A Cheapskate’s Luxury Weekend in Prague Part 3: Brunch, Beer And Culture Lost

We did not get off to the best of starts that morning as a combination of Google Maps and my terrible sense of direction almost caused us to miss our brunch reservation. Let’s say that our walk to Eska was not particularly scenic. From the Hilton it was past a grotty looking car park, then under some damp stained old brick railway bridges before we continued by a dusty, noisy blur of a bus station. We then took a detour down a litter strewn alleyway and finally finding ourselves walking along a quiet residential street flanked on one side by a noisy railway line shunting trains in and out of the city. We had almost given up when we saw the building site at the end of the road where we expected the restaurant to be, thankfully we didn’t. It was quite the walk and half an hour later than we’d made our reservation we arrived at Eska where they kindly accommodated us with a time limited table. The suffering was worth it!

The atmosphere inside the this two floored restaurant was buzzy and fashionable with open kitchens and simple wooden furniture that nicely complemented the unfinished warehouse vibe they were aiming for. The wait staff who were decked out in a casual combination of blue jeans and white shirts buzzed up and down the stairs like very fashionable sailor bees. We were seated upstairs and close to the kitchen area where we could watch the pastry chefs working their magic. We were kindly given English menus and some fresh bread and butter to fill our rumbling stomachs.

Anne-So chose the Breakfast Karlín whilst I went with an omelette and some French toast. We also ordered a couple of coffees.

Our friendly server soon brought over our warming mugs of coffee that were just the right mix of bitter, sweet and sour, shortly followed by our breakfasts. 

I realised almost immediately that I had once again magnificently over ordered.

Even now I can’t remember the last time I had such a good breakfast omelette; eggs just set, gooey melted cheese and fresh smoked ham, it was perfection on a plate, just how my Granddad used to do it!

In all fairness this eggy perfection was soon outshone by the French toast. Sugary soft bread with a decadent topping of sweet caramelised apples and flaked almonds.

Both Anne-So and I agreed this was the best French toast we’d ever eaten.

I felt that this was certainly one of the most delicious breakfasts I’d ever had. Anne-So felt much the same about hers and even found space for a few bites of my French toast, but in all honesty who could resist a mouthful of that.

Anne-So’s Breakfast Karlín: scrambled eggs on sourdough toast, pickled vegetables and smoked salmon.
There was also a serving of local cheese.
And a pot of healthy fruit-topped yogurt.

Stuffed to bursting once again, it was sadly time to leave this breakfast paradise.

We settled up and managed the five minute walk to the metro station for the next part of our Prague adventure, wishing we had taken the metro to breakfast rather than that awful walk.
We loved how wonderful all the stations looked on the Prague Metro.

We planned to spend the bulk of our day touring Josefov, the Jewish part of Prague. It was quite a moving afternoon with all but one of the synagogues you could visit now converted into museums, each depicting a different part of Jewish life and history in Prague from life to death and renewal. Whatever your religious (or otherwise) background it made for quite an emotional day. From the war deaths and the haunting grave yards to the stunning architecture the one thing that was impossible to imagine was what it must have been like to live in the time when these buildings were in their prime usage.

We started our ‘tour’ at the Maisel Synagogue which had been rebuilt a number of times in its 400 year history and was now a museum on the history of Jewish life in Prague.
We continued on to the Pinkas Synagogue and it’s harrowing list of engraved names of the Holocaust victims from Czech lands on the synagogue’s inner wall.
From the Pinkas Synagogue we entered the Old Jewish Cemetery.
Jews are not allowed to abandon old graves and this is why the gravestones are so close together as due to lack of space, layers of earth were placed over the original graves to make space for new ones.
With the oldest gravestone dated at 1439 and the last laid some 350 years later, some of the graves are twelve layers high.
We continued on to the Klausen Synagogue the last remaining baroque styled synagogue in Prague.

The exhibits contained all the details of day to day Jewish life from birth to death and all the associated festivals.

We passed the monument to Franz Kafka on our way to the magnificent Spanish Synagogue.

Perhaps the hardest thing about visiting these Synagogues was seeing a whole way of life almost completely wiped out and left only as a museum to the past. The difference here is that what was lost was a thriving community on our doorstep and in our recent history, not an ancient civilisation from another time that we can merely speculate about. At least with these buildings preserved we can never forget what happened and who existed in this place.

After what had been an emotional morning, stepping into shoes impossible to truly walk in, because to walk in them would be to consign yourself to death we needed to unwind a little. To do so we went for an average coffee and cake at that famous touristic, cubist masterpiece known as Grand Café Orient where I did my best to camouflage with the decor dressed in my favourite green checked shirt.

Not only was the building a work of art, but the interiors were equally stunning.
As I read through the menu I imagined Poirot sitting here, about to solve a mystery.
I thought that the service was OK, but most importantly, I really needed that coffee!
Although the cakes looked amazing, somewhat disappointingly neither tasted as good as they looked.
Sadly neither were a patch on those served at the amazing coffee houses we’d visited in Vienna.

It was good to rest our legs and we also managed to check in for our flight with not just seq 001 and 002 but also snagging seats 1A and 1C in the process. AV Geek goals met in full and then some! Click here if you don’t understand the joy of being first to check in and then strongly regret it afterwards, but it made me happy after all that pain we’d walked through.

We then headed off to view the hotch-potch of shops and buildings that lead from the old town up to the famous Wenceslas Square
We took a moment to stop at the monument to the student protester Jan Palach, who gave his life in the struggle against the demoralisation caused by the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia.
Unfortunately the National Museum atop the square was covered in scaffold whilst under going a significant renovation project. 

I love to travel time and space when on a trip and the juxtaposition of old and new is usually what makes me fall in love with a city. The Lucerna was quite an incredible find from our guidebook, truly a step into a lost generation, but thankfully still very much alive and it was exactly the kind of place that can be the difference between loving a city or otherwise feeling indifferent towards it. I mean where else in Europe could you walk through a shopping arcade and find a statue of a rider on his horse suspended from the ceiling?

We continued our walk till we reached the the enchanting medieval Karlovo náměstí with the New Town Hall standing proud at the lower end of the square. We sat on a bench and if there had been a world going by we’d have watched it, but it was just lovely and quiet.

As we headed back towards the Hilton we passed the lovely old Church of Saint Henry and Saint Cunigunde.
We finished our walk across Prague passing by the stunning exterior of the Jerusalem Synagogue or Jubilee Synagogue as it’s also known.

We headed back to the hotel for a brief rest before heading out to Lokal Hamburk for a spot of dinner. Unfortunately the branch of Lokal next to the hotel was fully booked so we went to the one near where we had breakfast, this time making the sensible decision to take the underground.

Once again, I loved the modernist designs of the Prague Metro stations.

We arrived at Lokal to find a mix of rowdy locals and shy tourists but soon felt at home once a couple of cold ones were slammed down with affection on the table. 

A freshly poured pint was just what was needed after a day of time travelling.
Sadly quite a few of the speciality dishes had run out that night.
We ordered some braised beef roasted in a creamy sauce with cranberry jam.
A huge plate of beef shin goulash.
And a side of crushed potatoes to soak up all that rich sauce.
Thankfully we were able to order one of the signature dishes, a slice of Lokal’s famous fried cheese.
With a jug of house made sharp and creamy tartar sauce!

It would have been nice to try more but the portions were bigger than they looked and a lot of the food had run out. What we did have was a tasty and incredibly good value for money meal. I even found room to squeeze in a dessert.

The chocolate profiterole provided a rich and satisfying finish to our meal.

We enjoyed a slow moonlit walk back to the metro station for the short trip back to the Hilton and soon fell sound asleep. It was one amazing and emotional day and we couldn’t have asked for more.

A Cheapskate’s Weekend in Prague Index

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