I don't know that waking up that second day in Prague could have been any better. First, it was nice to sleep in a bit and not have to worry about traveling, something Caitlin and I had been doing for the past 3 days in a row. Second, from our second story window we could see the courtyard was covered in a fresh layer of powdery white snow. Now it may seem a bit weird to get excited about snow, but a) it just looked picturesque, and b) I knew it would mean that because of the humidity we wouldn't be as frozen out on the town as we were the day before. After taking in the scene we walked down to breakfast which quite literally made my day. It was my first hearty breakfast in three months! I almost ate till I was sick. I started with a roll on which I put butter and honey, then had granola and yogurt, followed by a made-to-order eggs, ham, and cheese scramble, and an apricot-filled doughnut to finish. All of this of course accompanied by very tasty fruit juice and two cups of American style coffee (finally). I think once again I'll reference my dad (who can out-eat anyone) in thanks for a metabolism that allows me to eat this much and not burst at the seams. Plus this was all included in the price of the hotel so I was only eating what I already paid for... An added bonus was that starting the day off with such a large meal meant Caitlin and I really didn't need to spend that much on lunch. We had some bread and a bowl of really good Czech potato soup that easily tided us over till dinner.
After breakfast we waddled our full bellies over to the Castle Quarter which was actually not far from our hotel. It was impressive, albeit not the largest or pretty castle I've ever seen. In fact the best part, in my opinion, is the view of the rest of the city offered from the hill upon which the Castle Quarter is situated. But we visited all the highlights, from the Royal Palace to the Cathedral, before taking a footpath down to the main part of town. It was at this moment when I realized just how much of a walkable city Prague is. It seems rather large, especially on a map, but I think you can walk from end to end diagonally in about 20-25 minutes. It only took us 15 minutes to walk from the castle to the Jewish Quarter, our next stop. It was before we tackled the 6 building "museum" that comprises the main part of the Jewish Quarter that we stopped for our soup lunch. When we got our check the woman had charged us for two deserts we never ordered. Rick Steves warned us that Czech restaurants are notorious for overcharging tourists, but I didn't truly believe him until that moment on. Our waitress wasn't even apologetic about it, she looked more sad that she got caught. We "stoopid Amurikens" sure showed her! But just in case we never went back there to avoid the certain revengeful dish of "Soup a la Loogie."
The Jewish Museum, which includes four synagogues (Pinkas, Klaus, Maisel, and the Spanish), the Jewish cemetery, and a Ceremonial Hall, for me, really pushed the Jewish stereotypes. First of all, the "discounted" price to see these museum was already about $20. Second, when we got to the ticket booth and tried to get the student discount, the stingy woman wouldn't give it to us because our student ID's didn't have the right validation stickers! Granted, I'm no longer a student, but Caitlin is. And isn't the whole purpose of the student discount to account for the want to be educated but serious lack of money to pay for these expensive museums? In which case I am 100% qualified. I was a little peeved but we were here to see the sights, and see them we shall. Lastly, there was a fine for anyone caught taking a picture in, near, or around the sights considered part of the museum, enforced by mostly stern looking old ladies on the other side of who's wagging fingers and nagging reprimands I was sure I didn't want to be. So while this was one of the most interesting parts of Prague, and definitely the most interesting Jewish site I've visited, I have absolutely no photos of it. The synagogues were impressive, especially the Spanish Synagogue which was very elaborately decorated. I think the most impressive, however, was the Jewish cemetery. It's barely the size of a city block and for centuries was the only place Jews were allowed to bury their dead within the city. Because of the Jewish belief that bodies are not to be moved after burial, they are stacked on top of each other, creating a small plateau. The headstones are falling over every which way because of the marshy land they rest on. Very moving to say the least.
After visiting all the sites it wasn't quite dinner time, so we headed out to find a bar to hang out in and warm up, maybe have a beer or two, before dinner. We ended up finding this little place, not too smokey, with really cheap beer. In fact, it was Budweiser. Now I know what you're thinking... "Really, bud?" But actually it was the Czechs who invented Budweiser in Germany way before Anheuser-Busch fought for the right to call it's beer the same name. As one photo shows, there is even a dark Budweiser which was a really great dark beer, and I'm not a huge fan of dark beers. Also, that's the way pretty much every bar in Prague is. They have two beers: one light, one dark. And again, a half liter cost about $1.50. Being much "warmer" a liter of beer later, we headed over towards the Christmas market in the Old Town Square to try some market food. Caitlin got a bratwurst on a bun and I ventured to try these pancake-shaped things with sauerkraut, both meals costing about $2 a piece. I still don't know what exactly my mini pancakes were made of but they were good, and pretty filling. It started to rain pretty hard while we were eating and it had been another long day, so we took the tram back to our hotel and stayed dry for the night. Besides, we had to prepare for New Year's Eve (which was the next day) with plenty of rest, which turned out to be well worth it...