Quote of the Day - Eastern Europe has been really trendy. Prague is the best-preserved city in the region ... and the best beer in Europe lands on your table there for 50 cents.
This post is the fifth in MIPTC's travel series (part four), which started on April 5, if you're interested in reading from the beginning. Otherwise, jump in and travel along.
Back in the hotel, it's time to get showered and changed for the evening ball at Troja Castle, which we learn later in the evening is actually a hunting lodge for a wealthy Czech back in the Sixteenth century. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We've brought what we think are suitable for the event renaissance costumes. Lisa's is a hoop-skirted gown with a bodice and two sets of sleeves, one long and decorative and the other functional, with a solid muted gold and beaded snood and a smart black short, rakishly angled black top hat with a small set of plumage on the left-hand side. She's got a set of black pantaloons, a black underskirt that laces in the back and a almost wrap-around topskirt of moss green and gold, again beaded with small pearls and beads that exposes fabric matching the rest of her costume. She's wearing a cream blouse with brown braided stitching under her muted gold bodice, with a long link of golden-brown pearls around her neck and pinned at the top of her bodice to create two falls of pearls. An ornate feather duster hangs halfway down her skirt, at the ready to demurely hide all but her eyes when necessary. She's the picture of elegance.
I've got the requisite black leather, knee boots with the top folded over in musketeer style, with small gold jangle chains around the ankles. I, too, have a cream shirt with frill around the collar and cuffs like you see in the movies, but a bit more understated. I may be a Lord, but I'm not a Duke or Earl, don't you know. My doublet is a muted red/bright maroon and gold brocade, with ornately carved gold metal buttons down the front and likewise down the sleeves, from shoulder to wrist. My pants match and are covered with black leather vertical straps, again in musketeer style. My black belt holds a fifteenth century replica Scottish sword with a silver sheath and gold basket hilt with red velvet on the inside and a red tassel to boot. The costume is literally topped off with a flat black fabric cap, which features long colored ostrich and peacock feathers.
The males in our species are always the more flashy ones, don't you know?
Wanting not to give our costumes away until we reach the castle/chateau/hunting lodge, we duck the hotel wine-tasting on the ground floor where much of our group from the Orange County Bar Association is enjoying an oenological education. The lift at the back of the hotel takes us down to floor -0 (yes, that's minus zero), which is where the pool and spa is located, and conveniently has a set of stairs at the front of the hotel, keeping our secret intact for the moment. We jump into an open-air, 80-year old red convertible jitney for the ride to the castle from the hotel. Our capes keep us warm in the car, and we arrive as planned, just before the four small buses with the rest of our group arrive.
The car gets through the tall, black iron gate of the castle and has the unusual opportunity to drive up through the formal gardens, up to the dual, left/right curved stone stairs and monumental façade. It's an imposing entrance and it was built by the sixteenth century owner to rival the castles he saw in France at the time. I believe he succeeded.
Our host and trip organizer Joe Chairez greets us, dressed in his own knight costume and cutting a dashing figure himself. Since we're early, we get to peek at the ballroom, a castle great room typical only in its size. The walls and ceiling feature one continuous, larger-than-life mural depicting travelers from around the sixteenth century world as they hunt and go through various stages of life. It's hard to describe because every surface in the room is painted. The walls are some four feet thick and feature double windows to keep out the cold. Fireplaces flank opposite sides of the room with table rounds throughout the room. It's surely to be a feast, not only for the eyes, but also for the taste buds. We're to be served an elegant five-course meal, starting with drinks of white and red wine, champagne, sparkling water with lime, apple juice. Once seated, we had salmon rolled with cream cheese and cucumber beautifully presented on small plates, followed by a clear broth soup with liver pate. Next came a traditional Czech dish of sirloin beef, dumplings and goulash sauce. Desert was another typical Czech dish of small pancakes, chocolate and ice cream, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and strawberries.
A fitting end to a wonderfully elegant evening and spectacular trip to Prague. My only disappointment on the trip was not to have sipped some green Absinthe, which is not available in the US because it contains arsenic and can be deadly. On the other hand, I'm grateful to still be writing this column and breathing, since someone else on our trip did sample it and apparently had to be revived after passing out. I guess I'm more grateful than disappointed.
I hope you enjoyed this trip with me. If you're looking for other travelogues, put either "Scotland, "Wales," or "Australia" in the search box over there on the right (under the ad), and you'll be able to vicariously visit those countries from the comfort of your computer screen.