Prague, Czech Republic
Known to many as the City of Hundred Spired or Praha. I was taken by the beauty of this place; in all honesty I didn’t know what to expect apart from the low temperatures as I had been to lazy to do any research on the place. I had however seen numerous pictures on Instagram and acquired varies information from instagram and colleagues about the Christmas markets, cheap beers and the occasional racism, which appeared to deter a large number of ethnic minorities from visiting this beautiful historical capital of bohemia. Why Praha/Prague? It was ranked the fifth most visited city in Europe in 2014 by TripAdvisor along with Paris, Rome, Istanbul and London. (P.S. I still need to visit Istanbul).
I have come to realise that the further you step away from London and the most obvious European cities (Madrid, Amsterdam and Paris); you get to see the culture and traditions of the place your within. With that in mind, the Czech culture appears to have missed the reign of westernisation and modernity. The people gracefully embrace their national traits such as using the national language as their first language as opposed to English. In Prague, you find that the majority of English speakers were those working in jobs that regularly dealt with tourists such as hotel receptionists, tour guides and waiters/waitresses. Which made it interesting as well as challenging to us while communicating with the locals. I only went for a weekend (two and a half days), so I had to take adventure of the long tour guides that allowed me to discover the main attractions within the whole city in under six hours. Having arrived during the night, the transfer company “Prague airport transfers” handed us a voucher which gave us the options and instructions on where to find the free walk tour or the discounted walk/boat/tram tour both lasting six hours.
We opted for the latter option mainly because of the weather, it was too cold also because we got to experience the travel methods
and honestly as three of us were wearing heels. The meeting point was at the famous astronomical clock located in the centre of the Old Town Square at 11:00am. We arrived around 10 minutes late and were clueless on which tour to join; we showed our voucher to the first bus tour operator we saw. He pointed us to the guide in a red jacket, so we cheekily snuck into his group and starting to participate in the talks he was having. After 15 mins of hanging around in the cold we realised that he was leading the free six hour walk tour and that was not the tour we wanted to partake in. After various attempts to get his attention without distracting the group we failed and waited for him to walk to the next attraction. Before asking for his help to find our guide we listened and learnt more than we had expected about Czech history. What stood what for us was the small margin between the rich and the poor and the historical divide of Slovakia and Czech Republic as well as the statue of Jans that was situated on our right hand side.
At 11:40, the guide came to collect us from the Old Town Square, thankfully she was still in the Square and only had two lovely and understanding tourists with her (Who we’ve stayed in touch with). The tour was split three ways, walk, boat and tram across the city. We started out with walking across the old town square and learning yonks about architecture and the era of buildings from Gothic to Charles’ window designs. I came to understand more about the Czech’s medieval and Bohemia cultures. The traditions are still evident in the city and daily culture. Especially in the markets, I found a scary stall of voodoo dolls. The guide took us to a small cafe with wifi ofcourse to rest and grab a warm drink. Despite the cold weather, we continued with walk tour through numerous medieval pathways that got confused with the century that we were in. The surrounding creates an atmosphere that dates you back to the medieval times and also the felt like we were walking in circles, all the pathways and buildings looked similar. We eventually ended up at the end of the stairs that lead onto the Charles Bridge, here we were took a small path underneath stairs to reach the waiting area for the boat trip.
The Cruiser as I like to refer to it, was covered up, so we got to sit inside and keep warm from the cold. This was good for the warmth plus the mulled wine and gingerbread that were supplied, however the glass affected the quality of the pictures that were taken on the tour. The boat ride is between 30minutes to an hour long and the ride takes you around the Charles Bridge. The boat is equipped with an automated information recording as well as laminated photographs that explain Czech history and the significant buildings situated along the river. Following the boat ride, we embarked on our last leg of the six hour tour. We walked to the team station where we caught tram number 22 to the Castle. On arrival we walked through the castle gates towards the restaurant for lunch. The lunch was free as it was part of the our ticket, but unfortunately the menu provided is very limited in that it doesn’t serve to meet different dietary requirements, i.e. because my cousin does not eat meat, she was forced to eat the food as there were no chicken alternatives.
Prague Castle is situated at the top of the hill designed to look like a small self sufficient town in itself. It’s where you all the Czech kings, Roman Empires and presidents of the Czech Republic have had their offices. The guide took us around the castle explaining what the different constituents while sharing stories of the castle history, the buildings represent different architect styles. Within the castle you can find the St Vitus Cathedral with its French Gothic structure . There is not much to do, it’s more like a sightseeing trip, the buildings are authentic and dated still beautiful. On the exist of the Castle you are greeted by the an aerial view of the Old Town of Prague, showcasing all the significant attractions as well as the popular burnt orange top view of Prague house, one similar to that found in Florence, Italy.
Due to the lack of time, weather and travel companions; I was unable to see the opera house and the John Lennon wall ( it has now been painted over) but I did view the opera house from a distance while standing in the middle of Wenceslas Square. I would recommend that if one has the time and opportunity; you should take advantage of that and passby the following attractions and take pictures, because from what I’ve seen Prague is an beautiful and authentic city which behold numerous stories within it.
– the Dancing House
– Vrtba Gardens
– The Jewish Quarter