Our last day in Prague. Bobbie and Kelly went shopping, and so Jake and I went exploring. We saw some cool buildings – even wandered into a couple of them. But one of the highlights of the day was Jake finding something slightly more challenging than the Rubik’s cube.

He’s been doing the cube for a few months, and his current record is 1m42s. He’s been working on making interesting patterns, and setting little challenges with it – but when he moved on to trying to solve it by looking at the pieces and then closing his eyes, it was time to look elsewhere.

And it just so happens that there’s a little puzzle shop in the old town square in Prague.

Puzzle boy

So after a bit of looking, we settled on something interesting called the (Back to) Square-One. It’s a Rubik’s Cubish puzzle (a Czech invention, as it happens), only instead of being divided up into 3x3x3 smaller cubes, it looks like it’s been sliced on an angle, so that as soon as you start turning it, it’s no longer cube-shaped.

Jake’s been messing with it ever since. It’s still pretty stiff to turn, and so it’s been disassembled a couple of times, and will be filed down and lubricated for ease of use when we get home – but for now, it has novelty value and ‘unsolved mystery’ on its side.

We saw a few other variations – including a 5x5x5 cube and a 4x4x4 cube (apparently harder, because of the lack of a centre square on each side).

Most impressive of all was this cube puzzle where all of the pieces were different shapes, but all sides the same colour – so that the aim of the game was simply to put it all back together… which, according to the puzzle store’s owner, was next to impossible.


Sadly, this particular piece was not for sale.

The puzzle store had some other great stuff though – including this 3-way chess set:

3-way chess

Jake has, of course, played 3-way chess, and describes it as awesome, complicated and pointless. Just right, then. But we didn’t buy it. We saved our money and went out for dinner instead.

Czech Vegetarians don’t eat on Sunday
We’d actually planned to go to a vegetarian restaurant that had been highly recommended, but when we tried to find it, we bumped into a man who introduced himself as a chef at that very establishment.

Sadly, it was closed, but we got chatting to him, as he’d recently been to New Zealand.

Czech Restaurateur

He took us around the corner to a competitor’s restaurant that he said was pretty good. It was called Maitreya, and it was actually completely awesome. Some of the best (non-Indian) vegetarian I think I’ve ever eaten.

It didn’t look much from the outside – in fact, we thought it was closed at first, but once inside and downstairs, the decor was amazingly beautiful – all amazing handcrafted wood and an austere Buddhist stone water feature.

Maitreya Restaurant

I had a traditional Czech dish: Staročeský Talíř (I had to mess with my keyboard to even type that). It was lovely polenta and sauerkraut thing with beet cakes and onion. Everyone tried everyone else’s and declared that their own dish was the best. I have to admit it was pretty close.

If you get to Prague, it’s definitely worth a visit. Really reasonable too. Mains for around 140Kč (£4-ish). With two bottles of wine, starters, mains, desserts and coffee, we paid around £55 for four of us.

Holiday ends
Back to Birmingham tomorrow morning. It’s been a great Christmas break. Lots to look at and investigate, and while the city is really tourist-focused, you needn’t go far out of your way to find things genuinely intriguing.

Took lots of photos, had a great time, ate well (as ever) and just enjoyed strolling around and looking at things.

Just a few days left, and things kick off for the new year. I have a bunch of writing to do between now and then, and I should probably catch a couple of early nights. So – next stop… New Year!

A technical aside:
By the way, if you’re wondering why I’ve suddenly been blogging daily over the past few days, it’s partly because I’ve had things to talk about, but mostly because I’m using a few new pieces of software. The most important of which is called MarsEdit – which I thoroughly recommend if you want to do blogging seriously.

I’m also using iPhoto 09 to upload pictures to Flickr, and the new Vimeo uploader to post video to the web. Looks like 2010 is shaping up to be the year of desktop apps as interfaces for web services. Works for me…