Tag Archives: zoo

Prague (Part 2)

Národní muzeum

This is the National Museum in Prague which was originally founded in 1818. It bounced around a bit as it gained exhibits and outgrew several early buildings. The current building is located at the end of Wenceslas Square, it was completed in 1891 and is absolutely stunning. In fact, the entire museum is that way. For the most part, I am not really a museum/gallery kind of guy, but this place was amazing and I cannot recommend it enough.

The early focus of the museum was natural sciences and as such there is a bunch of natural history and evolution-type stuff all over the place, and the way they have done it is brilliant. The dinosaur section was really well done and fun.

They also have a huge collection of animals and a really cool display that shows the animals ordered in the speed at which they travel.

But beyond the natural history stuff, the whole museum was really interesting and was a highlight of our trip.

Prague Statues

These buggers are everywhere. There was a statue virtually anywhere you looked in this place. They ranged from formal to classical and some straight-out quirky ones, including hanging from power lines. .

The Jewish Quarter

Prague’s Jewish Quarter (Josefov) is hidden away at the back of old town and has been there and occupied since around 965 AD. As with most Jewish areas in Europe the neighbourhood has seen more than its fair share of horror over the centuries. But it still contains some of the oldest buildings in the Czech capital.

In here you will find synagogues, the Old Jewish Cemetery, the Jewish Town Hall and Ceremonial Hall. So we went and wandered through the area and through the cemetery. Jill took great amusement at the fact that they forced ever male to wear a yarmulke. So I wandered around with a mini beanie on my head that wouldn’t stay put.

 Prague Zoo

We were hanging around and found that there was a cruise available that took us up the river and delivered us at the zoo. This was a way of killing two birds with one stone so we jumped at it. Due to the water levels of the Vltava River, there are four locks that were built between 1911-1922. The locks control the water level and allow the vessels to traverse.  

The zoo was as a zoo normally is. Lots of displays, interesting animals that are particular to certain areas of the world and a petting zoo for the little kids. There were the usual big ticket items (lions, tigers, giraffes and elephants) along with some Aussie favourites that seemed pretty popular.

Whatever happens, Prague is a truly amazing city. Every street, every corner there is something amazing to look at. The architecture, the statues, the doorways, the cobblestones, this place is incredible at every turn. From my perspective, you should add it very high on any bucket list that you may be compiling.

Czech Food

Czech food, for the most part is pretty stodgy. It is priced pretty similarly (but maybe a little cheaper) than you would expect to pay in Australia. Fruit and vegetables (beyond starchy ones) were tough to find, but the food was rich, hearty and tasty.

There are plenty of soups and stews, roasted meat coated in rich sauces, typically served with a side of bread dumplings to mop it all up with. Knedliky is the name for these (steamed or boiled) dumplings they are ideal for soaking up all of the juices and sauces that Czech cuisine has in abundance.

While Goulash is originally a Hungarian dish it has made its way heavily into the Czech food staples. It is a rich, meat-based stew, consisting of chunks of stewed beef in a thick meat sauce seasoned with paprika. I was a little surprized at the spice levels in this, it was spicier than I had expected and was seriously tasty.

Vepřo knedlo zelo is one of the Czech Republic’s national dishes. This is a combination of roast pork, cabbage or sauerkraut, and dumplings, served with an onion and caraway gravy. Kulajda is a rich mushroom and potato cream soup. The addition of sour cream helps add both meatiness and tanginess to the dish. Zelňačka is tangy sauerkraut soup. 

Tatarák is a dish of raw minced beef mixed with diced onion, garlic, egg yolk, paprika, pepper, salt, mustard, diced cucumber, and tomato sauce. Jill is now, and always has been, a fan of this and when given the choice of mixed or unmixed, she obviously chose to do it herself.

Smažený vepřový rízek is essentially the Czech version of a pork schnitzel. Česnečka is a garlic-base soup, topped with a raw egg, which cooks atop the soup because of the heat. Moravský vrabec means ‘Moravian sparrow’ but it is basically stewed then baked pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings. Vepřové koleno is roasted pork knee. An early foray saw us sampling the nakladany hermelin (or pickled cheese). This is a local version of Camembert that has been marinated in spiced, paprika-tinged oil, padded with raw onion and crowned with hot pickled chillies.

But as with everywhere, there is a winner and in Prague it was Trdelník. Trdelnik actually comes from Slovakia, but has become popular in the Czech Republic and Hungary. It is a doughnut-style thing that is roasted over coals, but some bright spark had the idea of filling it with cream, ice cream and other goodies.

This is excellent but obscenely overpriced. It will cost you the equivalent of around $15 for a small cone. But it is good.

Czech Beer

Czech beer (České pivo) is the overall winner, it was high on my list before we came and has now been elevated to even loftier levels. Apart from some of the the weird microbrewery offerings, there is not one Czech beer that I tried that was not incredibly good. A big thanks to Tasteatlas.com for some of the content.

České pivo is a term that refers to a variety of local beers with a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) mark. The mark is used by fourteen breweries making more than 80 brands, which is about 65% of the total domestic market.

Pilsner is a beer style that originated in Pilsen (Plzeň), in western Bohemia. It was first brewed in 1842 because the citizens of Pilsen grew unhappy with the quality of the beer so decided to build Bürger Brauerei (Citizens’ Brewery), which would later become Pilsner Urquell.

As with most nations, the beer is produced regionally and some of the major offerings here in Czech Republic Include Chodské pivo (produced in the Chodsko region), Březnický ležák (produced in the Březnice area), Brněnské pivo, also known as Starobrněnské pivo, is produced in the Brno district.

The most important thing about Czech beer, beyond the excellent taste and flavour, is the price. In many of the bars and pubs around Prague, you can get a 500ml glass of your choice of beers for 49 Czech crowns ($3.30). If things get really extravagant and touristy overpriced you will still get change from $5.

The Deep South

Having prised ourselves off the houseboat we continued our journey south to Thiruvananthapuram (also known as Trivendrum). We checked into the best ranked home stay on trip advisor. It was great…we arrived in the heat of the day, hot, sweaty and a little dehydrated. Were met by the owner who took us through our room and then we settled with the other guests…in the sitting room, in the breeze, under the fans with a cool beverage. We felt very colonial. The gang staying there was lovely and we chatted, shared stories and (headed out with Simon and Ann a Brit couple riding bicycles around India) shared meals.

We headed off the next morning to the zoo which was surprisingly much better than I imagined. They were largely in open pens and in good condition. The exception to this was the big cats that were jammed into cages with concrete floors. It seemed as though there was a fair bit of construction going on so hopefully they are working to address the cage situation…one open style pen was finished and housed the lions. The up side to this was that we arrived at feeding time so got to experience lions, tigers and cheetahs crunching fresh chicken carcasses. The sounds made as their powerful jaws splintered the bones of the chickens was something to behold. the other standout to this was the exceptional hedge art that was on display at the entrance.

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As per previous posts…it is hot here. We arrived at the zoo at 9am and hung around until about 11 and wandered out. Now the zoo was a leisurely stroll, largely in the shade and with a light breeze. By the time I had walked out there was not one dry section left on my shirt. I had a moist bandana to cool me off but in the shade and the breeze I still managed to sweat my way through a shirt in under 2 hours. So much so I stopped on the side of the road, bought a new shirt, stripped off and changed while a bunch of Indians stared at my Canberra tan.

The next journey that we had was the hunt for the Manjadikuru seeds. Now my family know these well as they are the seed pods with the carved elephants in them. For the rest of you the Manjadikuru seed is hollowed out and filled with small carved bone in the shape of elephants. The seed itself is about the size of a pea…it has a carved elephant shaped cap and inside is a number of elephants. The number and quality of elephants depends entirely upon when you bought the seed. If it was bought in the last few years there are 4 elephants of poor quality, a few years before that you could get 12 of better quality within a single seed. I grew up with one purchased by my grandparents that had 100 carved elephants of excellent quality within (I believe my mother still has this in a jewellery box somewhere). Due to generations of busted eyes these are no longer available as the carvers have been banned from doing such fine work.


The next stop was to Kanyakumari which is the southernmost tip of India. As you stand on the point you look out over the Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue which dominate the southern tip however the key thing is the intersection of the three water bodies. The Bay of Bengal to the east, laccadive sea to the south and the Arabian Sea to the west.

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The hotel that we stayed at was perfectly located, although a little bizarre. The urinal cakes in the shower drain and the cartoon mural on the bathroom door (of Japanese anime characters) were a touch odd. That evening we headed to the rooftop to watch the sun set over the Arabian Sea…the next morning we were on the same rooftop to watch it rise over the Bay of Bengal. This is a pretty nice concept any way you look at it.


For the facebookers amongst you this has been seen. For the others this cute little fella was what turned up when I ordered a Kebab from a Kanyakumari restaurant. The image does not do it justice so I will break it down for you. The base is a mix of capsicum, cabbage, pineapple carrot, a lemon wedge, onion, cucumber and tomato. Our little friend is a curried chicken kebab (off the stick) covered in an unsweetened meringue (fluffy texture) underneath a tube of spun sugar. The eyes were grapes. This was wrong on every level.