Travels: Prague vs. Qikiqtarjuaq

In about three hours from now, my wife will be winging her way south to Ottawa to make a connecting flight that will eventually see her arrive in Prague for ten days. I, on the other hand, get the weekend at home but will then be travelling north on yet another Court circuit to Qikiqtarjuaq early on Monday morning.

Oh, the picture, by the way, is a view from Qikiqtarjuaq *not* Prague, in case you were wondering…

Each year, my wife travels on business to Vancouver (a place I love) and also to two exotic overseas destinations to boot. People always ask me what she does on these business trips and I am ashamed to admit that I’m not totally clear on the whole thing myself… it has something to do with a Committee on Internet protocols and assigning domain names (or so she tells me), but I am actually leaning towards the theory that she is, in reality, an international assassin.

Anyway, in the last few years, to name a few places, she has visited Delhi, Cairo, Singapore and, now, Prague in the Czech Republic. I have repeatedly told her how lucky she is and she has just responded by saying ‘Well… you get to travel too, don’t you?’

True… but when I think of her sipping a Pilsner whilst enjoying the beautiful architecture of an old-world city I can’t help but feel a little envious. The barren emptiness of a remote Arctic island may have its own beauty, but I also face the very real prospect of having to share a tiny hotel room with a 300lb construction worker who snores like or a chainsaw or (even worse) ‘just wants to cuddle’… Somehow, the comparison seems a bit uneven, it seems to me.

Well, moaning aside, I come to the point of this post, which is to ask my readers for a little help:

On each trip my wife takes, I usually ask her to try out some delicacy native to her destination and then report back to me (ideally with pictures). I also often get her to try and buy some foodstuff or other that is unavailable here in Canada. For this trip, however, I am at a loss, as I know almost nothing about Czech cuisine…

Can any of my well-travelled readers suggest some special Czech foods that my wife should try and enjoy whilst she is in Prague and (even better) let us know about any particular native delicacies that might survive the trip back to Canada? Please let me know of anything you can think of over the next few days so that I can ‘skype’ the suggestions to her directly.

Oh, finally… the Qikiqtarjuaq picture is an old one taken just a few hundred yards away from the local hotel. I will take some more current pictures on my upcoming trip so I can properly introduce the place to you all once I return…

39 thoughts on “Travels: Prague vs. Qikiqtarjuaq”

    1. I took another shot at the same time focusing on a kamotik (sled) against the mountain backdrop… I didn’t see until afterward that the same dog was off to the side lifting his leg against a rock.

  1. For four years, I had the privilege of being the grad student assistant for an Honors program that took an annual trip to Prague. It was great for me. I got paid, I got free airfare and expenses paid (Spring Break in a 4 star hotel on the university!). I did have to run after 30 students for a week, but as they were Honors students, I only had to fish one naked co-ed out of a bathtub once in four years (and I actually made my colleague do that).

    I won’t claim that I know everything about Prague (I don’t), but after directing students around the city for four years, I can get around pretty well, know where to get away and eat good Czech food fast and far away from the kids, and have somewhat functional Czech (can order food, ask someone to gesture where something is).

    It is a little off the beaten path, but well worth the trip to Pivarsky Dum (which roughly translates to House of Beer). The website is a little misleading in that they don’t tell you that they stock a huge variety of Czech microbrews that never, ever see the light outside of the Czech Republic. Production is too small, too good for the Czechs to not drink it all. Since the beer bottles are small (there are some primo producers that bottle them with sturdy gaskets), I have brought many a microbrew home with no problems at all.

    http://www.gastroinfo.cz/pivodum/index.php?content=uvod&lang=eng

    Also, there is a crap supermarket underground the Plaza opposite the National House (Obecni Dum). It’s not terrific, but you will be able to find this hilarious sausage brand:

    http://en.kosteleckeuzeniny.cz/premium.html

    A can of sausages for the label alone is worth it!

    And for something a little cool and “hidden,” the YMCA in the Old Town has one of the few remaining paternoster elevators in the world. These twin elevators are so rare because they are kind of scary, but they are great to take a picture of:

    http://www.radio.cz/en/section/special/paternosters-lift-czech-bodies-and-spirits

    And I also have two favorite little places:

    The cafe on the top of the House of the Black Madonna in the Old Town:

    http://www.radio.cz/en/section/spotlight/the-house-of-the-black-madonna-home-of-the-only-surviving-cubist-cafe-in-the-world

    The Grand Café Orient is a beautiful, calm oasis in the middle of the city to have some palacinky (stuffed crêpes) and a glass of wine on the terrace. It’s also one of only remaining example of Cubist architecture left in the world.

    And a more modern cafe in the New Town:

    Cukrkavalimonada (SugarCoffeeLemonade)

    http://www.cukrkavalimonada.com/en/

    All of Prague’s historic cafés are gorgeous! Sometimes a little overpriced, but very much worth it!

    I hope she has a great time!

    1. Oh, thank you very much! Excellent suggestions. My wife is about twenty minutes from leaving and she has pointed out that she can read my blog (and thus comments) while she is away. She doesn’t actually drink very often but she is going to relax her rule and sample some of the excellent beers over there. I am hoping she will pick me up a can of that sausage (hint hint, dear!)

    2. Oh … I am also intrigued by this whole notion of fishing naked co-eds out of the bathtub. It’s a hobby I’d very much like to pursue at home… Is there anywhere special my wife should look for these in Prague? … she is taking two pretty big suitcases!

      1. Haha! I doubt your wife would want to bring one of those home!

        But any Irish bar in the Old Town is a good place to find an American co-ed.

        I almost forgot: there is the flagship branch of Botanicus in the Old Town, right behind the Tyn Church.

        http://www.botanicus.cz/en/shops/czech-republic

        They sell all organic products harvested from their own farms. Very old, very Czech preparations. Bath and body, but also a lot of dried herbs and preserved foods.

        If it fits in the schedule, jazz is wonderful in Prague. Very laid-back. No attitude and perfect for relaxing with a cocktail. The most famous bar is the Reduta.

        http://www.redutajazzclub.cz/

        Bill Clinton went there!

      2. Yeah.. I’m thinking the coed plan might be a hard sell…

        All this info is terrific… the wife has left now but online following your comments. She already had sausage in mind…. she said she kept thinking of the line from the Sopranos when this character says ‘In the Czech Republic we too have sausages’ just before Christopher Moltisanti shoots him.

      3. Then she is going to love those sausage stands. She can get a giant, fresh, juicy, tasty sausage (that sounds racier than it actually is …) for less than a dollar. Better after a beer!

      4. That’s okay… the wife is a little racy anyway 🙂 I was tempted to add ‘and better after a beer’ too, but she will be reading this 🙂

  2. And sausages. She should eat a lot of sausages! There are these cheesy 24-hr stands all over Wenceslas Square. They look sketchy, but they are actually cheap and awesome!

    There is also a restaurant in the basement of the Obecni Dum, right next to the American Bar. It’s a little pricey by Czech standards, but the room is beautiful and full of Art Nouveau tile work. Very rare. There is this beef tenderloin dish smothered in cream sauce with berry jam. And fat dumplings to sop it all up. Czech dumplings are not like Asian dumplings. More like boiled logs of bread, but done well, they are quite nice!

  3. Oh, and before I forget, one more practical piece of advice that manages to trip up students and staff every year:

    Leaving Prague airport, a lot a travelers are tempted by the the shops at the airport because they happen to sell a nice selection of Moravian wines, plum brandy (slivovice), and Czech herbal liquors (Becherovka). Problem? Yes, because unlike just about any other airport in Europe, you go through security right before you board the flight. There is no duty-free sealed bag system, so if you were tempted by the alcoholic selections, they make you either throw them away or go back for a refund, which will come in the form of cash and change. No credit card refunds.

    So by your slivovice and Becherovka on the flight instead! Cheaper too.

  4. Wow! What a lot of great info – makes me want to go to Prague, too! I was going to mention that your wife should eat sausages and beer, but Bacon’s got that covered. They also make delicious soups, and if she can find a thick soup made with local mushrooms, she should go for it. My favorite is the dessert dumplings (also popular in neighboring countries). The apricot dumplings are quite fabulous, and a little bit unusual if you’ve never tried them. I hope your wife has a great time and takes lots of photos for your blog!

    1. Speaking of mushrooms, a good little souvenir is one of these Czech mushroom knives:

      http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/four-seconds-of-fame-for-czech-knife-in-bond-movie

      All Czech schoolkids have one since mushroom hunting is some kind of national obsession. It’s strange to think of Czech schoolchildren and armed and ready to forage!

      Down the street from the YMCA, moving away from the Old Town, there is a super Soviet Era department store that should have them. It’s like going back in time! Totally fun if you want to know what shopping in the Eastern Bloc was like before Louis Vuitton. It’s called Bila Labut, or White Swan. Souvenirs like Soviet-era style toothpaste!

  5. In context: My partner is German-Canadian and raised by a mother who was formally trained in Germany on culinary skills at a college before WW II. So he could make a comparison between southern German cuisine (which has strong French influences on delicate baking styles) and Czech cuisine.

    I believe you read my blog post on comparsions among German, Chinese and Czech dumplings. 🙂 One thing we regret not getting and because we still had 10 more days ahead of vacationing on our bikes in Denmark: was to buy Czech wine. Now THAT is really difficult to get at any liquor store in Canada.

    I would suggest red wines from the Moravian wine region of that country. So make sure she goes to a large wine store that promotes and sells Czech wine. Taste it first if she can.

  6. I would like to add that my partner does come from the famed wine growing region of Germany near the Rhine River. 30 kms. west of the French border, near Strasbourg, France. One of his cousins still runs a hotel, gourmet restaurant that’s been in his family since the 1700’s. So again, he has some pedestrian knowledge of wines. (And coming from B.C. and formerly Ontario, both with wine regions, we do appreciate good wines.)

    1. I would love for my wife to bring some wine back but that is pretty impossible. She will be reading these comments though so I hope she gets to taste some…

  7. First I love your picture of the Husky, can’t wait to see more of your pictures on Vancouver. Like others I do not know much about Czech food, but I have enjoyed the posts and may see if I can find some recipes, sounds pretty good. Save travels for both you and your wife. Patty

  8. It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Vancouver actually… I am dying to go again but not sure when it will be. BTW… although the dogs native to this part of the world are probably related to huskies somewhere in their family tree, they are actually a different breed. I just know them as Inuit dogs (Inuit being the proper name for the indigenous folk here who are mostly known elsewhere as Eskimos). There is a word for dog in Inuktitut but I can’t recall it at the moment… I think it is ‘kimmiq’.

  9. From “the wife”: You know…. #1 – I actually have a name and its Darlene! #2 – STOP giving my husband ideas as to liquids that are HEAVY that I have to haul back to Canada!!! LOLOLOL; #3 – thank you ALL so much for the GREAT ideas. Sausages – will do; Czeck wines – will do; Czech beer with gaskets – will do; visit paternosters – really, really WANT to do!!! (and yes, I’m taking lots of pictures!)

    Thanks again for all of the excellent tips and suggestions! 🙂

  10. Hi, John!

    I’m coming up for the Qikiqtarjuaq/Clyde River circuit, as well. It’ll be good to see you.

    I’ve never stayed in the Clyde hotel. Can you fill me in on what horrors or delights I’m in for? Is it a ‘real’ hotel, or another summer camp where we have to roomie up, one bathroom at the end of the hall, and I have to wear flip-flops in the shower to avoid that ugly black/brown gunk growing on the floor? You know … one of ‘those’ trips?

  11. Hey Dawna … It is small so some of us may have to share but the rooms have bathrooms in them. The food varies, it seems like they have a new manager every time I stay. I’ve had crappy Beans and Wieners for the full lunch time per diem price of $25 or so… but last time I was there I was there a whole week for a trial and the new manager was really good and the food better than usual. One time, Malcolm K. watched one of the cooks drop whole eggs onto the grill and pick out the broken shells as she cooked them… he went in and took over 🙂

    Last circuit… Lana and I were booked into the hotel but the rest of the Court party was at the new cultural school. We got in late from Qikiqtarjuaq at about 9pm and the RCMP took us to the hotel… naturally, the staff had already left and if there were any guests in the hotel they wouldn’t come and open the door. Luckily, the officer hadn’t taken off and he took us back to the school…. it is a terrific place to stay. Brand new and awesome rooms (for one only) …

    See you on Monday!

    1. Thanks for the info. And you don’t remember, but I was on the circuit you mentioned when the court party stayed at the Cultural Centre and heard you two come in as we were helping the staff make up the extra beds for you homeless arrivals. I was so disappointed to hear that they don’t take guests anymore. It was a great facility … a little gem literally in the middle of nowhere. See you soon. Oh … and dibs on the weiners and beans (unless, of course, you happen to have a great recipe for ‘eggshell’ soup)!

  12. I would highly recommend Czechoslovakian paprika if she can find it. I once had a truly amazing dish at a restaurant in St Petersburg, Russia, which was Potato Dumplings Cooked In A Sweet Smoked Czechoslovakian Paprika Infused Vegetable Stew. Most paprika bought in Czechoslovakia is, I believe, from Hungry which is also very, very good indeed. Just make sure the use by date or when packed is definitely under a year old as it does deteriorate very, very quickly. I would highly recommend the ‘sweet’ and also the ‘smoked’. If she can buy some newly packed sweet smoked then you are in for some fantastic cooking…

  13. Oh this is wonderful! I’m heading to Prague this fall with a friend and this is so timely! Also, love the photos from the north – I went to Iqaluit in April 2010 to visit friends who live there and I just fell in love with it. I would move in a second but was always worried about food. Your blog has totally inspired me… you never know, we may meet in the North one day!

    1. I’m looking forward to hearing all about Prague!

      As for Iqaluit… even a brief stay for a year or so would be an experience you’d never forget, that’s for sure!

Comments, thoughts or suggestions most welcome...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s