Pretty Prague (10/2011)

Travel Blog by J
October 2011

Originally, Prague wasn't part of our Europe itinerary but it somehow found its way into the final plan... and I'm glad that it did.  Prague is beautiful!  It is an old medieval city, many of its Gothic and Romanesque buildings remain well preserved today.  Almost every turn from a corner opens up to a beautiful square or a a row of buildings in pretty pastel colors.  Horse-drawn carriages must have passed on the same cobbled streets.  Statues are just as intricately made as those seen in Rome. But just as there are many old things to admire, many too are the pubs that serve Czech's famous beers, souvenir shops and fashion stores.  After all, Czech Republic holds the title of having the most supermodels per capita in the world!

I love the fact that the attractions are within walking distance of each other.  We stayed in an apartment in Wenceslas Sqaure and we could just take a leisurely walk from there to  to Old Town Square, cross Charles Bridge, walk up to the Little Quarter and then to Prague Castle.  All this we did in a day!

Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske Namesti) 
One of the 2 major squares in Prague, Wenceslas Square is a lively area with many stores, restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels and apartments.  Our friend who's based in Prague said that this is like their red-light district (but I didn't see any professional escorts :)   as this is center of Prague's nightlife and entertainment.


Old Town Square
A five-minute walk from Wenceslas Square, the Old Town Square is the  most popular and the busiest of Prague's Squares.  The Astronomical Clock, The Church of our Lady Before Tyn and St. Nicholas Church can be found here.  Surrounding the square are colorful buildings, cafes, souvenir shops and food stalls that sell anything from mulled wine, Old-Prague ham, sausage  (Prazska klobasa), to potato with cabbage and bacon (Halusky).

The Church of Tyn prominent in Old Town Square

Czech comfort food:  Ham, Sausage and Potatoes

The Astronomical Clock

One of Prague's treasures, the oldest working clock in the world.  The clock is made of 3 components:  (1) the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon, (2)  "The Walk of the Apostles," a clockwork of moving figurines of the Apostles that move every hour, and (3)  a calendar dial that represent the months.

There's a always big crowd that waits for the strike of the hour to see the "dancing" Apostles.  Fascinating that this clock works perfectly considering it's over 600 years old.

Charles Bridge
Prague's most important and visited bridge.  It's impossible to get a picture taken here without any people during the day.  The bridge connects the Old Town to Prague Castle and crosses over the Vlatva River.  The bridge is decorated by about 30 Baroque-style statues, some of which are the Crucifix, St. Francis Xavier, St. Ludmila and little St. Wenceslas.   The most popular statue would be that of St. John of Nepomuk.  This is the oldest statue on Charles Bridge.  His image has been polished to a shine by many visitors who believe that rubbing the relief on the statue will bring luck (or maybe promise a return to Prague someday... much like a coin thrown into the Trevi Fountain).

Musicians along Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge leading to Prague Castle

Prague Castle
A very significant landmark in the city, the Prague Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Its area is vast which houses the Palace, several chuches, Golden Lane, and exhibition halls.

There are several ways to get to the Castle.  The best would be to take a tram up to the Castle and then walk back down when you're done.  We took the "scenic" route by taking Tram 22 from Malostranska metro station and getting off at Pohorolec.  From here, we walked through Hradcany and arrived at the main entrance.  I said "scenic" because the tram route gives you beautiful views of the city.

We were lucky to see the Changing of the Guards when we arrived.  This takes place every hour.

We chose to do the short itinerary (costs CZK 250), which inclides visits to the Old Royal Palace, St. George's Basilica, Golden Lane and Daliborka Tower, St. Wenceslas Vineyard and the Powder Tower.

View of the city walking up to the Castle from the metro station

In the Castle grounds, you'll see the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral - the biggest and most important church in the country.  This is the place where saints, kings, princes and emperors of Bohemia are buried.  Inside are any small chapels and impressive stained glass windows.

The Golden Lane is also here -- the smallest street in Prague.  This is a row of small colorful houses (more like doll houses) that were meant for the Castle's marksmen.  Due to a lack of space, the houses had to be built so small so that all 24 marksmen can be accommodated.  Later on, these houses were rented out and No. 22's most important tenant was Franz Kafka, a famous Czech writer.  Today, the houses are transformed into boutiques.

Walking the streets of Prague, we saw a number of these classic cars.  It turns out that these cars are for hire.  If you prefer seeing town in one of these open-top old timers, you can do so by paying around 50 euros for a 40-minute tour.  That is, if you don't fancy riding in a horse-drawn carriage :)

Considering Prague is mostly a historic city, it i interesting to see buildings too of the art nouveau style, like these:

While the architecture of Prague will enchant every tourist, so will their food and local beer!  We got to sample their staples like goulash, roast pork, dumpling, beer cheese  (cheese mixed with beer), fried pork shnitzel and bratwurst.  For beer, we tried Pilsner Urquell.  I don't know much about beer but I found this one quite good for not having a bitter after-taste.  Pilsner Urquell is the world's first and original pilsner (a type of pale lager).

Prague has a lot to offer:  an old world charm, various styles of architecture, good beer and local food, and shopping opportunities.  It is one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in Europe, definitely a must-visit :)

* All pictures are Skycab's own.