The last day of September feels like summer in Prague. At this point, I have two days left on my trip and it's judgment time. This is always when I feel the pressure to make the most of my time in a new place. Today unfolds in three parts: morning at the Mucha Museum, afternoon at a wine festival on the Vltava River and a visit to Vyšehrad, and evening with Italian food for dinner and a film. Truth be told, the only part I plan is the museum. My hosts on this solo-ish trip—Pierluigi and Monika—take care of the rest, and their help is a relief.
Morning with Mucha
One of the things I like most about traveling is when I encounter something new that makes me want to learn more. That's how I feel about the artist Alfons Mucha (1860-1939), whose work I first "discovered" in Prague's Castle Quarter, where I found myself admiring his stained glass windows at St. Vitus Cathedral. The Mucha Museum is small yet the range of art on display is vast. There are drawings, oil paintings, watercolors, decorative objects, sketches of jewelry and oil paintings, ads, books, studies of the cathedral windows, and Art Nouveau promotional posters designed for the Parisian theater actress Sarah Bernhardt. She so loved the snake bracelet drawn for her Médée poster (1898) that she commissioned a replica.
Afternoon Wine and Walk
After the museum, I meet Pierluigi and Monika and we go to a wine festival on the Vltava River. More friends join us. We toast our afternoon together with glasses of Burcak, a sweet white wine low in alcohol that is popular in the Czech Republic. Roasting meat and the scent of smoky charcoal fills the air, as does the music blasting from the chilli fest on the other side of the river.
Later, we walk up several flights of steps to the nearby Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul. The church is part of Vyšehrad, a historic fort high on a hill that dates to the 10th century. Also part of this area are a park and a cemetery, where many famous Czechs are buried, including Mucha.
When we arrive, one of the church's front doors is open, but the next door, in the vestibule, is locked. The climb is still worth it. The church's facade features doors set in arches. Mosaics nestle in the arches. Pink and blue diamonds pattern the doors.
Cuvée wine is also made in Vyšehrad. In 2002-2006, utility structures on the hill were updated and grapevines were tied to locust sticks and planted in the ground. Near the vineyard is a good spot to watch the sunset.
Buona Sera e Buon Appetito
Back at home, after our day out and about, Pierluigi makes us pasta with the soft, spicy Calabrian salumi called nduja. We watch the Italian film Perfetti Sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers) about a group of friends who gather for a dinner party and dare each other to share the phone calls and text messages received on their cell phones. One message leads to another and secrets are exposed.
What better way to cap a day of Czech culture, wine, and sunshine than with an Italian finish? Here's the pasta recipe for you.
Strozzapreti with Nduja
- Onions, finely chopped
- San Marzano canned peeled tomatoes (for a chunkier sauce) or tomato puree (for a smoother sauce)
- Olive oil
- Strozzapreti, a braided Calabrian pasta
NOTE: Measurements are purposely omitted for this recipe. Have fun with experimenting and finding the right balance for your taste buds.
- Heat oil in a large pan.
- Sauté the onions until they caramelize.
- Crumble the sausage over the onions and let it melt in the pan.
- Pour the tomatoes into the pan and simmer.
- Meanwhile, prepare the pasta. Boil water in a pot on the stove. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
- Strain the pasta, toss it in the sauce, and serve.