A few days in Prague
09.04.2013 - 09.05.2013
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Prague is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe if not the world. It straddles the fringes of east and west Europe and it has an extensive and rich history hidden within it’s maze of gothic architecture and cobblestone streets.
I arrived in Prague via train from Berlin which was quite pleasant, having a window seat to view the changing scenery from Berlin’s barren, swampy flats to the Czech Republic's more captivating jagged hillsides, carving rives and almost-greenery alluding to the spring that refused to appear. From the central station I walked through the city centre undulating down the river that the city focuses around. The river's flow is tiered just upstream from the famous Charles Bridge. The Charles Bridge is quite spectacular with its various statues along its length. Filled with buskers, beggars and hoards of tourists the bridge is almost always busy, but the view is grand; upward to the castle-come-palace, the river itself as well as the church steeples, magnificent architecture and landscape surrounding.
My hostel which was located on the opposing side of Charles bridge, aptly named Charles Bridge Economic Hostel. It was in an awesome spot and was a great value place; they had unlimited free coffee, wireless internet as well as really well kitted-out hostel rooms featuring a kitchen & lounge area to use.
The following day I took a tour of the city, which was a bit awkward while travelling on my own but the guide was a fairly young local, who gave an enthusiastic and recount of the city's rich history. The tour packed in elements of most of main sites, such as the slightly underwhelming astronomical clock, the central square, churches, synagogues and the Jewish Quarter among other things. Filled in were the key aspects of the history of Prague which was all very intriguing, especially the relationship during Nazi period and the communist era, specifically the Prague Spring.
The other days of my stay I spent some time exploring Prague's city centre, old quarter and generally getting a bit lost. I found a few bars and cafe's that served Prague's local brews; including a more touristic place that had 30 local beers on tap and friendly staff. The draw back was the overly loud tourists... but I survived. The Czech's are proud of inventing the Pilsner style beer; the typical pale lagers that we drink today. On tap I sampled a few different beers; including an interesting pepper beer which was only missing the accompanying steak dinner. It's interesting to note that many of Europe's beers are much stronger that off-the-shelf beers of Australia that typically run 4-5% Alcohol content. Its was not uncommon to find beers of 7 or 8%, if not more, but I often didn't realise this until I stood up and went to leave; only after 2-3 beers haha!
I took one evening to explore the castle that sits above the city. A trivia piece: Mick Jagger & The Rolling Stones donated lighting equipment to light up the castle during the night so people could enjoy it, because the city could not afford the expense at the time. Today, the castle, along with other monuments are spectacularly lit up and give a unique view from the day time. Wandering around the castle at night; was quite eerie as I only saw one couple taking photos as well the intimidating guards who just stared me down without saying anything. The following day I took more time to explore the rest of castle buildings and architecture. I wasn't too fussed about the interior of the buildings and particularly wasn't keen to part with my cash which was the only way to gain entry. Externally, the most imposing is the cathedral, boasting gothic architecture with gargoyles and imposing towers reaching high up above the rest of the complex. The other buildings are a more modest architecture and clearly later additions and rebuilds, as well as gardens and tourist shops & cafes within. The view from the castle is quite amazing, overviewing the river and the rest of the city is quite spectacular.
Finally, I found a cheap flight back to the Netherlands from Prague Airport, which was relatively easy to get to utilising the trams and buses. This was the only time I had to use the public transport as my accommodation was very central and the majority of the sites are within a close geographical area. If I had more time I probably would have take time to visit the concentration camps outside the city and also visited the unrelated Bone Church. Overall I had a great time in Prague; there was a lot to see and the city deserves more time than I gave it. It also has a lively night scene that I neglected unfortunately. But that is the paradox of travelling having a limited time and practically unlimited activities to do & sights to see.