When we decided that we wanted to visit Europe for a holiday, the first city that we finalised was Prague. For some reason this city held a sort of a fascination for us; as we had heard that it’s a beautiful city from practically everyone who had been there and it was extremely recommended on every travel website. It was also a place that a lot of Indians normally didn’t visit, hence we decided to start our trip from there.
However, despite our huge excitement, our trip did not start on that good a note. We reached Prague quite tired after an over-night flight, only to read at the airport that the temperature here is 12 degrees (and we had come expecting summers). So we first froze outside the airport waiting for the shuttle. Next when we got off the shuttle to look for our hostel, as our luck would have it, it started raining. We somehow managed to reach our hostel (which was near the old town square) quite tired, wet and hungry only to be told that the check-in was another 2 hours away. Well that quite tested our patience levels and we just felt that this whole idea was a mistake. Then we two grumpy people just dumped our luggage there, collected the city maps and decided to head out to eat something.
To utilise the time we just started walking around the city to familiarise ourselves with it and the general layout. The city per se was super stunning and no matter where you look there was a beautiful sight to see, however holding an umbrella while trying to see things and walking in water when you are irritable does not help you appreciate the sights that any city has to offer. However we still managed to get a hang of the layout of the city, saw a few markets and shops, the Prague Opera theatre, small boutiques, Charles Bridge, walked along the Vltava river, Old Town Square etc. By the time we returned to our hostel in 2 hours to check-in we realised that we had seen quite a few of our things to see already.
We then realised that Prague is quite a walkable city and everything is within easy distance of each other.
When we reached the hostel, our room was thank fully ready and we took a quick shower, had lunch and decided to try our luck with another round of sight-seeing with a trip to Vysehrad. Luckily the rain had stopped by then but we realised that the tram connection to Vysehrad was under renovation. At that point in time we were so disappointed with our trip till then that we really felt that we had made a mistake in choosing this city to start our trip with.
Fortunately for us, things started improving after that. Vysehard was slightly away from where we were staying but we figured a way to reach it by the metro and walked up to see this beautiful place. Vysehard is recommended to everyone for a visit as it’s not a typical touristy place and hence is nearly deserted. It is an old castle complex, built on a hill over the Vltava river, with huge gardens, a Basilica, and the famous the Vysehrad cemetery (that contains the remains of many famous people from the Czech history). It also houses many of the original statutes from the Charles Bridge (the existing statues on the Bridge are the replicas of the originals). There is also an amazing view of the river and the Prague city from here.
We spent a couple of hours walking and exploring the gardens and the cemetery and then saw the church.
After checking out all the sights and some rain drenched photography, we walked downwards from the hill (on the other side from where we had come) towards the river side and started walking along the river to reach the city centre. For our entire Prague trip we were just not able to figure out the tram routes and the way it works. So we stuck to the metros and walking.
This walk along the river was beautiful with historic buildings on one side and the river and the old city on the other side. Incidently, Prague was one of the cities that escaped bombing during WW II and hence has a lot of its old buildings and the history still intact. Every building is historic, beautiful, well-maintained and I am sure with a story of its own to say. Somehow all buildings in this city have a mix beautiful colors and that’s what makes it unlike any other European city we saw. There is a lot of usage of red, black, blue, yellow etc in buildings here and the roofs of all buildings are red.
Walking along the way we also the “Dancing House”, all the party places on the other side of the river, the National Theatre and other buildings around it without the screen of rainfall. Though the Theatre was closed we saw the beautiful carving and the goldish leaf work on the building.
We left the Charles Bridge and the other side of the river for the next day and turned towards the Old Town Square. The Old Town Square is a beautiful square with mix of historic cities, churches, cafes, restaurants, shops all around and this is the place that is most often full of tourists (hence best to explore it in early mornings). It has the beautiful gothic Tyn Church, the baroque St. Nicholas Church, the famous Astronomical clock and the tower of the Old Town Hall (for a view of the square). The centre of the square has the Jan Hus Memorial. You can practically spend hours here as there is a beautiful mix of architecture in all the buildings, amazing old paintings and carvings on the walls and to top it all the interesting Astronomical Clock.
In this clock along with the main dial that still shows the local time, there is a wheel with signs of the zodiac that turns inside the display revealing the position of the stars. The outer ring of the clock, marked with Arabic numerals, calculates the time from the precise moment of sunset. And if you come at the right time, you can see the twelve apostles take turns peeking out from the two small doors above the clock. At the same time, figures symbolising Death, Vanity, Greed, and the Ottoman Invader placed around the clock move with the sound of the bells. The Grim Reaper tolls a bell and turns an hour-glass signifying that the time has come for the remaining figures who shake their heads in denial. It’s a super amazing clock and very fascinating as its extremely old yet the mechanism still works. I also loved the skeleton on the right hand side. 🙂
There was also a stage set up in the middle of the square and there were live traditional dance performances by various dance troupes from other European countries. It was good fun.
We then walked towards the other side of the Square and saw the Municipal House and the Powder Tower (this is a former gate to the Old Town).
We had wanted to see a marionette theatre show but were too tired by then and hence decided to call it a day, have dinner and snooze off.
To be continued in Part 2 🙂