Monday, September 07, 2015

Prague you beauty! We will be back soon

Prague - you cannot help falling in love with this city. I asked a family friend who has himself been to 26 countries a few days before this vacation, as to which was his favourite. He told me 'Prague' and that I would come back with the same feeling. True to his word, I was enchanted by this city beyond words.

This was our first place of visit, as part of our 10 day vacation, and after the first few hours roaming around Charles Bridge and the surroundings, we knew we had hit a high right on day 1. And this level of excitement was going to be difficult to match in the next 3 places. Prague to us is a great mix of nature and monuments to see and behold. The hills, river Vltava, innumerable spires all across the city contribute equally to the magical feel.

We stayed at an airbnb accomodation very close to Petrin Hill and at a walk-able distance from most of the spots. The place has a rustic charm, but if you are used to the very hotel feel you may not like it. Prague is a place where you would perhaps spend the least amount of time inside, so this place is just right considering the proximity to all the lovely places around. 

It was no less than a mela on Charles Bridge
One of the saints statues at Charles Bridge

Avoid the summer months especially August, it does get real hot. We were sweating like crazy with the temperatures touching almost 38 degree Celsius during the day. Not just the heat, the number of visitors is also crazy. You will hardly see any empty space on Charles bridge between 9:am to well past 10:00 pm during this season.

River Vlatava
If I were to suggest an itinerary, this is how it would be, take a stroll along Charles bridge before it gets crowded. This is something we could not fit in, but just for doing this alone, I would love to go back to Prague :) This bridge was completed in the 15th century, has 30 statues of saints adorning it on either sides. It truly is old world, and the song 'Hawa-Hawa' from the movie Rockstar, barely does justice to its beauty. The lovely little eat-outs and pubs near Charles bridge are lively and we enjoyed some great Bongo playing on our first evening. The Prague castle and other points of interest in its compound are all withing walking distance from Charles Bridge. I would also strongly recommend some time quiet time along the river Vlatava. You can soak into the spirit of Prague just by looking at the silhouette of the city emerging from the skyline. Another point to note is that most of the indications here in Prague are in the local language so Karluv Most is the name for Charles Bridge.

St. Vitus Cathedral is a definite must on the list. It is a Gothic masterpiece with such ornate elements both inside and outside. One of the most important cathedrals of Europe, it is an architectural splendour to marvel at.
St. Vitus Cathedral
ornamentation of the ceiling

...colorful glass paintings inside St. Vitus Cathedral

castle ballroom
View of Prague from the castle balcony

The Prague castle would be an obvious next on the list, mainly for the views of Prague it has to offer. Inside the castle is less impressive though. There is a Change of Guards ceremony that takes place every hour, honestly less fanfare than the more popular ones like Buckingham Palace, yet worth seeing if you are there in time for it.

Next would be Golden Lane, a tiny lane of old houses which are museums/art collections or souvenir shops now. The above 3 are going to take half a day for sure. Note that the castle compound houses the St. Vitus Cathedral, Golden Lane and other points of interest. It is marked as Pražský hrad on the boards. We bought the Circuit B ticket, that includes St.Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, St.George's Basilica and Golden Lane. There are viewpoints atop this hill as well, which are again breathtaking. 

After this you have an option of taking a walk along the hill to go towards Strahov monastery, or go towards Charles Bridge to the other side of the City. There you will find some more interesting buildings to admire National Theater, Astronomical Clock, Our Lady of Tyn Church, the Old Town Square  Wenceslas Square and the Jewish Ghettoes. All of these can be seen in half a day. You can spend the evening at the lively Old Town square and keep Wenceslas square as the last point for the day. The road approaching the square also has a good number of eat-outs, offering local as well as international cuisine. Talking about the cuisine Goulash would be of interest to you if you eat meat, and do not miss on the Czech Beer :). 

Our Lady of Tyn Church

Wenceslas Square

Astronomical Clock
National Theater

Narodni or the National Theater is the first one as you cross the River Vlatava towards the Old Town Square. The Astronomical clock  in the Old Town Square, has continued to wow visitors for more than 600 years, the visualization of time shown here is unmatched is the claim. Our Lady of Tyn Church, also in the Old Town Square stands out for its twin Gothic spires and has impressive Baroque interior. 
Wenceslas Square is a short walk further. It is a world heritage sight, a lively place for public gatherings and celebrations. Jewish Ghettoes are also close by, but we could not fit it into our itinerary :(

The next day could be devoted to Petrin hill and its surroundings. Petrin tower was originally an observation Tower, now open to public with a viewing balcony on top giving a 360 degree view of Prague.The total height of Petrin hill plus the tower is apparently same as that of Eiffel Tower. You can take a funicular up the hill, and a lift to the top or climb the 299 steps. And the sights it has to offer...

Petrin Tower as seen from Prague castle
Prague Castle compound -view from Petrin Tower
Panoramic view points on the walk from Petrin Tower to Strahov Monastery

Charles Bridge- View from Petrin Tower

Strahov Monastery was founded in 1143. It has a baroque library building that is worth seeing. Do not mistake the art gallery for the library, we did this mistake as this was the first entrance inside the monastery. The art gallery is impressive if you are a modern art lover.

Frescoes at the art gallery, Strahov Monastery
Strahov Monastery

Do not leave Prague without indulging in the sweet Cinnamon Rolls. The aroma of sugar and cinnamon cannot be missed especially in the morning as they are freshly baked in numerous tiny shops all across the city. Apart from any touristy places, getting lost in one of the many cobbled walkways is a delight. Each lane seems to have a character. You will also be surprised by some creative modern art displays right in the middle of buildings. Half a day could be set aside for just idling in this city. 

I am sure you too will come back enchanted and with a promise to go back once again to this city of thousand spires.

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