Friday, June 29, 2012

Smoked beef tongue eaten with bread fried in bacon fat

The UNESCO World Heritage town of Olomouc
Two nights ago, we arrived at about 730 PM in the town of Olomouc in the Czech Republic, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's in the region of Moravia and it's so much closer to the Polish border than to Prague itself: Poland is about an hour's drive away while Prague is about 3.5 hours away from Olomouc.

It had been a relaxing day that began with a leisurely breakfast in the town of Brno, Czech's second largest city and a veritable treasure trove of Bauhaus architecture, followed by a walkabout around the town.

I didn't plan on liking Brno, especially after the precious picture-pretty towns we visited like Kutna Hora, Cesky Krumlov and Ceske Budejovice; but in the end I found Brno beautiful and a center of surprisingly cool new Czech.

GROUND CENTRAL FOR HIP & COOL



In Brno, we stayed in a very hip design hotel right on the town square that had previously been a bank, and then for dinner we'd tried out the city's other cool hotel, the Hotel Barcelo, where we'd had one of our best meals on this trip in the hotel's red restaurant lined with interesting lamps and mirrors.

The restaurant of our hotel in Brno


A typical Czech cold buffet breakfast at a luxury hotel
Even breakfast in Brno was cool. Our hotel's restaurant was modern and casual in a very Sydney sort of way: edgy, but fun and friendly. There was a nice buffet of cold foods including the usual Czech breakfast fare of assorted cheeses and cold cuts, fruits and yoghurt. Then we had a choice of additional hot food from an a la carte menu, and I chose scrambled eggs with salmon, and asked that it be topped with fresh mozzarella.

The best scrambled eggs with smoked salmon
that I've ever tasted -- topped with fresh mozzarella cheese

Look at what arrived. Isn't it a work of art? I was just wondering how they got those salmon slices so nicely done up around the scrambled eggs.

CLASSICAL DESIGN + MODERN ART

There was a beach in the town square...

Walking around Brno, as well, I was struck by the lovely juxtaposition of modern art, quirky art, classic architecture, modern architecture and even Communist-era buildings. How could all these co-exist together and still have a result that was pleasingly and intriguingly pretty? Brno is not just a pretty place but one with a depth that makes you want to know more about it.

Modern art in Brno


A FOUR-HOUR LUNCH

And then it was on to a very leisurely lunch in the restaurant Octarna in the city of Kromeriz, about an hour's drive away from Brno on the road to Olomouc. Like everywhere else in this part of the Czech Republic, it's charming and picturesque.

The charming Octarna inn where we had lunch


The Octarna is a four-star inn that had a restaurant (and WiFi!) and here we ordered a whole lot of food and sat eating for about four hours. Or at least it felt that long, because when we finally stood up from the table, it was 530 PM and we had about 30 minutes to get to the our next destination: the lovely classical French gardens of Kromeriz, that are the main reason for the town's UNESCO World Heritage status.

The beautiful gardens of Kromeriz
WHAT TIME IS IT??

Summer in Europe can be quite confusing. The sun doesn't set until 9 PM in many places -- and in fact, it hardly sets at all, the more North you go -- so the sunlight at 530 PM can seem like 2 PM. It never helped our internal clocks either that we were always eating so late and so long. And for that lunch in Ocarna, when we finally finished, we had no idea that it was already so late.

Over our four-hour lunch, we'd ordered so many local specialties just so we could sample everything: assorted Czech cheeses, boiled beef soup, cold beef tongue with horse radish, roast duck with red cabbage, and then Czech-style apple strudel for dessert. Over the past few days, I thought I'd already sampled everything possible, but apparently that wasn't the case. The smoked beef tongue and boiled beef soup were certainly new to me.

Assorted local Czech cheeses with raw vegetables and olives

Boiled beef soup

Apple strudel for dessert.
I didn't have any but S said it was very good.

At this lunch place, my friend S said she'd had the best meal yet so far: it was cold beef tongue with horseradish, which we ate with bread fried in bacon fat. Boy, was that so bad for us and yet so good for us.

Beef tongue with bread fried in bacon fat. Yum.

PERFECT MESSAGING TIME

As we were driving to Olomouc finally, my Blackberry pings again and it's my friend J, sending me a pretty confident message from some airport lounge where he was stuck for a couple of hours on the way home to Manila: "You can BBM and email me all you want from now as I have hours and hours of time here."

I was so tempted to reply: "What makes you think I'd actually want to do that?"

We always talk like this so it's just in good fun. But it just so happened I was stuck in a van going down a highway, so it was pretty good BBM time for me as well. So instead I replied: "You're in luck. I just got back into the van for the long drive to Olomouc."

We talked for a while about the usual things. And then because he was stuck in an airport lounge for so long, I suggested that he finally write a blog entry instead. He'd been threatening to do a blog entry with a working title called "J tells his side of the story" for a couple of days now, so I told him to just go ahead and write a blog entry while he was killing time in an airport lounge. He told me: "I'll write one as long as you won't edit it."

A MASTERPIECE IN 20 MINUTES

I didn't say anything in reply then, but to my surprise he emailed me his first guest blog entry in something like 20 minutes. He must've been working very fast in that airport lounge. By then I was already on my computer in my hotel room and when I next checked my email, there was his "masterpiece" in my In Box. It was so funny that I burst out laughing when I read it.



I wish I could share it with you all as he really is a witty writer with a dry sense of humor -- whether it's texting or writing a blog entry. (Now he should work on incorporating these very attractive traits into his real personality...) But I realized that I just can't print what he wrote as is. Not until he revises a couple of things in it anyway...

And just now, from Manila to Prague, he's sent me a message threatening to revise our prospective blog entry and actually make it worse than it already is. I'm waiting with bated breath, and I'm almost afraid to check my email when I wake up tomorrow morning here in Prague.

In the meantime, good night from the Czech Republic. We're off to have dinner at one of Prague's best restaurants -- the same restaurant Hillary Clinton had dinner at when she was last here -- and then I'm going to watch a very special performance in the dark.



And tomorrow, for our last evening in the Czech Republic, a beautiful private opera performance has been prepared for us to be followed by dinner at the residence of the Philippine ambassador. A wonderful way to end our stay in a country and a city that have captured my heart.

Just another day in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




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