Trip Report: Bay Tree, Berlin, and Prague!

6 Jul

It’s official: We’re hitched! We had a completely beautiful wedding weekend at Bay Tree Manor in Seaford, VA with our parents and siblings. Our hosts Mark and Paige were not only generous, but chatted with us like friends who’d known one another for years. They took care of every little detail and made us feel relaxed, refreshed and happy for the duration of our stay. It couldn’t have been anymore wonderful and for that I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world.

“You may kiss the bride!”

And then we fled the country. Monday evening, Joe and I hopped on our red eye flight to Berlin. By the time we arrived around noon the following day, we were bleary-eyed and jet-lagged, but too excited to be on our honeymoon to care much about it. After checking into our hotel and realizing that we hadn’t eaten for a long time, we wandered off down Kurfürstendamm to explore and look for something good to eat.

The hotel upgraded us since they heard we were on our honeymoon. What a view!

Of all places, we wandered into Arlecchino (Meinekestrasse 25), a little Italian restaurant with a chalkboard menu outside advertising antipasti and pizza. There, we spoke to our waiter in a bizarre combination of English and broken German and Italian. Somehow the point got across and soon we were drinking giant glasses of frothy beer and eating prosciutto pizza. Amazing Neopolitan pizza on a side street in Berlin, who’d have thought?

Re-energized by the delicious meal, we decided to jump on the S-Bahn and make our way to the remnants of the Berlin Wall. It was incredible to me how something that was once a symbol of the horrific and divisive was now a monument to peace and unity covered in beautiful, poignant murals. We spent nearly our entire evening walking along the length of the wall and taking photographs of it and the nearby river Spree. It was shortly after this that jet-lag finally dug in its claws, so we returned to the hotel.

On Wednesday, we visited the Natural History Museum (Invalidenstraße 43), where we saw the world’s longest complete dinosaur skeleton. The museum had a ton of artifacts and a whole exhibit on preservation that was fascinating. On our way back through town, we stopped to see the Brandenburg Gate. Once again our stomachs reminded us that touring is hard work, so we headed back to the area around our hotel and had dinner at Alt Berliner Biersalon (Kurfürstendamm 225/226). By the time we polished off some perfectly fried schnitzel and our beers, the place was packed full of folks waiting to watch the Euro 2012 Spain v. Portugal game. Following the game, we watched as tons of soccer fans ran into the streets and partied until 3 a.m.

I bet the catalogers at work would love this collection.

Thursday we finally started to feel more adjusted to the time change and took the brief walk from our hotel to the Berlin Zoo (Hardenbergplatz 8). What an enormous, picturesque place! We spent 4.5 hours wandering the grounds and seeing the animals. It was such a treat to visit a zoo with wide open enclosures, big green spaces, and cool exhibits. We stopped for a snack at one of the cafes in the park and had our first currywurst and a soft pretzel. Currywurst is a beef sausage heavily dusted with curry powder and then covered in warm ketchup. The pretzel was, of course, delicious and fluffy.

First currywurst! Delish.

Pretty scenery at the zoo.

After we finished our long trip to the zoo, we visited KaDeWe, a large upscale department store that we’d been told had some great gourmet snack bars on the top floor. I had some really great tomato soup with tiny, light potato dumplings and we both had the store’s house beer on draught. Following the quick recharge, we caught the subway to visit Checkpoint Charlie and some of the Cold War memorials. By the time we left, the streets were beginning to buzz in anticipation of the Euro 2012 Italy v. Germany game. Several squares had big screens set up for watching it, and although Germany lost, there were crowds of Italy fans celebrating in the street until the wee hours of the morning. The police had to step in a few times to head off confrontations, but mostly it was just celebratory.

Joe at Checkpoint Charlie.

We had one final breakfast at the hotel the next morning and made our way to the S-Bahn to catch our train to Prague. It was a delightfully scenic trip, mostly along a river and cutting right through rolling hills and mountains dotted with little red roofed houses. We arrived in Prague in the late afternoon and took the short walk to our hotel near Wenceslas Square. Once checked in, we walked down the street to Novoměstský Pivovar (Vodičkova 682/20), a microbrewery with house brewed dark and light lagers on tap. We had a tasting platter of some traditional Czech goodies including roast pork, kielbasa, smoked pork knuckle, dumplings, and braised cabbage. Everything was really delicious, especially the sausage. Joe’s favorite was the smoked pork. I found a friend in our waiter there, who turned out to be a huge Evgeni Malkin fan. Pittsburgh, you’re everywhere.

The scenic route. Just amazing.

Wenceslas Square

“Tastes great!”

We spent the rest of the evening walking around town and ended up at Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square) where we got to see the large, very cool astronomical clock. The square was filled with people, and vendors making hams and trdelnik (a tasty little cinnamon sugar pastry) on spits over coals. On our way back to the hotel we stopped in a place simply called Bakeshop Praha (Kozí 918/1) and got some butter and jam cookies for dessert. They were dynamite, and if you’re looking for a sweet treat in Prague I don’t think you can do better than that shop.

Old Town Square

The next morning, I got up early and walked around our neighborhood to scope it out. One of the things I loved most about Prague was the frequent fruit stands on every other corner. They reminded me so much of being in Florence, and for a mere 30 crowns I brought a substantial tub of fresh cherries back to the hotel.

Our next jaunt was to hop on the tram and visit the National Technical Museum (Kostelní 42). What a cool, cool place. Four floors full of steam engines, bikes, motorcycles, boats and cars from all decades of the 20th century. They also had a special exhibition on the history of photography. Everything is placed in chronological order, and it was really interesting to see the way that engines and bodies developed over time. Afterward we took the tram back across the river and had lunch at Pizza Nuova (Revoluční 655/1). It was on the second floor of a building and had a neat view of the trams going past. By now you’ve probably noticed that we had a good deal of Italian food on our trip. Oddly enough, you can’t walk a block without seeing one or two Italian restaurants in either of these cities, and frankly it’s impossible to ignore the delicious smell of a brick oven.

With full bellies we walked to Prague’s Museum of Communism. Advertised throughout the city as being “above the McDonald’s and next to the casino,” the place had a sense of humor about it, but stayed sincere in its depiction of the history of communism in Eastern Europe. While small, it was very much worth the visit to learn more about modern history in Prague. A little worn out from being on our feet, we took tram #22 around the city and across the river just to watch the sights.

The National Technical Museum

At the Museum of Communism.

Political cartoons at the Museum of Communism.

Our very full day of sightseeing led us to another microbrewery near our hotel called Pivovarský dům (Lípová 511/15). The beer was pretty great, but the goulash was just delicious! I’d never had it before and couldn’t get enough of the tasty sauce. No wonder they give you so many dumplings to sop it up with!

My first goulash, yum!

Sunday morning, we ate breakfast at Jama (V jámě 1671/7), a little dive bar near our hotel. Supposedly the place is a favorite among American ex-pats and it’s easy to see why. It’s covered in classic rock posters and serves diner-style pancakes, bacon, sausage and eggs in the morning, and cold beer and pub food at night.

As we do in any city we visit together, we made our way to the zoo next. Prague Zoo was gorgeous, and while not as big as the Berlin Zoo, felt open and lush with greenery. Set up on a hill across the Vltava River from the city center, it had an excellent view from the top. We spent the whole afternoon walking its hills and got quite a workout doing it.

A view from the top of the Prague Zoo.

Up close and personal with this cool tiger.

One of the places highly recommended to me was a pizzeria hidden away on a tiny street a few blocks from our hotel. Pizzeria Kmotra (V jirchářích 1285/12), which translates to Godmother’s pizza, is tucked away from the bustle of tourist sites and serves thin crust pizzas out of a super-hot brick oven. It’s a favorite among locals and gets really crowded during the late dinner rush, so we went early in the evening to snag a table. For about the equivalent of $5.00 USD, an enormous pizza covered with mushrooms came out to me. (While delicious, I only made it half way through the pie and took the rest back to the hotel where we stayed up late and watched a movie while enjoying our leftovers and cold beer.) Before we turned in for the evening, we had some brews in the outdoor garden at U Sudu (Vodičkova 677/10), feeling the warm breeze drift by.

Kmotra: Oh. Yes.

The last day of our honeymoon began with breakfast at the hotel, and then Joe treated himself to a massage while I meandered around town looking at some of the funky little shops and arcades. We met back up late in the morning and took the tram across the river to Prague Castle. Just as we got there, trumpets sounded and we saw that we’d arrived just in time to watch the changing of the guard. After heading down the enormously steep hill through the castle district to see the old churches and castles, we hiked back up to Strahov Monastery to visit Klášterní pivovar Strahov (Strahovské nádvoří 301/10), the monastery’s brewery. I was kind of amazed that we walked all the way from where the Charles Bridge begins to the top of that hill. Of course, one required a tasty beverage and Strahov didn’t disappoint. They were currently making and serving four beers; an India pale ale, amber lager, dark lager, and hefeweizen. Joe got some sausages in a dark beer sauce to go along with his and I had a bowl of goulash soup. It was a nice place to enjoy great food, excellent beer, and panoramic views of Prague from high on a hill.

A view from Strahov Monastery.

Handsome Joe at the brewery.

I’m at a castle!

We took the tram down the hill and walked to the Charles Bridge. It’s a stone bridge that was completed in the 15th century and spans the Vltava river. It had some pretty majestic statues and views of Prague Castle, the houses and buildings along the shore, and the river and little islands dotting it.

One side of the Charles Bridge.

A view of the castle from the Charles Bridge.

We stopped for a quick break at the hotel and then went out for one final dinner at Café Louvre (Národní 22). It was the perfect choice for our last night there. Set in an art deco building on the second floor, we had a view of the crowded street below full of trams and tourists. Joe enjoyed the turkey schnitzel, while I went for a comforting dish of roast pork tenderloin, braised apples and cabbage, and little ham dumplings. Since it was strawberry season, the restaurant was featuring several hot and cold strawberry desserts. Joe went for the classic strawberries and cream while I had the strawberries with balsamic, honey, and whipped mascarpone. A wonderful, sweet finish to the day for both of us. After one more walk back through Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, we said goodbye to Prague and left early the next morning to catch our flight home.

Best friends forever.

We couldn’t have asked for a better honeymoon. Every train and plane was on time, our luggage arrived safely, our hotels were beautiful, we didn’t get lost once, public transit was a breeze, and every meal was a pleasure. It was hard not to feel like the most fortunate couple in the world. I felt so very grateful to have an amazing start to our married life and can’t wait for all of the adventures we’re sure to have in the future.

And while traveling and touring the cities was exciting, interesting, and fun, the very late nights of staying up, enjoying the local beers, and hysterically laughing while watching really bad action movies on late night television in the hotel reminded me of why we’re so good together.

We’re just happy to be with one another, and that is something special.

2 Responses to “Trip Report: Bay Tree, Berlin, and Prague!”

  1. scarlett45 July 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Hi Neen! Amanda sent me the link to your blog. Congrats on your wedding.

  2. mom July 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    What a lovely chronical of your honeymoon. Memories to cherish and save, read it often when the skies are gray!

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