Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Bergamo – time to say goodbye

Time to say goodbye, Paesi che non ho mai, veduto e vissuto con te, Adesso si, il vivro, con te partiro, su navi per mari che, io lo so, no, no, non esistono piu, it’s time to say goodbye. – Andrea Boccelli

Una ciocolatta di caldo densa at Balzer in Bergamo

Ciao Bergamo e grazie mille. Molamia, miei amici, stay strong my friends.

It’s time to say goodbye, although on my terms and not Signore Johnson’s.

I have made it my mission to come to Bergamo since the start of the outbreak to find out why the pandemic came here first.

What it was like for the Bergamoschi to live through.

And something a little stronger

And how they are living today and how they see tomorrow.

Peace to Bergamo

The overriding feeling I have found is one of peace (except for the raucous ragazzi e ragazze outside my window at midnight although this is how the young should be.)

I spend my last afternoon reading the stories on the picture boards in the piazza they are using as a testing centre.

And, of course, nothing tells a story quite like a picture, or a photograph.

Mars, Venus and love in Accademia Carrera

I wish mia moglie, the long insufferable (sorry, suffering) Mrs M was here to put her award-winning photo skills to work.

A work of art

I have come too from the Academia Carrera where I have been enjoying Titian, Canaletto and trying out Lotto (no, not the lottery, but the artist.

I have just enough time to treat myself to my Italian guilt pleasure, una ciocolatta di calda densa, a hot chocolate that wants to be a dessert.

Una fotographia di Bergamo in Covid

At a Bergamo institution Balzer cafe. Near my 4* Hotel Excelsior San Marco.

And here’s to beer

And then a Grumge IPA at Gate 11 in the airport.

I plan to have molti.

I am going back to a madhouse. And Britain is not much better.

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Bergamo – alta e bassa

What’s Italian for phew’ I’ve been walked off my piedi today in Bergamo Citt’alta e Citta Bassa (City High and City Low).

And phew too… Johnson, Schnapps and Co. are too late to quarantine me on my return. I was always flying back tomorrow evening anyway, so Sunday is troppo tardi, idioti!

David and Goliath: The Basilica

That’s if I don’t decide to quarantine myself anyway with the Bergamoschi (the people that is, not the local sheepdogs who share their name. Although…!)

La Prima Citta

Bergamo, as we all know by now, is where Covid-19 entered Europe.

To the greater glory of God

But they have taken the worst it can offer and are coming out the other side, and will prevail.

Or as they say here ‘Molamia’ (stay strong).

Chin-Chin

The Bergamoschi have done just that since Covid visited in March and shut the town off from the rest of Lombardy, Italy, and the world for four months.

To the greater glory of beer: With Matteo

But not from each other… or not in the ways that matter.

Matteo, my tour guide volunteered to help out the old and infirm.

Restaurateur Niccolo the same with his original ice cream and food.

Stay strong: The Bergamo credo

And model citizen Emmanuele, who lives in a palazzo on the hill too, as a volunteer.

All are heroes… and all Bergamoschi are an example to us all

La Storia

Perhaps it is in the blood. It is certainly in their history.

I am standing in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Ciitt’alta.

The Bergamo bear: With Matteo and Atalanta Bear

Where the Bergamoschi built a new church after they were delivered from the plague in the 12th century.

And filled it with frescoes, magnificent paintings and special picture boards of other scenes where humanity prevailed over adversity.

Noah anyone?

Pasta Basta

Ma mi scusi. I have just eaten my own weight in food and drunk today, a small lago di vino and must now repair to my bed in the Hotel Excelsior San Marco.

I scream for ice cream: With Niccolo

A Domani.

And if you want to slip on the Italian Boot to follow in my footsteps, here’s my Via Francigena, into Rome

While as the Veneto region is just over the horizon to the east, here’s the City of Frescoes Padova.

INCONTRA A VOI NELLA VIA

 

America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Smashing Trumpkins

No, I didn’t invent them, Smashing Trumpkins, although I wish I had.

I don’t know either which President was first honoured by having his face carved into a pumpkin.

But I do know the first tome I saw one… the Obama pumpkin.

Yes we pecan! www.twitter.com

When I took my family over to New York for the first time.

Every four years, of course, Halloween shares its season with politics, and the Race for the White House.

And carving the candidates into the face of a pumpkin has become a bit of a tradition.

We saw our Obama pumpkins on the doorsteps in Staten Island, the forgotten borough of old New York.

The Free Ferry. www.siferry.com

Staten Island is best known, of course, for its free ferry which carries 25 million passengers a year.

On the 5.2 mile 25-minute run between the St George Terminal and the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.

I wouldn’t for a minute put you off the wonderful boat trips around the Statue of Liberty. And in particular The Beast speedboat.

It’s just that you can see Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, Brooklyn Heights and Lower Manhattan.

The historic borough of Staten Island

Staten Island has a museum, a zoo and Historic Richmond Town.

Of course, The Greatest Living New Yorker, Donald Trump, knows the Ferry from seeing it from his chopper.

I diverse from pumpkins and the recipe here for a Trumpkin pie I gleaned from the net.

But let me leave you here with a thought, The orange-faced pumpkin is made for the 45th President of the USA.

America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Harry, Meghan, Sideways and Santa Barbara

When Harry and Meghan had to find a bolthole out of Britain then Santa Barbara hoved into view.

And if you’ve been hanging on the Sussexes’ every word these past months then it no doubt piqued your curiosity for the American Riviera.

Preachy flavourings: Meghan www.meghansmirror.com

Pique no more.

We all know Meghan likes her vino and this is no doubt another reason why she has chosen Santa Barbara, Sideways country.

A Sideways glance

The smell of success: Miles and Jack. https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/

Sideways: The greatest film about grapes ever – the towering Sideways.

Santa Barbara is the backdrop for Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack’s (Thomas Haden Church) Bachelor’s Party road trip.

Our friends in Santa Barbara have helpfully put together an itinerary which follows in the footsteps of the odd couple.

You’ll start your day with breakfast at Solvang Restaurant.

Picnic time for the fab four

Where Sideways nuts will tell you that it was here that Jack insisted Miles’ ‘gloominess not thwart his attempts to get lucky before the wedding.’

Try the Aebleskiver, a waffle-like breakfast ball filled with apple slices.

Wine O’clock rolls around soon on a Sideways tour.

See if you get the same tasting notes as Miles from the Vin Gris at the Sanford Winery

‘Citrus, strawberry, the faintest soupcon of asparagus and just a flutter of edam cheese.’

Our kind of road trip: Miles and Jack on the road. https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/

Next up Kalyra Winery is where we first meet vivacious Aussie wine pourer Stephanie whom Jack falls for.

Now I’ll need to dig out the film again to see Ostrich Land which you’ll also visit.

While our two heroes lunched at Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant with Stephanie and Maya. You too can choose from the Sideways menu.

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard is where a pent-up Miles guzzles from the slop bucket after the pourer refuses to give him a full glass..m

We’d opt for a glass of Pinot Noir.

Your table, sir?

Firestone Winery offers tours and a guide, and it is from here that our fab four sneak out of a lecture tour for a romantic walk through the Barrel Room.

The Hitching Post II is, of course, where Maya waits tables and their Santa Maria Style barbecue is to be recommended.

The definitive wine road trip tour… And, of course it’s your call on the Merlot!

Two Glasses In

Wine-tasting for our times

Vino California: And a toast to the Golden State.

Two Glasses In is a nine-episode podcast and video series that celebrates SB’s grapes over two glasses.

We prefer two bottles! And from Roberson’s too.

Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, Pilgrimage, UK

Happy Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah, Happy Jewish New Year, and because we want to see off this bloody year, and pray to Yahweh for a better new year, here is when and where all our cultures see out the old and bring in the new.

Hello, Chinas

Pandamonium

The Chinese New Year: And sitting down for our annual Chinese New Year celebration with Wendy Wu Tours in Dublin in January at Chai Yo we gave sympathy and Chinese tea (and every food known to man that you can eat with chopsticks) for the plight of the poor people of Wuhan.

Little did we know, of course, that we would be suffering too within weeks. The Year of the Rat should have been a warning.

And what are you all having?

Next year when it will be celebrated in February will be the Year of the Ox and he is much more our reliable carrier of all our human burdens.

And rest assured I’ll be back in Chai Yo next year with Wendy’s friends, the Two Johns, before hopefully we follow The Son and Heir out to Wuhan’s neighbour Chongqing.

Iran the bells

Smiles from Iran. http://www.itto.org

Nowruz (Iranian New Year): And there is a diary date in my calendar which I can’t bring myself to delete – my trip to Iran which was deferred after the Americans fell out with them again and then this virus came along.

I do hope that when I do get out there it’s in a March when they celebrate Springtime when it coincides with the Northward Equinox.

They trumpet in the day, colour eggs and eat a hearty soup, Ash-e-Reshteh noodle soup.

Sri Lanka is my cup of tea

Sri Lankan New Year: And here we have two Sri Lankan cultures celebrating a date, April 14.

Aluth Avuradda, the Sinhalese New Year, marks the end of the harvest and is one of only two occasions when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka.

You’ll be eating small oil cakes called kavum and plantain dishes.

The Tamils of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka celebrate with new clothes, music, sweets and rice colour kolams (street art).

The Tamil Diaspora too celebrate April 4… so Malaysia, yes, and The Maldives too where one pasty-faced Scotsman once became an honorary member of the staff’s football and cricket teams. Yes, Mr Jim is coming back to Kuramathi.

While if you’re Irish (lucky you) you’ll know about the greatest Sri Lankan-Irishwoman, my old friend Tess De Kretser and her Olcote in Ceylon resort.

Ethiopia will take years off you

Enkutatash, Ethiopia: And this has become a fixture on my calendar in Dublin over recent years thanks to my friends at Ethiopian Airlines.

It, of course, takes years off you, not just the meaty food which you scoop up with your bread, and wine and Ethiopian coffee.

But also because it’s on the Julian Calendar which means that this will take seven years off you.

Scotland, the home of Hogmanay

Scottish Hogmanay: And in the words of the greatest dustman in television soap opera Norman ‘Curly’ Watts who decided the Scots owned New Year.

Well, they do own Hogmanay. And why Hogmanay which is what we call New Year’s Eve.

An early reference to the term is from The Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence as deriving from the Greek word agia mine or ‘holy month’.

More like a hooley though as many libations are taken to keep out the cold.

Which is probably where the tradition of bringing coal, shortbread and whisky with your when you go first-footing, being the first person to cross someone’s threshold (first-footing).

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO WHOEVER YOU ARE AND WHEREVER YOU ARE

 

 

America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Weird Vending Machines

To think they used to only save you from starting a family.

Which is why today Hungry and Thursday turns its attentions to those magic boxes, vending machines.

And a big thanks to my Japanophile friends who have set me off on this latest ramble.

Where’s the larvae?

Something with a sting in it

Canned bees and wasp larvae, Japan: To sip down the coke.

Bees and wasps larvae are harvested from their nests.

And they are cooked in sugar and soy sauce to make the delicacy of Hachinoko… and yes, it’s crumbly.

Stock up on it in Inokashira Park, Tokyo and nibble away on your Three Star Road route.

Start out in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and trace an arcing line through the mountains to Ishikawa Prefecture.

The best bar none

Anyone want a bar?

Gold, Abu Dhabi: As you never know when you’ll put your hand in your pocket and realise that you’re down to your last bar!

The five-star Emirates Palace Hotel installed the first bullion ATM in its lobby.

Bubbles

Champagne, Selfridge’s, London: If you’re having to slum it without your comp champagne which is changed daily with the laundry at Sandals in Barbados.

And you’re in the vicinity of Selfridge’s in London then you won’t be able to get through the day without your bottle of bubbly.

Hair today

It’s all her own

Hair extension, Philadelphia: OK, so it might be too late for me but there was a time when I tried a pony tail.

Although it met with a putdown from my old late pal Gadge who maintained that ponytails should only ever be on ponies.

These tails belong in Phabulous Philadelphia, Freedom City, so that’s all right by me.

The cat’s whiskers

Form an orderly queue

Stray cat and dog feeder, Istanbul: I can’t say I saw these when I visited the Bosphorus.

In fact the kitties are well looked after judging by how they’re pampered in the Grand Bazaar.

But if you do want to spoil the cats and dogs of Istanbul.

Then slot in a plastic bottle into the machine and then pop out come the goodies before poop…

Countries, Deals, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Ryanair’s a homer’s odyssey in Ireland

Ryanair has always retained its Irish quirkinesses on its way to conquering the world as the major low-fares airline.

Its harp, its name after founder Tony Ryan and its home passengers saying rosaries. playing the lottery and clapping on arrival.

Some unpronounceable name below

And they never forget where they came from and want us to visit, offering seven days in Cork, £17.23pp return, Monday, September 28-Monday, October 5.

Five days to Shannon, Sunday, October 11-Friday, October 16. down from £24.23 and five days in Dublin, Sunday, October 11-Friday, October 16. See terms, conditions.

Another great aspect of Ryanlife is introducing you to places you’d never heard of to keep the costs down.

Ergo the sale which offered among others, Lublin 106 miles south-east of Warsaw then I’ll let you know of the next i e.

They were offering €9.99 one-way in your Ryanair September sale. It ended midnight last night, Tuesday, September 15.

More Aer time

This is your captain speaking

And Ireland’s national airline carrier Aer Lingus want to fly us away too… for the price of a night out.

With prices from €29.99 they’ll whisk you away to Athens, Alghero and Alicante.

Now that’s the As I’ll give you a ‘V’ as in Verona and let you run through the other letters.

The offers end variously between September 29 and 30.

Lost in France

Everything you need

I may paint a picture of a Dickensian upbringing but, in truth, my Dear Old Mum did spoil me as the baby of the family.

And I’ll forever be grateful for everything she, and my Dad, did for me, including giving me my wings.

And allowing me to go off on a post-school camping trip to France, at the sane time my aunt stopped my cousin going.

Chic: On the French Riviera

All of which pricked a lifelong interest for Cannes and the French Riviera.

It all feels just now like being a schoolboy all over again as we wait for permission to travel abroad.

I’m still smarting that my Normandy and Monet trip has been deferred but it has merely whetted my appetite for France.

And here’s one resort too look forward to that is pure heaven.

My room (or floor)

Evian Resort in Evian-les-Bains, has the mineral H2O, of course, and the wellness centre with all those lovely spells.

But it also has family fun, sporting activities and camps, and even opera.

Families booking into the 5* Evian Resort (with free stay for under-13s) can also avail of their Le Fabuleux Jardin rooms.

And there is also a flexible 24-hour cancellation policy.

And the view is all mine too

Evian also have a Freedom offer, promising 20% discounts on accommodation from €264 per night to £238 per night for Hotel Royal.

And from €152|£141 at Hotel Ermitage.

And here’s an Ibiza beezer

It’s always sunny

My Dear Old Mum has always been a sun worshiper which is why one year she left my Dad and brothers at home while we went off to Ibiza.

Which is how I grew to love the Balearic Islands.

And you’ll always be outside

7 Pines Kempinski has new 2021 early booking offers, a new Villa experience and a Pershing Yacht Experience package.

The table is set

There is 20% off their 2021 daily rate (starting from €300 per night) as well as a Long Stay Offer with 25% off for stays of eight nights or more.

Oh Mexico

As James Taylor sang to us in the RDS in Dublin ‘it sounds so simple I just got to go, the sun’s so hot I forgot to go home, I guess I’ll have to go now.’

And particularly as my pals at Caribtours/email escapes@caribtours/ are offering a third off seven nights at the Unico 20N 87W Hotel Riviera Maya.

From €2,059pp sharing an Alcoba room on an all-inclusive basis.

Travel 19 December 2020-31 October 2021. From price based on 17 June 2021 departure with British Airways via London Gatwick.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Bergamo unmasked

It was Europe’s COVID-19 Ground Zero when the virus spread to the continent. but Bergamo in Lombardy rallied and is putting on its best, beautiful face again.

And here is an initiative that we are really getting behind… adopting a city through travel booking platform Omio.

In with the bricks: Bergamo

Money is being given to the Bergamo Support Fund based on customer bookings to there between September and December.

A tavola: Italian food is up

The holiday provider are promoting a lifestyle tour created by blogger Federico di Nardo.

The art of the matter

With a visit to Citta Bassa and Citta Alta with alleys, historic squares and shops, restaurants, cafes and stunning views.

Room with a view

While YouTuber and author Nicolo Balini, founder of Human Safari and SiVola, is luring us with treks in the Val Brembana Mountains.

That would like nice in my house

Where you can enjoy overnight stays in lakeside lodges.

For more on Bergamo look at their website.

While we’ll be getting under the skin of the destinations around the world in this Unmasked series.

The Venice Regatta

By bringing you the societies who are opening their doors and their hearts to us.

We kicked it off with Sweden Unmasked and will be unmasking another one real soon.

And tell us, where would you like me to unmask?

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Sweden unmasked

Bork, Bork, Bork… and for those of you under the age of 50, that’s the indecipherable Swedish Chef from the Muppets.

I reckon what he’s actually saying is Told You So, Told You So, Told You So!

It went almost completely unnoticed but the UK put Sweden back on the exempt list this week.

Perhaps because their much derided ‘no lockdown strategy‘ to Coronvarius is proving to work with rates right down.

Which makes it the perfect place to travel to find out how they’ve done it.

It’s got to be Swedish meatballs

Perhaps because they have the self-discipline to be able to keep a social distance from each other.

And that is even more difficult when you look like them.

Although I guess Swedish men probably take their Swedish women for granted and vice versa.

I’m reminded here of the Irish football fans’ song in defeat to Sweden at the European Championships… ‘go home to your gorgeous wives.’

Hello flower!

Of course, you’ve worked out that this is mainly an excuse to show some gorgeous Swedish women.

More than 850,000 British nationals visit the Land of Agnetha every year.

And despite how virulent we are (and it has to be repeated how welcoming the rest of the world are to welcome Britons) the Swedes are still happy to see us.

The closest I’ve got thus far to Sweden is seeing the 16km Oresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden.

On my MSC trip around the Norwegian fjords.

So what’s so great about Sweden?

Stock in trade

StockholmAnd what do we know? Yes, it’s got the Abba Museum, but also the Viking Vasa Museum and the Fotogrofiska. And 30,000 islands.

And although I feel I’m being intrusive and was on the Hollywood Walk of FameGreta Garbo‘s grave who really only wanted to be alone.

I’m here for the beer

Gothenburg; Yes, and it’s got water too, waterways, and try them on a kayak or paddle board, and I mastered the last, right?

While you should also check out their craft beer Poppels or Stigbergets.

And, of course, more ships… the 17th century Goteborg. Aye, aye Cap’n.

Have a sauna

Malmo: And because it’s Sweden, and I love a sauna, Ribersborg Kallbadhus at the end of the pier.

There are actually five saunas, a steam room, a sun deck and access to the ocean.

Fika is Swedes’ cafe downtime and great for people watching. I fancy that cinnamon roll hes having.

And further afield:

Work out Wallander

Ystad is Wallander country and you can check out Greyfriars Abbey and the Church of the Virgin Mary.

Lap it up

Swedish Lapland: Drive the 223-mile route up the Wilderness Way from the canoeing centre at Stromsund to Vilhelmina via Fatmokakke with its wooden huts.

You want reindeers? Well, Jokkmokk must appeal to Scots!

And then there’s also the James Bond Museum in Nybro. We’ve been expecting you.

SAS Scandinavian Airlines  is who to go with.

 

Countries, Deals, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, UK

Hop springs eternal in the Czech Republic

They know all about masks in Prague with every Communist schoolchild back in the day put through a daily drill of fixing on a gas one.

And woe betide anyone who didn’t do it quickly enough.

Today’s masks in these COVID days are cloth and less restrictive.

And the revellers at the long table on the King Charles Bridge at its grand reopening in July are lowering them onto their chins.

I know the management

To help them gulp down their Urquell Pilsner beer.

No country on Earth, not even Scotland, drinks as much proportionately as the Czech Republic (official).

And they even bathe in the stuff… close by in the Original Beer Spa.

Beer is everywhere in Czechland.

Monky business

Ya dumpling

Plain-clothes monks produce it and clink glasses on a night out up the hill in Prague’s Castle area.

The superannuated refresh with Pilsner after taking the waters and the treatments in the spa town of Teplice.

And the burghers of Hoptown, Zatec, notch up how many they’ve drunk on their beer mats.

In the Hope Museum next to the Beer Astronomical Clock which is better than the more visited one in Prague.

Here a skeletal figure next to the dials, and Satan himself, mock the teetotal.

They hold a Hop Festival too here in Zatec, eery year where among the competitions is a biggest belly contest.

I’m here to work on mine.

Just as soon as I get out this nuclear bunker.

Have I got nukes for you?

That’s all outside, we’re safe

Radoslav had warned us to stick together as we made our way through the myriad dark, dark passageways five stories down in the bowels of Parukarka Hill in Prague.

Where the only company is mannequins in protective suits and gas masks and the ghosts of Communist past.

Here is where 5,000 Czechs would have come to see out the end of days.

Let’s hope that they had plenty supply of Urquell then to wash down all that tinned meat.

The Czechs would, I believe, have prevailed. They are a durable lot, toughened by a lifetime of being fought over by the ‘Great Powers.’

But they’ve always had a Pilsner to pull them through.

I’m only here for the beer

Something I cobbled together

Beer is at the heart of the Czech story, believed to be the oldest in the world, dating back to 993BC at Brevnov Monastery.

For 250 years in fact only monks were allowed to brew beer.

Which you can only imagine they gave up reluctantly.

They certainly haven’t lost the habit judging by the fun they’re having.

At the Strahov Monastery Brewery close to my opening night billet.

You’d be hard pushed though to recognise them as monks as there is barely a tonsure between them.

In the corner, two British girls on a hen night ply a local with shots and for advice on which bar to go to next and there is no shortage of options.

I am happy where I am though, with my waiter guiding me through the beer menu.

As I sup down my beer onion soup and beer goulash with dumplings.

Mild, followed by dark and finished with IPA, is the answer. But I’m not finished there as I’m given a tour of the brewery with samples at every stop.

Thankfully, it’s all downhill home to the Golden Key Hotel were I will sleep in a triple bed under a wooden ceiling with a sauna in the morning.

And wash it all down…

Roll over Beethoven

My hosts probably feel that they can’t trust me in Prague’s Beer Spa and that I’d drink all the suds.

So they take me next instead to the spa town of Lazne Teplice which is the last word in massage, saunas, bathing pools and medical practices.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Well do, but the luminaries of yore came here to take the waters.

Among them Beethoven who also sought a cure for his failing hearing…

And this is where he stayed

And you can see the horns displayed in the glass cabinets in the Hotel Beethoven corridor.

While you can also ask to be taken to the room where he stayed, although we didn’t get in.

He may very well still be in there and just not have heard the knocking.

Beethoven, the 200th anniversary of who’s birth it is this year, was clearly well looked after in Teplice.

Masked man… old Ludwig

And he would certainly have feasted on the town’s speciality chocolate cake in the titular cafe.

All of which I’ve been told I must work off next, as the Czechs themselves do, in Bohemian Switzerland.

Cerny statues

So, that’s where baby’s gone

No, I’ve not taken a wrong turning although I’ve not been myself since that first night in Prague.

Bohemian Switzerland is the park named for the two Swiss climbers who came here in the 19th century and were reminded of their own homeland.

It truly is an enchanted land and got the official stamp of approval.

Bohemian Switzerland… in Czechland

When the makers of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe used an arch in the park and set Aslan there.

The Czech Republic is full of surprises and I spend my last night back in Prague which too has many still to reveal.

Two iron figures outside the Franz Kafka Museum, whose waists revolve and who shoot out water onto a map of the Czech Republic.

Hangin’ about: A Cerny statue

It is the work of experimental sculptor of David Cerrny and it is believed to represent what the European Union has don to their land.

The Czechs are wonderfully irreverent to their leaders.

Walk around Prague and you’ll see Cerny’s mark everywhere.

Babies in the tower

A man holding an umbrella hanging from a building a Communist Brabant car on leg and Babies Climbing a TV Tower.

You can get up close and personal to the babies in the tower cafe.

But be careful looking out the window because these weans have no nappies on.

Cerny’s statues blend seamlessly with the Medieval ions, King Charles IV, the nation’s patriarch chief among them.

St John and St Jimmy

Tourists though are urged toward the statue of St John of Nepomuk, who fell out with King Wenceslas, and, no, not the Good One.

This Wencesclas ordered Archbishop John to be thrown off the bridge when he refused to divulge Weneslas’s wife’s confession.

It’s good luck to touch his statue and make a wish and that wish will be lifted up to the heavens.

Me? I think St John of Nepomuk might just have drunk too many Urquells and fallen off the bridge that way.

Where to stay

Ooh missus! Teplice Spa

Hotel Golden Key: The Castle area of Prague from €70. Reception will help you out with maps and directions for the sprawling and tiring Castle area Also that yourself to a spa and the relaxation room. See Asten Hotels.

Stay in Teplice Spa: Beethoven hotel: Price per person per night in off peak season is €87 – including room, treatment. daily entrance to Thermalium pool and enjoy the water features, sprays, cold baths and spas. Lots of Beethoven features dotted around the walls and you can even see the room where he stayed. And full board.

Enjoy your trip

Trip to Bohemian Switzerland and see the arch from the film of CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. – €120.

Where to eat

Strahov Monastery Brewery in the Prague Castle area. When in Prague do like the Czechs and eat goulash with dumplings, of course. Go for a starter too – onion soup  with an infusion of beer. Heck. go the full three course and dig into the apple strudel.

Flights

With Ryanair – to Prague if purchased way in advance from €40-€120.

Important websites

Spa Teplice, Zatec brewery, Bohemian Switzerland, Hotel Golden Key in Prague, Mlynec restaurant  Ginger & Fred  State Opera