The International School of Prague hosted a basketball exchange with AIS this past weekend. If cheering on the Knights is not reason enough to visit one of my favorite cities (and over my birthday, no less), there is always the promise of delicious food and a weekend of shopping (even on Sunday!) to seal the deal.

Along the drive we cross a series of three reservoirs and have always wondered about the church that sits in the middle of one of them. A little research (finally!) revealed the church to be St. Linhart, and the only remnant of the now flooded ancient village of Mušov. The reservoirs were created between 1975 and 1989 to alleviate flooding along the River Dyje. Now we know.

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To my disappointment, Prague was under a smog advisory. The extreme cold temperatures across Central Europe have resulted in increased heating particulates (coal); when combined with the usual pollution generators of waste incineration and automobile exhaust, any blue sky was quickly grayed over by late morning.

The AIS-ISP exchange is a new event as of last year. The schools sit in different athletic associations and therefore would not ordinarily meet, so it’s an opportunity for each team to work on their skills in a non-tournament setting. The varsity Lady Knights fared well this year, winning all of their games.

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Fond as we are of traditional Czech dishes, over the course of our travels to Prague we have taken interest in nouveau Bohemian cuisine; fresh and modern interpretations of the “meat and potato” stereotype that plagues Central and Eastern Europe. On this little holiday we discovered another nouveau gem, a less-than-a-month old restaurant offering a, Taste of Nature, right in our hotel! We ducked in on Friday evening after the games, and enjoyed our meal so much that we canceled reservations at another restaurant that I had selected for my birthday dinner and sat again on Saturday night.

The amuse bouche, handmade halusky with farm cheese and beetroot foam; and duck confit on housemade sesame crackers. Plus, a darling presentation of the butter for our warm, housemade bread.

The two winning entrees, though they all really deserved first place: Venison Leg with Green Pepper Sauce, and Wild Boar Knuckle with Cabbage and Black Garlic Sauce.

The dessert. Oh, the dessert! “Forest,” of spruce needle ice cream and chocolate “mushrooms,” topped with a fine candy wisp and dusted with ground spruce needles. Exquisite, and entirely delicious.

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Somehow the staff learned I was celebrating a birthday, and at the end of our second evening presented me with a slate of handmade chocolates and candied fruit!

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As we usually proceed when in Prague on a weekend, Sunday began with a little more shopping and a (never quick) stroll through the aisles of the Marks & Spencer Food Hall, to gather those comestibles we are unable to find across the border (plus something for dinner, as Austria is closed); and one final pop into the regular grocery for a case of Frankovka, the Czech Republic’s Blaufrankisch. Then, homeward bound.

Happy Birthday to Me.