I can now chime in with the rave reviews of Prague; the visuals of the city up close and from afar are equally amazing. Dick and I think it is one of the most beautiful cities we’ve seen. The attractions of Prague are well known and the city attracts A LOT of visitors. Since tourism is such a big deal, it’s in your face everywhere. There were many times when I wished I could wipe away the people standing in front of my view of the awesome architecture or remove the souvenir shops blocking the way to my destination. Alas, we could not have Prague to ourselves, so we made the best of it navigating through crowds of tour groups and a bazillion refrigerator magnets.
This trip required two early morning flights in/out of Brussels. We left home on Friday at 5:30 am, which gave us most of the day to spend in Prague. After we dropped off our luggage, we headed into the town center to find some lunch. A Czech sausage and pilsner at an outdoor café did the trick. We opted to do a free walking tour first, which lasted three hours. Our tour guide was an American woman from York, PA, who is teaching English in Prague . . . and loves to talk about the history of the city. This is the third tour we’ve done with expats and I think it comes off pretty well because they are so enthusiastic about their adopted city. We covered the major sites of Old Town and the Jewish Quarter. About two-thirds of the way into the tour, we took a break at a café for drinks and we chatted with our tour guide about being expats in Europe. We also talked about stag parties, since the one in progress at this location was a group we encountered on our flight. The quantity of cheap beer in Prague makes it a favorite destination for bachelor parties. Anyway, the tour gave us a great introduction to the history of the city and a good lay of the land. We walked back to our hotel via the Charles Bridge, did our check in and decided to eat somewhere closeby for dinner. That turned out to be a basic Italian restaurant. The gnocchi there was subpar compared to Florence, but it was filling.
We’ve had some amazing breakfast spreads along our travels, but the Czechs take breakfast to whole other level. They had the typical breakfast food on one buffet and then the second buffet looked more like lunch. There were salads and veggies and deli meats and pickles and olives and other stuff that my North American stomach rebelled against at 9am. It was all very generous, though! Saturday was warm and sunny and we packed in as much outdoor sightseeing as we could. We did the uphill climb to the castle and got in line behind many tour groups to get our tickets. We chose the short circuit which included St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, and the Golden Lane. This took three hours to accomplish; I’m glad we didn’t go with the long circuit! St. Vitus was the most impressive stop and we fortunately saved it for last when the crowds were a little thinner. The stained glass windows there are very unique and beautiful. The palace was not so spectacular, but the rooms where the city government did business were interesting. The walls are covered in paintings of coats of arms.
After the castle tour, we walked to Strahov Monastery and then Petrin Park. I really wanted to see the Theology and Philosophy libraries at Strahov. The libraries are incredible, but the regular entrance fee only gets you a view from a doorway. You have to be part of a reserved group, scheduled in advance, to get inside the Theology Library. Such a group was there when we stopped by, which was one of those moments when I wanted to erase them from my view. 🙂 We waited long enough to get a picture without a bunch of guys standing in the room. There is a tower modeled after the Eifel Tower in Petrin Park, which provides an awesome view of Prague from the top. Since we had already done a ton of walking, we took the lift up. We had a quick break at our hotel next and then did a little shopping in the Mala Strana.
Classical concerts are a popular tourist draw in Prague. I was only vaguely aware of this when I booked a dinner at Cafe Mozart, which consisted of a four course dinner and a performance by a string quartet at the Hotel Praha. The hotel is located on Old Town Square and was a little hard to find because the awning was covering the sign. The hotel interior looked nice, but the dining room or “Cafe Mozart” was a little kitsch with a lot of clocks on the walls and glass cabinets filled with ceramic figurines and other curiosities. The quartet entered after the appetizers and were dressed in “period” costumes complete with ill fitting wigs. We were given a music programme, but the ensemble didn’t stick to it (which was fine with us). The musicians were good, though like the concert we heard in Paris, it was all a little too canned for tourists. The food was just okay and tasted like it had been prepared well in advance. I left there feeling like I had ‘sucker’ stamped on my forehead. 😝 Oh well, at least it wasn’t expensive! We had a nice walk back seeing the city in lights.
s wet, but we knew it would be and planned accordingly. We did a little exploring and shopping in New Town first and then went to the Jewish Museum. The Jewish Museum consists of several sites; we visited four synagogues and the Old Jewish Cemetery. It was a lot of information about Jewish history and culture to digest in a short period of time. I liked the Spanish Synagogue the most for it’s art and architecture. The Pinkas Synagogue contains 80,000 names of Jews taken from Bohemia and Moravia during the holocaust. The names are written on the walls according to neighborhood and then alphabetically within. We looked for the surname of my sister-in-law. Her grandfather was originally from the Czech Republic, though he moved to Vienna and was able to flee to England during the war. We found several Eisinger families and took pictures of their names. This synagogue also contains an exhibit of drawings done by children sent to the Terezin ghetto. It’s very moving to see how these children coped with their circumstances.
out with our restaurant choices during our stay, even though I did extensive research beforehand. The restaurants I had chosen were either too far away or booked solid. Our best meal was a burger at an American/British like pub for lunch on Sunday. Our attempt at Czech food was ordering goulash at a pub near our hotel and it was so-so. The Trdelnik from a street vendor was also disappointing. We sampled several different Czech beers along the way, which were more satisfying.
ting flight left at 6:15 am on Monday. I didn’t get much sleep before my alarm went off at 3:45. Ugh! I expect to be a little tired after three days of a city trip, but not like this. It’s so worth it, though! 😀