Sunday, July 8, 2012

Road Trip with the Coxes

To blog a bit about our recent travels, the (future) in-laws have been visiting us for about two weeks. During this time, we took a 9-day road trip with them to Heidelberg and Prague, and along the way we had also stopped by the "Disney" castle, Neuschwanstein, and the city of Dresden. It was a lot of driving for Geoff over the course of 9 days, and a lot of wine and champagne and meaty German/Bavarian/Czech food consumption for all of us, but overall the trip was a really great opportunity for me to get to know the Coxes better, and definitely a rare and lovely/special occasion for Geoff and his parents to travel together in his adulthood!

Here are some pictures from Geoff's phone (therefore excuse the weird borders and stuff):

Among other things, we went to an aquarium in Berlin where you can ride an elevator up through a tube of cylindrical fish tank.When you are riding up through the fishtank, you can see through it to see the aquarium hotel that surrounds the fish tank. It's a tourist trap, but a rather nice one.

We also did boat tours in every city (Berlin, Heidelberg, and Prague). Ironically, the weather for our boat tour in Berlin was the best out of the three. Heidelberg was steamy hot and Prague was rainy on the days of our boat tours. Berlin, which is consistently rainy, was actually nice and breezy and dry during those first days of the Coxes' visit.

As one would expect, we imbibed plentifully. In Berlin, Geoff took his parents to the Hofbrauhaus, which is a chain brewery/restaurant that originated from Munich and that has huge beer halls and huge steins of beer, Oktoberfest style. His dad thought the traditional fried pork knuckle from there (Schweinehaxe) was fantastic.

Heidelberg is beautiful. Smaller than Berlin, but a college town and full of buzzing young people. There are charming houses and traditional red rooftops all over, and some random castles and fortified houses up in the hills. We were here for a few days, and it was pretty slow-paced and nice.

We took a drive down to Bavaria from Heidelberg, to visit the Schloss Neuschwanstein. This is the castle that all of the Disney castles are inspired by. The inside is only 1/3 finished because the king died halfway through its construction, but I think the parts that are done are very rustic and medieval-looking; it's worth a visit. My favorite part is a man-made cave next to the king's bedroom. Really random and eclectic interior design!

You cannot tell from this picture, but that day it was about 30 degrees Celsius. I had to strip down to my undershirt, basically, because it was so damned hot. The view from the Neuschwanstein Castle, however, was stunning. It made me really miss Utah from last summer, because there is simply no view like this in the flatlands of Berlin.

Next up, we went to Prague. In Prague, the local food was amazing -- something that I had not experienced previously when I went as a chaperone on a school trip. This time, we ate our hearts out and quite literally every restaurant was amazing. Here is me munching on a trdol, which is a hollow bread glazed with sugar. (They make it simply by slapping dough around a rotating rolling pin, and then sticking it over some coals; afterwards, they add sugar or glaze it.) The bread reminded me of the brioches from Berkeley's Cheeseboard that I had once loved so much.

And here is a photo of the roadside "Prague old ham" that is sold in the center of the town. We tried it; it was delicious and juicy, but (in my personal opinion) you should try the sausage from the same vendor. They have the best sausages I've ever had. In my life! The sausages are spicy and literally bursting with juice upon each bite.
Geoff's mom had steak tartare at the same restaurant 3 days in a row, because it was that good. Also very notable is the Czech style of preparing garlic bread: they first fry buttered toast, and then they serve it with raw pieces of garlic, which you need to cut and rub onto the toast. It's sinful how garlicky and buttery the whole thing tastes!

Here is a picture we took in front of an apparently famous water wheel, as seen from the Charles Bridge. When we took this picture, we didn't know that this water wheel was the subject of many artists' paintings of Prague.
Another view of the gate next to the famous Charle's Bridge:

We also went to the Prague castle, obviously. Here's a view of the cathedral, from outside and inside. This cathedral is nice, but not quite as ornate on the inside as the St. James' Cathedral downtown.

One night, we decided on a whim to go catch a performance of parts of Don Giovanni at an old opera house in Prague. We decided to do this because it was the original theater where Mozart himself had directed the same opera, which he had written in Prague, for the people of Prague. The music and the singers' voices were absolutely enchanting, even though the lyrics were a mix of Italian and German and we couldn't follow the storyline. The theater was magnificent, and the experience of sitting in a box seat (Geoff's parents had decided to splurge a bit, so we went along with them to stay altogether) was also unique and very luxurious. (Of course, I did not bring appropriate attire on the trip for such luxurious occasion; you can't see it here, but I am wearing sneakers.)

On our last night in Prague, we had the most delicious meal on top of an old clock tower in a restaurant called Zvonice, because Geoff's parents wanted to relive their fabulous experience of dining there 7 years ago. (It's not the famous astronomical clock tower, but another one downtown somewhere.) It was expensive, but mostly because of the awesome wines we had. I think you could have a terrific meal in this cozy restaurant with breath-taking views, for about 30 to 35 Euros per person, which isn't too bad considering the phenomenal experience you would have. You could even see in the corner of the picture below of the large bell that still hangs behind Derek in the middle of the restaurant / tower. My lamb dish was every bit as good as it looks, and so were all the other dishes.

On our drive back from Prague, we stopped by Dresden for a bit. Not my favorite German city, unfortunately; I don't think it has that much character, to be honest. If you are familiar with the history of Dresden, basically 95% of the downtown area was destroyed in the air raids of WWII, so what's left now is mostly a reconstruction of what the old, beautiful Dresden had once looked like.  We walked through the old town, which still has remnants of the past glory. The food in Dresden was also mediocre -- typical German fare, and a pale comparison to the complex flavors offered by the cuisine in Prague, sadly.

But, all in all, it was a fantastic trip! Now that I have a flip-flop tan, I am truly in the summer mode. :)

1 comment:

  1. Great pix and tips! I will have to come back to this in preparation for visiting Prague this Fall!