Saying goodbye to a place is hard enough when you've spent a week or two uncovering its many pleasures: the ambiance, the art and the architecture, the food. Leaving a place is worse when you also have to say goodbye to people you care about and who live far away from you. My last full day in Prague is a Sunday and in 24 hours I will say goodbye to my cousin Pierluigi and his girlfriend Monika, my gracious hosts. Until then, there are more things to see and do, including Prague Botanical Garden.
In the garden, there are hammocks to rest in and benches to sit on in the shade of trees. There's outdoor art that is part of the city-wide Sculpture Line series, such as "Rounded" by Jan Dostal. I walked through the symmetry of a Japanese garden. I saw swirls of pumpkins and gourds arranged on grass and dahlias that look like mini fireworks.
After the garden, I ate lunch made in the Czech tradition by Monika: roasted chicken, steamed potatoes, cucumber salad, and apple strudel. She had no idea in advance that cucumber salad is one of my favorite things. It's something my grandmother, who was born in Italy, makes for me. She slices the cucumbers into rounds and marinates them in oil, vinegar, minced garlic, and oregano. Monika's cucumber salad is different but equally good. She shreds the cucumbers on a grater and mixes them with lots of white vinegar, some water, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. This hearty meal is just what I need to make it to my next stop: the Petřín Hill, home to Prague's knockoff of the Eiffel Tower.
The Petrin Lookout Tower was built for the 1891 world's fair in Prague, known as the Jubilee Exhibition. Today, it's one of the city's main attractions. Some fast facts about the tower via PragueExperience.com are:
The tower is 60 meters tall and the hill that it stands on is 318 meters tall.
From the base of the tower to the top, there are 299 steps, and you can climb to the top.
At the top of the tower on a clear day, you'll see Snezka, the Czech Republic's highest peak 150 kilometers away.
You can reach Petrin Lookout Tower by cable car or foot. Next to the tower is an indoor maze of funhouse mirrors. Whether you climb the tower or stay on the hill, there are views to enjoy. Make sure to have your photo taken with a panorama of Prague.
Pierluigi was my tour guide for the day and suggested we have a snack at Gelateria and Caffé Amato. The shop is owned by his friend, who trained in the art of making gelato in Perugia, Italy. I had the salty caramel gelato. Of course, there should be an Italian flourish to my day, though dinner was rightfully Czech cuisine: Monika's pumpkin soup. Her simple recipe is perfect for Thanksgiving. Roast the pumpkin, puree it, stir in salt and pepper, and serve with creme fraiche and bread.
My solo-ish trip to Prague ends here, but it turns out saying goodbye to Pierluigi and Monika is less bittersweet and more like an exuberant arrivederci, the Italian word used for farewell with the promise of seeing you again soon. Indeed, my hosts arrived in New York City in mid-November and we're spending time together again. I'll write more about that later. In the meantime, in case you missed any of my Prague blog posts, here they are: