Prague roundup – Hotel Maximilian, hot drinks

A final Prague post – back to my kitchen on Saturday (there will be no post tomorrow, as I shall be busy adjusting my costume for the office Christmas party and later dancing ineptly, dressed as Hornblower, until the small hours).

We traveled to Prague with Voyages Jules Verne; a much cheaper way of doing it than if we’d booked the flights and hotel directly. They offer accommodation at the Maximilian, which we found to be really, really excellent; the hotel, a belle epoque building opposite one of Prague’s oldest churches was refurbished in a very minimalist but comfortable style at the start of 2005, and is immaculate inside. (My parents, who took us to Prague, had stayed in the same hotel in September and had liked it so much that they decided to return this month.) The chocolates on the pillows were by Lindt, the toiletries in the bathrooms by the White Company, the linen soft and comfortable and the breakfasts . . . whee, the breakfasts.

Ten different cheeses, every bottled sauce known to man (two kinds of Tabasco, maple syrup, three mustards, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, ketchup, flavoured oils, two different pestos . . . ), five different preserved meats, two kinds of hot sausage, bacon, grilled vegetables, eggs any which way, ten different breads, three home made yoghurts, six preserved fruits, honey, a huge selection of jams, an infinite variation of teabags, a whipped sour cream with chives, granolas, fresh fruits, six juices, sliced cucumber and tomato, French pastries galore and the best coffee I’ve had in a hotel.

I positively waddled around Prague.

So – a hearty recommendation for the Maximilian, which also has an honesty bar (how refreshing) and a small library full of books about the city and by local authors and artists which can be bought at the front desk. Room rates are on their website, but you may find better prices through an agent.

Now, those hot drinks. Prague in December is cold. We had some snow, nearly killed ourselves by waddling into frozen puddles without looking and sliding headlong, and I found taking photos while breathing pretty difficult because of my cloudy breath. I found a few really excellent cafes which, if you find yourself in the city, you might want to pop in to in order to stave off the hypothermia.

The Municipal House (here on the right; you’ll find it next to the Powder Tower where the city’s gunpowder was stored) is one of the most important Art Nouveau buildings in the city. Inside the building is a concert hall, a very expensive restaurant, and one of the most beautiful cafes I’ve been in. The decoration throughout the building is perfectly unspoiled; it’s still as it was in the very early 20th century; drinking in the cafe will make you feel as if you should be wearing a flapper dress and a cloche. (Or spats and a cravat – I am aware that some of the people reading this will be a little too hairy and muscly for dress-wearing.)

It was too early in the morning to drink something hot and alcoholic with my dignity intact, so I settled for a Viennese coffee (proper whipped cream this time) while Mr Weasel had a hot chocolate almost as rich and thick as those in Paris. (Any lack in richness was made up for by the decorations.)

All of the old town is easily walked; there is also an excellent tram service if you have arthritic knees. When you’ve hauled your breakfast-filled carcass up the hill to Prague Castle, you’ll find the Lobkowicz Palace, where there’s an outdoor terrace (heated; they also provide blankets) with remarkable views over the city and more excellent coffee and chocolate.

Be aware that in Prague there isn’t really any such thing as the non-smoking section; this can get pretty painful, so if you can find somewhere with a heated outdoor section, you may find it preferable to being in the cosy indoors in a fug of smoke.

Of course, you may find that you require something to drink with a bit more of a kick, in which case you’re in luck; every cafe in the city will sell you a hot punch, mulled wine, grog and a sybaritic list of other hot alcohol confections; I had an excellent glass of something involving Kirsch and maple syrup at the Art Nouveau Hotel Pariz. I’m still trying to get my own mulled wine recipe just perfect; I promise you’ll be able to read it some time before Christmas.

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