Travelogue: A Peek Into Czech Republic; Karlovy Vary & Cesky Krumlov

Our trip to Czech Republic started with the town of Karlovy Vary, which is widely known as a spa town with numerous spring resorts and impressive colonnades. It is believed that if you drink the sulphurous water from spouted ceramic cups, your heath will be restored (beats seeing numerous doctors). To how much truth to that holds, I don’t know lah. Perhaps this makes a good chance to try and find out. Ha

Anyways we flew by Turkish airlines, transited at Istanbul before flying into Prague. The colleague has been pestering me on the reviews of Turkish Air so here it is. The flight was smooth though I didn’t really like their seats. It was uncomfortable for me. Flight entertainment was pretty okay. I managed to catch Lala Land! The food was meh. But you can look forward to their free amenities pouch!

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IMG_5100The amenities pouch that contains slippers, socks, tooth brush/tooth paste, lip balm

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetSupper; The menu stated Grilled Chicken Breast with Sautéed Broccoli, Carrots & Potato Gratin. But hmmm, clearly this looks more like braised chicken with bak choy and fried rice. The chicken had this weird taste to it which is really weird. The best part of the food was the bread! I really love that soft warm bread. I wished they had given me 2

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Breakfast; Mushroom & Cheese Omelette. The egg was strangely soggy and the mushrooms salty. Think the bread still tasted the best

The queue to the international transfer was crazily long and we were just trying to find the fastest lane possible. After we past it we decided to spend the next 5 hours at the airport lounge killing our time cos the airport really isn’t very exciting. I had thought of visiting the city but many people advised it’s better not to, so oh wells. The Primeclass lounge looks very atas from the outside. The food was actually okay, in fact better than the aircraft food =/ You get to shower, freshen up and snooze a little in the quietness before it’s time to head to the gates, again

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Breakfast; selection of pastries and eggs. Their lunch was pretty decent actually, serving this chicken with tomato thingy and some choices of cakes. I had 2 portions. hee

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Time to depart!

Our flight from Istanbul to Prague was delayed by 2 hours cos of mechanical problems. So we on boarded to be off boarded then we were driven round the airport to come back to the same on boarding point. I asked the friend, it’s a different aircraft right??

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Finally landing

For you who want to change to CZK currency, I would advise to do it in Singapore to save all the trouble. There is one shop at Arcade that has CZK. If not, you can withdraw from the ATM (like what the friend did) at the airport upon arrival or change it at the money changer before passport control. Do note there is no commission for €600 (to CZK) and above. If not you can always change it at Prague city which we did cos we ran out of cash. lol Even though there were reviews there are some money changers that cheat money yada yada, there are actually quite a number of money changers that charge 0% commission. So you just have to walk and find

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So because of the delay we missed our bus to Karlovy Vary and we had to buy a new set of tickets online. The Student Agency bus stop is located outside the airport near Marriott hotel. We were like pondering which part of the airport it will be and then we saw a bright yellow bus in the distance. Be early cos the bus is punctual

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This is where you board

So after a long day, we finally arrived at Karlovy Vary where the host has been waiting for us. The room was not too bad but we were so tired lugging our luggages up to the 3rd floor (without lift). And the thing I didn’t like was they only had one dustbin which was hidden underneath the sink that makes it so troublesome to open, throw, close and then walk back to the sink to repeat the process again. Seriously how can one apartment only have one dustbin!

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And cos we were so tired, we decided that the only plan for the day is dinner so off we head to Panoptikum, a local favourite hangout. Dinner here was an experience. It was so dark on the outside which makes us wonder if the place is opened cos I was sure when I googled it is. Then we went in and stood at the door for an awkward 5 minutes cos we don’t know whether to get the seats ourselves or to be served. So after we found some seats, we were thinking if we had to grab the menu ourselves. I guess in Czech, smoking is pretty common so we were breathing in so much 2nd hand smoke we wanted to die. And the table next to us probably had the whole town coming to join them for dinner cos the people just keep stringing in. At some point we were just wondering how many more they were gonna squeeze in that table. So when it’s time to order, the friend asked for water. The waiter asked if she wanted glass or without glass. So she ordered the one with glass.  We were really puzzled at their question. You mean they drink water here differently?? Like through a pipe or something?

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So in the end when this came… I LOL!!

Waiting for the food took one hour so if you are hungry then this place is not for you. When our food came, we were so surprised at the enormous portion I thought we were in the States. The friend jokingly said next time we should just stick with one appetizer and that’s it

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Flank Steak 220 Kč

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The flank steak was pretty normal which had nothing to rave about but its $12 so cannot complain

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Spaghetti with Chicken, Dried Tomatoes, Mushrooms & Basil 155 Kč

The friend like her pasta alot and she finished the bulk of it so she was pretty impressed with herself. Well, I was impressed too, cos it’s only $8.50 for a gigantic plate

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The exterior which was so dark

Panoptikum

Bělehradská 1004/3, 360 01 Karlovy Vary, Czechia

And then the food coma hit us and we retired for the day

The next day started with breakfast at Republica Coffee which was just round the corner from our apartment. But when we walked along the streets, they were so empty it felt like there was nobody living in this town

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The street where we lived

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Our first thought when we stepped into Republica; it’s probably the hippest place in town

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Latte 70 Kč

I like the coffee here. It was balanced with a slight acidity and a velvety finish and then when I saw the roast of the day they were using Brazilian beans I was like oh, thats why

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Cupcakes 36 Kč

The carrot cake was nice as well, thought the red velvet tasted a little strange

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I think this is a nice place to chill or just for a quick grab-and-go. It’s a coffee specialty place so don’t expect a great deal of selection for the food. And nobody minds a cup of coffee anytime, right?

Republica Coffee

T. G. Masaryka 894/28, 360 01 Karlovy Vary, Czechia

We took a bus from the bus stop nearby to head to Moser Glass Museum cos we wanted to go for the Glassworks tour. The moment came when the bus went in the opposite direction and we panicked. But thankfully we got to the museum in the end. I had previously emailed them to ask if advance booking is required on that day. But apparently you can just walk in without reservations

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The bus stop where we alighted. Bus fare cost 25 Kč per adult which you can transfer within 60 minutes

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So before we went in, I pointed to the friend the operating hours of the tour and we went into the museum only to realize… it’s not open on Sunday. I was telling the friend, then they should have just informed me when I emailed them right?? And which I specifically put the date there. The funny thing is the operating hours state they are open and the lady at the museum directed us to the tour office for the tour. This place is so strange seriously. So.. we took the bus back to town and walked to Diana lookout tower

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It was a sunny day

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One of those that states you have to try in Karlovy Vary, which we didn’t. Ha cos we figured it’s too early for something too strong

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Grand Hotel Pupp

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetYou can take the cablecar up to the tower which is located beside Grand Hotel Pupp which I strongly advise. A two-way travel costs 80 Kč per adult. Or you can choose to walk. I think I will still go for the former. If you arrive at the ticket office and there’s nobody, that’s cos the same person is operating the car

IMG_5176So clearly, they choose to walk/hike while the rest of us wave to them from the cable car

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Diana Observation Tower

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The view from the top after climbing 150 steps. There is a lift, just that there were so many people waiting we decided the steps will be faster

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There is a mini zoo at the location as well, with 4 animals: the horses, the pigs, the goats and the peacocks. Yup, it is mini for a reason

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Nappp Time!

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Hey lazy one

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The peacocks were wandering around with the green one proudly displaying its feathers and the white one running away from people. It was amusing cos you can see everyone was waiting for this white one to open up as well

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One last photo before we ran off to lunch cos we were so hungry already

Lunch was at Restaurant Promenáda, which was supposedly one of the best restaurants in Karlovy Vary. The restaurant was empty when we arrived and we decided to walk into the hotel to see if there were staffs around. When we took the first glance at the menu, we thought hmm, the menu is quite different. So the friend went with a safe choice of fish and I went with a familiar choice of deer. The waiters will come around to serve you their cold appetizers if you would like to have any to start with. We decided to skip that and wait for our French onion soup, which didn’t quite turn out what we expected

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Complimentary Bread

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Onion Soup French Style 90 Kč

Eh wells, the soup is comparatively lighter here, filled with chopped onions, melted cheese and croutons. It was actually pretty good. Lighter in taste yet still flavourful with the cheese. It is different in a good way

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Steak of Turbot with Lemon Sauce, Vegetables and Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary 420 Kč

The friend said the best part of the dish were the potatoes. I tried a little of the fish, it was okay, just a little too boney. The skin was crisp but the overall dish tasted perhaps too sourish with the lemon sauce

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Medaillon of Sika Deer with Cranberry Sauce & Vegetables Julliene 428 Kč

I did enjoy my dish. The deer meet was tender and juicy. The small dish with the cooked meat in the middle was excellent and very savoury as well. But perhaps not quite the same for the vegetables which tasted rather flat

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I think the overall experience was pleasant and worth coming if you want something decent. And the food here is quite affordable considering we only spend $60 for 2 pax in a supposedly fine-dining experience

Restaurant Promenáda

Slavkovský les, Tržiště 381/31, 360 01 Karlovy Vary, Czechia

We went to hunt for wafers next cos we had decided pre-lunch that desserts will come in the form of spa wafer which is another must-try here. It actually tasted pretty delicious and reminded me of those big colourful snacks you eat as a kid

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Vanilla wafer 10 Kč

There are different flavours to choose from – vanilla, chocolate, coconut, hazelnut etc. So you can just take your pick. You can even find these wafers at Prague airport

So we strolled the town, visited the Orthodox Church of Saint Peter & Paul, Saint Mary Magdalene, the 3 different colonnades – Mill, Park & Market which you can’t miss and even managed to squeeze in time for tea, just in half the afternoon

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Orthodox Church of Saint Peter & Paul

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Mill Colonnade

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We decided to get ourselves one of those ceramic jugs so that we can drink the famous thermal water which they are well known for. So it marked the start of our adventure of choosing the jug and hunting down the water that is cool/room temperature cos the last thing we want is to scald our tongue

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Our cute little jug

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We were really thankful we got the smallest jug cos the water tasted sooo damn weird. It’s a mixture of metallic, salt and alkaline. One sip was all it takes to pour the entire thing away. One sip. I don’t understand how some people can fill their whole bottle with it! It’s a mystery

Anyway, we decided to proceed for our spa treatment at Elizabeth spa which we had booked an aromatherapy massage for 380 Kč. Well the reason I chose this place was cos most other spa needs a longer period of time and since we are only there for a day, we want something that can be done within one hour. So even though there’s great deal of selection on their menu, their baths were not available cos they were having technical problems and some of the massages are only available on certain days (which feels very strange to me. You mean it’s a one-person one-technique thing?)

img_5248Elizabeth Spa; It honestly looks like a hotel

I didn’t manage to take a photo of the inside but the massage room reminded me of a hospital with all the partitions and white cupboards. Even the masseur was dressed in white. I guess they really consider these massages and spa as treatments to the soul than just a form of relaxation and pampering

The town was empty by 5pm and it was a vast difference to the day. So we went back to our apartment to chill before heading down for dinner at Charleston which a short walk away from our apartment. It was quite a different experience at Charleston compared to the dinner we had the night before with more attentive staffs and quicker dinner service. The place wasn’t exactly crowded but still have a fair share of customers

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Well, cos wine is always cheaper than water. It is cheap and tasted good

We ordered soup for starters so when the portion came I was so shocked. I think what I have for appetizer is enough to be my main for lunch in Singapore =/

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Cream Wild Mushroom Soup 65 Kč

The mushroom soup was a little more diluted than what we usually have and a little salty. The friend said it just tasted different, but not sure if it’s in a good way or a bad way

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Tomato Soup with Creme Fraiche 65 Kč

My tomato soup tasted very tomato-y, like a diluted version of pasta sauce. But somehow it gets quite addictive the more you drink

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Chicken Breast with Barley Risotto and Bolete Mushrooms 219 Kč

The chicken was a little dry and the barley risotto tasted interesting. It’s smoother in texture and crunchier

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Royal Shrimp Grilled in Butter with White Wine & Roasted Vegetables 789 Kč

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I was in a shock when my prawns came. 4 huge prawns with a gigantic plate of salad and grilled vegetables. The staffs reassured me they are just vegetables but I think that’s besides the point. Flavour-wise, they tasted pretty normal with nothing to rave about

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Apple Strudel 89 Kč

Desserts came in the form of apple strudel, which tasted a little different than what we usually have. The pastry skin is more doughy and the apples are sliced thinly and cooked so soft. The fillings were more sour than sweet, perhaps with the type of apples they use. Not the kind of apple strudel I would like to revisit

I think the food here is mediocre but I won’t complain with the vicinity to our apartment and also with friendlier service staffs. So with that we retired for the night cos food coma and cold weather = bed time

Charleston 

Bulharská 1273/1, 360 01 Karlovy Vary, Czechia

Check-out day. We had breakfast at Freedom cafe which is just opposite Charleston and also seemed like it’s the most recommended cafe to dine at according to Tripadvisor. And we wanted a filling breakfast cos it is gonna be a long trip down to Cesky Krumlov. The place was empty except for 2 customers so we quickly decided

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The coffee was bad. Probably the machine kind of coffee. I think I will go for Republica anytime

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Scrambled Eggs, Toasts & Bacons 79 Kč

It’s a very standard you-cannot-fault kind of breakfast but nothing interesting

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Pancake with Cheese, Grilled Ham, Poached Egg & Tomatoes 99 Kč

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Buckwheat pancakes. The pancakes were interesting, they tasted like crepes. The combination with melted cheese, tomatoes and grilled hams were delicious and poke the sunny side up in the middle to let the yolk run to have an amazing finish

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I wouldn’t mind coming back here for the pancakes, but just for the pancakes

Freedom Cafe

Jugoslávská 1706/3, 360 01 Karlovy Vary, Czechia

So this practically wraps up our trip in Karlovy Vary which I think you can complete in one day cos it’s a small town. The city is really pretty, with buildings look like they are poised for a painting to come alive. I think the health healing water seems to be a little over rated or perhaps psychological to believe that the water can really heal your illnesses. Honestly if that is the case, then doctors need to find alternative careers. In any case, it is still a place to visit if you are looking for a day trip out of Prague, for that beautiful architecture and chill, relaxed life

Moving on, we went on to visit the city of Cesky Krumlov, which is known to be a picturesque town and also a UNESCO world heritage site. We booked a shared shuttle (1500 Kč per pax) with Budweis-shuttle that will take us all the way there. But it turned out we were the only passengers so we got the whole car to ourselves. Yay. And then what was supposed to be a 4 hour journey turned out to be a 3 hour drive cos the driver was driving at such a fast speed at times ie. competing with with a 10 wheeler in a very tight bend to overtake, I was just looking at the scene unfolding infront of me and clutching my seatbelt. Thankfully we are still alive and made it there eventually in one piece

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The view half the time

The accommodation we stayed at Cesky Krumlov is by the name of Pension Lantern that is located inside the town, a family-run guesthouse that is cozy and full of European interior. The friendly host runs the guesthouse while his cousin runs the cafe (that we have breakfast at) near the accommodation. He even recommended some places for us to dine at

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We took a visit to the Cesky Krumlov castle which was nearby and combed the public grounds since the tours are closed on Mondays. The castle seemed to be the main attraction since there were tourists everywhere and we bumped into some that were just ill mannered with no patience whatsoever (guess which country). Thankfully it isn’t much of a peak season and we still get to enjoy some of the peace and tranquility later on

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View from the top

So after spending some time roaming the castle which was actually rather big, we had some time wandering around the town before the shops close at 4-5pm (soo early). But first we wanted icecream cos it’s so damn hot it felt like summer was here already. We ended up with crepes instead. ha

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Hazelnut Chocolate with Roasted Peanuts 89 Kč

Which essentially tasted like crepes with nutella. We thought it was rather good. Not too sure if it was the hunger or otherwise

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MLS Creperie

Latrán 6, 381 01 Český Krumlov, Czechia

The old town really translates lots of feels, and every spot can be an ootd spot. You feel like you are being transported back to the past. It’s beautiful in its own rustic way

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So gorgeous

We had an early dinner at Restaurant Švejka recommended by our host, which was located behind MLS Creperie. We spent some time looking for it initially cos Google maps wasn’t being very cooperative and we ended up being so confused with its location walking up and down like lost sheep

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Ta-da!

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The friend decided to have the special smoked beer which she liked it pretty much. I, however am not a beer person so I went for..

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A Merlot which was very good and it only costs 48 Kč / $2.50. I wished they had such prices with such quality here

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Duck with Red Cabbage, Cinnamon Apples and Homemade Dumplings 235 Kč

Part of their daily offer. This was a humongous portion, yet again. Even though dumplings are a Czech speciality, I have to say I don’t really like them. They are tasteless and just tasted like dough with a glutinous rice kind of texture. It’s strange. But I really like the duck with the execution similar to a duck confit. Cooked crisp on the outside and the meat tender, coated with a robust sauce to compete the dish

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Beef Cheeks Stewed with Red Wine served with Roasted Root Vegetables, Pink Pepper & Potato Mash 229 Kč

The friend’s beef cheeks were really tender. The mashed potatoes were generous. She finished most of them. I was impressed

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Old Austrian Style Pancakes (Kaiserschmarrn) served with Raspberry Sauce and Homemade Whipped Cream 115 Kč

We greedily ordered the pancakes cos I insisted on trying. These Austrian style pancakes were interesting. They reminded me of meringue with the nua nua kind of texture, yet like egg soufflé. It’s nice, but some people might not particularly enjoy this because of the texture. The whole dessert is sweet overall but the raspberry sauce provided some balance

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I would agree this is a good recommendation. The food and drinks here are pretty decent and we find it amusing as we were waiting for our desserts to arrive, we saw a couple of people walk in to the restaurant, look at the menu and left. We wanted to tell them hey it’s pretty good, you should try! But clearly we didn’t

Restaurant Švejka

Latrán 12, 381 01 Český Krumlov, Czechia

The next morning we went for the first photo tour at Museum Fotoatelier Seidel which was at 9am, and honestly I don’t really know what it was about. But since it’s the second most recommended attraction here, I figured we should give it a go. It’s basically a museum that showcases the history of photography and the works of Josef Seidel. There are many rooms in the house and audio guide is provided so as you walk through the house, you would be able to learn the history of it. Photography is not allowed, or that’s what I inferred, but we took pictures of ourselves in the 1910s which was actually pretty cool

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The only picture I had without paying for it

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I think we paid about 400 Kč each. Actually I don’t quite get the staff’s explanation on the breakdown of the pricing. I was telling the friend okay lah I think she can just tell me how much to pay in total, I will just pay. lol

We rushed back to the cafe near our guesthouse for breakfast which we pre-paid during booking cos it was past our usual breakfast time and hunger has kicked in. We wanted a light breakfast cos we were going to have lunch right next so we had one choice of egg and one toast

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Latte

The coffee was slightly bitter and pretty normal in my opinion. BUT, they serve all day free coffee and tea for guests staying at Pension Lantern, which is a nice gesture

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Hot Chocolate

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Scrambled Eggs

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Omelette with Ham & Tomatoes

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But this came. The portion, goodness, cannot be any bigger. Not sure which part of this looked like one egg and one toast when it looked more like three eggs and six toasts. =/ That being said, the eggs were good but the toasts were a little hard in my opinion.

And then we had to walk off our breakfast cos of the unexpected portion so we found ourselves taking more photos around town which was a nice surprise cos we ended up venturing unexplored territories. lol

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Lunch was at the highly recommended Papa’s Living Restaurant which was filled with many, many tourists. We had a soup and chicken wings to share cos our stomach were quite stretched already

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Soup of the day 59 Kč

The soup reminded me of potato soup, but this was finished with an acidic taste. It’s different but it tasted quite nice and homey

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BBQ Chicken Wings 209 Kč

Well, they tasted like chicken wings

We didn’t try much to provide more opinion on the food but based on what we try, the food was okay. It’s not a bad place to have a meal here and if you can, have a table by the river to enjoy the view

Papa’s Living Restaurant

Latrán 13, 381 01 Český Krumlov, Czechia

Cesky Krumlov is really a small town. You can walk from one end to the other in 20 minutes. We walked up and down numerous times. It makes a good stopover if you are on the way to somewhere, to bask in the old history or just take a break from a long drive