Thursday, February 17, 2011

Travel Bite: Crêpes (Palačinkas), Prague

When I visited the Czech Republic a few years ago, I was enchanted with Prague's old-world charm, most notably the landmark Charles Bridge. Commissioned by Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV in 1357, this romantic bridge is the heart of the city, connecting the Old Town with Malá Strana, a historic district on the west bank of the Vltava River. Legend has it that egg yolks were mixed in the mortar used to bind the stone blocks to strengthen the bridge. Maybe all that good cholesterol is why the Charles has survived so many floods, including one in 2002—the worst in 500 years. Coincidentally, their crepes, also made with eggs, are still going strong too.

I had always associated crepes with France or the large Dutch pancakes I had in Holland, but it turns out that crepes are eaten all over Europe, Turkey, Russia, even in Argentina. While the word Creperie in this sign may have been geared toward a more international audience, a Czech crepe is traditionally called a palačinka.

Savory galettes like this are made with buckwheat flour, while sweet crepes use wheat flour. This huge chicken and mushroom-filled square was finally some geometry I could wrap my head and lips around. My mouth loved the new math!

I remember my first time. It was 1989. I met him in a little Paris bistro and it was true love. What a fella, that Nutella. Meeting my chocolate and hazelnut guy again in Prague brought it all back. He was still rich, dark and handsome (albeit a little more coiffed).

And then there was someone else after my heart—the organ grinder on the Charles Bridge. Granted, he was no Nutella, but he and his monkey were a couple of good eggs who had no doubt weathered a few storms.

When you stand on the bridge, you can see spectacular views of a city that celebrates its past while tastefully catering to tourism. It's a hard balance to strike, but Prague has maintained a steady footing. It must be the eggs.

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  1. I didn't realize that the Czech capital was built on eggs. Nice photos! Makes me want to go back there.

  2. This is completely, and utterly off topic.. but I was reading your comment about the situation in Egypt on another blog.. and I am too flummoxed but the contradictory actions from the US.. think that is why I gave up my "proud carrying card membership"....

    "The whole Egypt issue has me flummoxed over why we in America can’t throw our own criminal regimes out of office, no matter the warmongering, torturing, election-stealing and bankrupting the country they are guilty of. But don’t get me started! (or is it too late? : )"

    OHH you are so right, and you put it all in one paragraph... it really is as simple as that.. the place has turned into cow patties.

  3. Your pictures of Prague are beautiful! How could you not like a city with such amazing-looking crepes. And egg-yolk-enforced mortar, I love it!

  4. Lovely...

    I need Nutella crepes in my life right now and probably won't rest until I have them.....

  5. I am now enamored with Prague as a city! I love the colors, so romantic; I made palascintas long ago, from a recipe in Sunset magazine and now I am eager to make them again, savory and sweet.

  6. Your pretty pictures of Prague make me want to visit. Thank you!


  7. monsieur Crepe is a cute little guy. I am sorry I never ran into him when I was in Prague. But I do remember the guy with monkey. I swear!! GREG

  8. Thanks for the tour. Now I'm hungry for crepes - especially that buckwheat version.