Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sacher Torte and a Brewery in Prague

With Pippi gone, we enjoy a somewhat leisurely start, and again head down to Termini to dump our bags. Now we stroll from Termini down Via Cavour, passing Santa Maria Maggiore and heading to Capitoline Hill. You get a bit blazé about large historical buildings in Italy, and especially in Rome. Of more interest is Cavour 313, an old enoteca, where we stop for some lunch.

They’re nice and the food and wine is all great, plus the girl steers us to a local pale ale instead of letting us have Peroni, which always will raise someone in my esteem!

At the bottom we have the Palatine ruins on the left as we run along the Forti Imperiali road

The forum, the tomb of Romulus, all the good stuff that they missed in the rain yesterday. We reach Il Vittoriano Palace, completed in 1935,

built to celebrate Italy’s reunification and in memory of King Emanuele II. It’s nicknamed the birthday cake or typewriter, and some jestingly suggest it should be pulled down as it’s over the top, but I can’t see this happening! Mussolini used to keep office in one side of it.

We head up to the top,

where three palaces form museums, and buy some postcards before popping back to the Colosseum for last photos of Rome.

Tube back to station, passing our favourite advert – the Tezenis girl, who appears all over the city

A quick beer in Moka CafĂ© as Dad and Lewis’ train is soon. Dad buys me a Telegraph, not noticing that it’s the same one he bought yesterday. Ah well! I suddenly think - why am I downing my beer? I’ve got hours to wait, my train is at 7:10pm! Dad and Lewis head off on the 16:22 to the airport, I’m left to wander about the station,

Strange train

looking for a post box. Tourist information give me back directions so I end up going several blocks away when there’s one inside the terminal, but, ah well, all time killed. After a fine day, there are evil clouds gathering, it looks like the rain is coming back with avengeance, and I see it on the display boards as trains start to be delayed.

Evil clouds gather

To Vienna and Hotel Sacher
When my train finally appears on the board, I head down to Platform 8 and find it’s a Vienna – Monaco service. Strange, I suspect they split the train somewhere, as I can’t believe that’s a sensible route to take. (Update: Monaco is Italian for Munich, slightly confusingly, but makes a lot more sense from a train route perspective).

My carriage is a modern DB (German) sleeper carriage, clean and well arranged, with a couple of flaws.

Firstly, I’ve paid for a four bed room (80 euros). I assumed this would mean more space. The reality though, is that they’ve provided a six bed room and have (presumably) limited the passenger numbers. My fellow passengers are supposed to be embarking at Florence and Venice. The issue with this is that I’ve been put (and the pretty conductor girl says I can’t move) in one of the two beds that are at the top, inches from the ceiling, so I keep bashing my head. Furthermore, the beds are nowhere near long enough! It must be about five and a half feet, and you lose some of that because of the curved roof, so there’s no way I can stretch out. Not comfy!

But I still manage to sleep, and wake up to us rolling through beautiful deep valleys with snow-capped peaks above us and little Austrian towns, their houses with steep roofs suggesting plenty of snow can be received here. The chap next to me, an Austrian, says they didn’t get much this year around here. He also says that in the old days (I didn’t try to define the era) they used to hop off the train at this point (we’re high up above the valley) and sky down, beating the train as it does a long loop to a bridge further along then doubles back.

Breakfast is brought to us about an hour before arriving into Vienna - tea, two raison buns and some jam. We’re five minutes late apparently. I have 11 minutes to connect at Vienna. No more delays please!

We arrive into Wien (Vienna), and I can’t find my train, panicking till it occurs to me that I’m looking at the date numbers, not the time, I’ve got an hour. Should be enough, I dash in with tram and subway to Hotel Sacher, behind Opera, and pick up a Sacher Torte for George and Jitka. I also grab a “For one” mini-cake, before taking Tram D back. My train awaits, and I share a six-seater carriage with an old German chap. I try my cake, and after three bites I’m full, it’s so rich, goodness me!

Prague with Jiri and Jitka
George, my Czech friend from school and his wife Jitka are waiting for me at Holesovice Station, luckily we’re only only ten minutes late or so arriving, and together we tube and bus back to their house, where I enjoy a Pilsner Urquel in a branded glass.

Jitka admits that the other one is in use as a vase at the moment, disgraceful! We head out, first at my request to U Pinkasu, a restaurant bar that I never fail to visit in Prague, near the bottom of Wenceslas Square. It’s a bit touristy, but in a good way, has a nice atmosphere, and if it’s warm enough has a garden area at the back of a church with the benches between the stone pillars.

to Prvni Novomestsky Restauracni, aka New Town Brewery (in Vodickova Street near Mustek). When we arrive, I realise that I’ve been here before, with Lucy a few years ago. Still, it’s a brewery, in we go! Beers up first of course, and we have pretzels, from hooks hanging on the table, then tripe soup and pork with dumplings and zeli (cabbage).

Good traditional Czech food, washed down with the in-house brew.

I’m staying at his house tonight, and we compare Mexican photos before hitting the sack.

In the morning we head out in the glorious sunshine, and Jitka sends me off to the tube, on the way telling me that George is going to a spa treatment tonight where you are exposed to -150C! Surely not healthy?! Tube to Hlavni Nadrazni, the main station, which is being redeveloped and is a bit of a mess and so even more confusing than usual. I eventually find somewhere to buy a ticket, which costs me about 3,000 Czech crowns (what on earth is the exchange rate?!) and we’re off to Germany!

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