April 10th – April 13th 2012
Prague was easily my favourite of all.
Of course, we did the walking tour up to the Prague Castle (The Hradcany Castle). As expected there were more looming statues and ornate structures throughout. Coming out of a tunnel like pathway, your eyes couldn’t help but follow the intricately detailed walls upward to the steeples of the massive St Vitus Cathedral. It was a cool day but the cloudless sky allowed for the sun, which warmed you just enough, to shine down on the stained glass windows, gold accents and gothic features all over the building.
Walking back down through the tightly winding, maze-like streets we passed more buildings with underscores of bright colour and another old cathedral where it is said Mozart had once frequented to practice. It was funny to be on history-rich streets like this, and then turning around to see the golden arches to remind you that modern day french fries were just a cobble stone away.
No time for fries though, as we certainly had no shortage of traditional Czech fare at each meal. Our lunchtime cruise filled us with goulash and took us down the Vltava for a river view of the city, from the more contemporary looking Astaire & Rogers Building to old houses with red-shingled rooves on dark cliffs that were scattered with bright yellow flowers. As we came back in to dock, we went through a set of river locks that reminded me of the ones I had first seen in Esna. Back across the Charles Bridge, we found our way back into the Old Town (Stare Mesto).
I loved the Old Town. The main square was a busy epicentre of various souvenir stalls and mobile eateries. The surrounding buildings housed galleries, museums and other restaurants that offered the option to dine out on the sidewalks. It seems we had arrived in time for an annual spring festival they had set up for around the Jan Hus monument in the middle of the square. There was a main stage where groups from various schools would perform each day as crowds of people either sat and watched, or milled around shopping and/or eating. There were bright red tents providing cover for the many vendors, huge wooden wheels decorated with vines of yellow flowers, colorful knick knacks in stalls everywhere and the prettiest flowering trees.
Standing tall above one side of the square, was the Church of Our Lady before Tyn (which was a more beautiful sight at night when it was lit up). On the other side, The Astronomical Clock tower that, as I had been told, was a less than necessary tourist stop with a mediocre ‘show’ on the hour. More than the actual clock display, I liked the costumed gentlemen at the top of the tower who played the trumpet after the show. Needless to say, we opted to climb the tower to take in the 360 view. We also took the time to go into the Museum of Torture and to see another small but impressive cathedral off on a random side street. Despite the Astronomical Tower being closed, The Klementinum, where we saw the Mirror Chapel and Baroque Library Hall was quite aesthetically pleasing and lived up to the recommendations we’d gotten to go.
I spent some time here on my own too, just wandering. I paid the small entry fee to go into the Národní Gallery to see the Art of the Old World Exhibit and even just the walk back to the hotel is worth mention. There were lots more souvenir shops along the way with marionettes of Pinocchio, Gepetto and other characters. Passing under a tall dark castle like tower, the sidewalk opened out to a brick roadway where cars would drive by every now and then, following no visible lane markings or such. The only clear path that was discernible was the track for the tram line, which passed right infront of our hotel.
Our three nights were spent well, eating lots of stew, meat, potatoes and dumplings. Naturally I tried the beer here too – Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen are two that I recall – and along with that one shot of absinthe and another of Becherovka. We spent one night pub crawling our way through the town, and after 1 1/2 hours of open bar followed by 4 pubs and ending at a club, I did not make the bike tour the next morning. But I’ll go ahead and blame that on the cold rainy weather we had that day.
I was sad to leave… but on to Vienna…