"Prague, Czech Republic" Prague by edwis
Prague Travel Guide: 11,424 reviews and 23,089 photos
known as Praha throughout Europe and everywhere else except the US, was never on our trip itinerary but we ended up there anyway. Our original airline routing from the US to Zagreb, Croatia, had us making a flight connection in Paris using CSA – the Czech Airline - which has an once a day flight from Paris to Zagreb. However, due to lateness of CSA leaving Charles de Gaulle airport, we ended up in Prague with no planes left to catch going to Zagreb. We quickly negotiated with the CSA desk agents to catch a next day flight to continue on our journey to Zagreb. They (CSA airlines) put us up in a hotel in Prague, complete with meals, shuttle service, etc. Now I am devastated for after six months of planning each day of the trip, all my plans go ‘kaput’ on the very first day! We also pushed for them to agree to the next day’s flight out using Croatia Air. The way we figured it was that if anyone can get us to Croatia, it would be the Croatian airline. Enough of CSA!
At this point we don’t know Prague (Praha) from Timbuktu! I’m not even sure where on the map it was located. During the ride on the complimentary shuttle bus to the hotel, I seek information from other passengers, and quickly learn that the local currency is Czech ‘krowns’ and you say “dekuji” or something sounding like that, meaning ‘thank you’. But then this passenger goes on to explain about how the city folks use one dialect version of ‘thank you’, while the rest of the country says it another way. Oh, well, so I figure that’s all the background we will need know to operate for a day. The money exchange rate turns out to be very favorable and we find everything to be very inexpensive. Plus we find Prague to be a wonderful place; very historic, people friendly, and affordable. Coming out of humid Florida, we discover the mid-70s degree temperature to be quite refreshing and enjoyable.
Oh yes, the complimentary Hotel “Zlata Praha” (Golden Prague) can be described as quite local quaint. The TV had four channels – three of which were always full of white snowy reception while the good one operated at about 30% snow/fuzzy reception. Somehow that evening while settling in I think we saw some of the Czech Olympics, but we were never quite sure.
We find our room to be very ‘colorful’ having bright pink walls yet being quite delightful. But the two pillows on the bed were the size of very small typical sofa throw pillows, and about 3 inches deep at best. So a trip down to the reception desk asking about getting some pillows occurred. The clerk said that was no problem and asked me how many do I want. Thinking they would all be that small and useless, I said how about eight. She laughed and handed me two more. While getting ready for bed time, I noticed that the room door latch seemed to be a little flimsy, so I moved and propped the big old sitting chair under the door handle, and then piled my heavy big suitcase on top of it. Now we were ready for a good night’s sleep in a strange city.
The hotel environment was amazingly like the old BBC-TV (PBS) series, “Fawlty Towers”. The husband was the bartender, then the host in the restaurant, then the waiter. He was always flying around changing roles as the situation dictated. His wife was stationed at the front desk. But then she came around about every 15 minutes and gave him directions and yelled at him for a multitude of reasons.
We were feeling pretty adventurous for some local dinner selections, so Joan after warming up with two wines, shocks me and orders a rabbit breast wrapped around a bacon and spinach mixture. I point to a local specialty on the menu, which has a not too helpful English translation of “a special meat blend.” I go for it and the dish turns out to be beef, veal, pork and chicken chunks in savory gravy of onions, mushrooms and cabbage, served with potato pancakes. It was quite a meal and with 4 wines, 1 beer, some bottled water and our two full dinners, the bill comes to $28.56 US! As I am doing the calculation for a tip, the waiter (husband) comes over and says “no, no, it’s all complete.”
The next morning the desk clerk tells us how to take a local bus to the city center. First you have to buy your bus ticket at special kiosks located around the town. However we find Mrs. Fawlty to be gracious enough to sell us two bus tickets from her private stash. We walk about 2-3 blocks to a bus route and find that the bus runs every 8 minutes and then connects with an underground tram for a short ride into the main city. Now we are ready to explore for the next 4-5 hours.
As we departed the train station and came up from the underground, we crossed a street coming upon some ‘Cow Art’ in front of some large grandiose museum complex with a nice plaza, gardens and green walkways. Joan being from Wisconsin immediately feels at home and enjoys this display. We find out that this is part of an open-air art exhibition in Prague featuring more than 200 brightly colored life-size cows.
The motto of the exhibition was "Cows show us what we are really like".
We had to take several pictures here in varying poses.
Walking round we find great historic buildings, a grand old town section with lots of tourist, little hidden alleyways, some canal streets, and the grand palaces. Old Town has been working heart of Prague ever since the 10th century. Many of buildings have Gothic insides and Romanesque basements. The buildings received its Baroque face in rebuilding in 17th and 18th centuries after a huge fire. It is known as the city of 100 spires, and you get some great views from up on the hills.
It seems that there is some cultural music concert being advertised for almost every night of the week. Many of the buildings and homes are painted in very colorful hues, adding to the quaintness of the city. We follow a little ‘city walks’ handout map and found the Prague Castle which is the most visited sight in Praha and goes back to the 9th century. It has always been the seat of the Czech rulers. I liked the royal guards who change every hour and then stand stiffly at attention the whole time by the gates. The changing of the guard at noon time is very ceremonial with full music and elaborate marching.
This very large castle complex contains three courtyards including a Gothic landmark called the St Vitus Cathedral with some beautiful gardens. In one of the chapels the Bohemian crown jewels are deposited in a special chamber.
One nice little neighborhood which is called Mala Strana (the Small Quarter) is squeezed on a hill between the Prague Castle and Vltava River. We roamed the narrow streets finding Renaissance buildings, Baroque churches and more palace- type buildings. A very picturesque part of the Mala Strana was the Kampa. Here was a park where the young people hang about playing music and pretend to be hippie flower children. There is even a wall dedicated to John Lennon. This actual island area is called Praha's Venice because the buildings seem to rise straight out of water canals. We never even considered that there were all these pretty canals in Prague.
The most famous bridge in Praha is the Charles Bridge with Towers from around the year 1400. It is really nice walk across the bridge which has 30 different sculptures adorning it. You can admire the Baroque statuary, see grand views up and down the river. A tower forms the entrance to the Charles Bridge coming from one side. While there seems to be always a crowd of tourists and locals hanging about, the scenery is some of Praha’s best.
It started to drizzle that afternoon for a while, and that gave us opportunity to seek a little refuge in a jewelry shop that featured garnet jewelry. I really blame the weather and rain for Joan’s souvenir purchases of a garnet stone necklace and matching earrings. Hey, but we stayed dry.
Another good memory of Praha is that while we were walking down a quiet little alleyway, we came upon a non-descript wine shop with a blackboard sign out on the sidewalk. We recognized the word ‘vinem’ and went in for a glass of wine. We find a neat little place with five tables for sitting and the shop featured about 75 local Czech wines by the glass. The young lady owner was so pleased that we came in and sat down, she couldn’t do enough for us. She recommended a very pleasant white wine for us to try, and of course we ended up buying a bottle to take along with us. We talked and talked, having 4 glasses of wines; she also brought us out some crackers and cheese, and bottled water. As we were getting pretty looped during this mid-day stop, as we tried to settle up the account, she brought us some homemade ‘mulled wine’ to taste which was a cloudy concoction being poured out of a pitcher that had a cloth lying across the top of it. The bill for all this, including a good bottle to take home, came to $15.50 US.
With nice prices like that, I thought we should move there soon. While we enjoyed our wine afternoon, we learned later that Praha takes beer drinking very seriously; in fact, they consume more beer per capita than any other city in the world!
We just happened to turn into an art school’s parking area by mistake and come upon a full life sized bronze art piece. It was of a gentlemen standing upright in a suit, hands in his pockets, and there was a stream of water flowing out of his exposed male organ into a little pond at his feet. Some little kids and I had some good giggles and laughs together. Walking by a wedding dress store, we discover there was a live model mannequin / white faced street mime in a wedding dress, who would move ever so slightly every few minutes or so. Was it live or was it Memorex? Joan also went crazy and we spent a lot of time viewing the many Bohemian crystal glass shops.
Although the gratuity was included in all food bills, we found a little token tip was nicely received. While we only touched the surface of visiting Praha, we would welcome a chance to spend a couple of more days there doing further exploration.
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