppy seeds, ala mode, with deeply yellow, vanilla ice cream. Yummy... I think.

Jo had skipped dessert in favor of chatting with other diners in the restaurant. I don't just mean chatting from her seat. Jo will get up, walk over to someone, sit down and engage them in conversation. I watched her tonight in amazement, wishing - a bit - I could find topics of conversation with someone I never met before. THAT is how you enjoy a trip, engaging people from other lands, not hunkering over your bunny-pate like the hermit I am.

 I was amused that coincidentally, another friend of mine, who shares the same nickname - Jo - is very nearly as outgoing as Jo Beach. Maybe having the nickname Jo predisposes one to the ability to engage people where-ever the Jo's may go. Sadly, I am largely unable to talk to strangers, though I wish I could, I'm too self involved I guess. I'm a crank by comparison to my dear pals, Fort Bragg Jo and San Diego Jo.

On our long walk back to the Grand hotel, Jo stopped at a little ice cream shop for a single scoop of vanilla gelato. I'm glad I was too full for any more dessert, because I could have stood there an hour before deciding which of those well decorated creamy delights to try.

We finally made it back to The Grand Zvon Hotel under the night sky, chattering about tomorrows adventures, when we'll figure out how to get to our next destination for the day.

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