Wednesday, June 25, 2003

2003 June 25 and 26---Prague:

June 25--Prague

It started with leaving the Prague airport and being surprised by the wonderful smell. I don't know what kind of trees these are, but they were blooming all over Prague and it smelled heavenly!
We rode the bus back to her accommodations at the Masarykova Hotel near the university.

The dorm rooms were an interesting configuration. The "flat" was made up of 3 double occupancy bedrooms which shared a small kitchen with table, entryway with shoe holder, and a hall with bathroom and separate shower room. It didn't have air-conditioning, or a TV, but there was a TV room across the hall from my daughter's flat. There was a large window in her room that opened up and let a nice breeze come through. It was clean and comfortable and conveniently located near the metro, busses, and subway. They also had a club, or bar, downstairs where she enjoyed spending many evenings. I hear she's become quite the fuzeball player there. Angie's roommate was from Chicago and they got along great. They shared their kitchen and bathrooms with 2 Czech guys who shared one of the 3 bedrooms and 2 Czech girls who were in the other. She didn't have much interaction with any of them.

After dropping off luggage, we headed a couple blocks away to a pizzaria (Grosetto's ). Angie had bragged about this place, but we were both amused when the waiter kept telling us, "No!"---first when we asked for a plate, then when we asked for a fork, and finally when I tried to pay for our pizza with a credit card.
Then we took a tram up to Letenske Sady Park and looked out over the Vltava River. “Letenske’s flat expanse of land has been the time-honored meeting place for attacking armies. Under the Communists, the park was used mainly for May Day parades, and once housed the largest statue of Stalin in the world before it was blown up in 1962.”
We walked from there to Old Town (the original place of Prague's settlement) and stopped for some ice cream with trendy little umbrellas in it .
Then we wandered around Old Town and saw horses with trendy little hats on them!

Then we continued on across the Charles bridge for a little more sightseeing.
The view of the castle from the bridge over the Vltava River was really neat.

Back at the Old Town Square there was a free open air concert going on. It was a beautiful evening and we lingered there for quite awhile listening to the symphony.

 Soon it was time to eat again, this time nachos and Pilsner at Jalapeno's.
On our way back over Charles Bridge, we had quite the evening view of the castle from the bridge.

Angie also pointed out the statue that is suppose to grant your wish if you rub it.  All the rubbing on it has turned it a golden color.  I hope Angie's wish was granted! 

Then we were off to the Metro to head back to the dorm, stopping on our way at a grocery store for some pita bread and chickpeas for Angie to make hummis out of.

After my first ever taste of hummus (and liking it), I turned in after a long sleepless first 2 days of our travels. Angie headed out and spent one last night partying with her friends.

June 26th---more Prague!

We were up early and on our way to Old Town again. After checking out some of the stores and the Astrological Clock (dating back to Medieval Times,with moving parts added in the 17th century),

we headed on over the Charles Bridge (building of it started in 1357) . The bridge was lined with artists of all kinds---musicians, painters, photographers, ... . Charles Bridge is closed to traffic and has become a visitors attraction.

The walk along the bridge was full of interesting views.

On the other side of the bridge we went to the Bohemian Bagel and had a very good breakfast. With a name like Bohemian Bagel, you might be surprised to hear it's a chain restaurant which specializes in inexpensive breakfasts and lunches. They have 10 types of soup and six types of desserts and great coffees, as well as a broad choice of bagel sandwiches. I did get a bagel sandwich---with egg and bacon--and it was excellent. There are two Bohemian Bagels Restaurants in Prague. The newer store has double the seating capacity and has 10 internet terminals for use at the minimal fee of only $1.75 per hour. We went to the older one across the river towards the castle (in Ujedz). It was small, but had a really nice ambiance. There were a few tables and chairs for outside seating, as well as the small inside restaurant area and bar. Another big advantage here is that for a small extra fee on your drinks, you can get a bottomless glass of soda or cup of coffee! That may not seem too special, unless you're a spoiled American like myself! After walking for hours, the refills are really nice to have!

Then we continued walking up the hill to Prague Castle (dating back to 870). Prazsky Hrad (Prague Castle) sits on the ridge of Hradcany and dominates Prague's skyline. The castle complex consists of three courtyards, fortifications, and gardens. Katedrala sv. Vita (St. Vitus Cathedral) is the Czech Republic's largest church and takes up most of the third courtyard. The work on this Gothic Cathedral was started in 1344 but due to the changing economy, was not completed until 1929. The finest of the 22 side chapels was built to hold the relics of St. Wenceslas. The Baroque tomb of St. John of Nepomuk, is the Jesuits attempt on promoting him as the Czech patron saint instead of Wenceslas. The Coronation Chamber displays the Bohemian crown jewels. The Crypt is the resting place of most of the Kings and Queens of Bohemia.
There are two ways to get up to the castle, one is a road that brings you up to the front of the castle,

the other is a bunch of steps that leads to the back. Along the steps are a more venders with more beautiful artwork. Both ways are quite a hike, but well worth it. Besides the castle grounds to explore, there are great views of the city from the castle.

Most of the castle areas are open to tourists. Nowadays, the castle houses several museums, including the National Gallery collection of Bohemian baroque and mannerism art, exhibition dedicated to Czech history, Toy Museum and the picture gallery of Prague Castle, based on the collection of Rudolph II.

Although the whole castle complex was interesting, the most fascinating to me was "talking to the bushes"! They created an aucoustic trick that if you stand on a certain platform and talk towards a semi-circle of bushes, it'll echo back to you in a very eerie way! I've never encountered anything like that before.

After a fair amount of time around the castle, we headed back down the back way.

If you walk down from the back of Prague Castle and turn right at the bottom of the steps, soon you'll be at Wallenstein Gardens. Doesn't look like much from the outside, but once you go in the gate, you'll find a large open garden. Geometrically designed, this garden was created in 1623-30 and features a small lake, a cave with artificial stalactites and stalagmites, and plenty of roses, rhododendrons, magnolias, and Japanese cherry trees. The statues are copies of originals by Adrian de Vries from 1626-27. There are even peacocks in the gardens. And, it's free!
Another neat place near there is the Jewish Cemetery. It was closed when we went by, but is well worth a visit.
We headed back to the dorm and finished packing and emailing. Then went to a travel agent and bought tickets for a sleeper train to Munich (the Eurail passes didn't include eastern Europe).

Angie then took me to Wenceslas Square where we did some more sightseeing and shopping.
The boulevard running through the middle of the square originates from the Charles IV period (over 600 years ago) when it was used as a horse market. In the upper part of the boulevard, the statue of St.Wenceslas on his horse can be seen. On the top of the hill and centered on the boulevard is the domed National Museum. The boulevard is 750-meter long and 60 meter wide and is lined with commerce, tourist shops, restaurants, casinos, hotels and countless little souvenir shops, as well as name brand department stores. There is even a bar here owned by the famous hockey player, Jaromir Jagr. This pedestrian-friendly boulevard is Prague's main commercial area. The beautiful landscaping and plenty of benches along the boulevard also make this a great place to rest and people watch.

Dinner was at Pod Loubim where we had beef goulash and Gambrinus beer and potatoe coated chicken. Angie wasn't too fond of the meat in the Czech Republic and actually became a vegetarian for awhile. This was one of the few times she did have meat.

Then it was back to the dorm to get our luggage, Angie said her goodbyes, and we were off to catch the night train.

June 26:
At 9:45pm, our sleeper train left Prague. With a $10 ticket to the Czech border and another $50 supplement for a sleeper, we were on our way. We reached the border somewhere around 12:30 am. At that point, the train was stopped and German patrol came aboard to wake everyone and check their passports. Actually they came by our cabin twice---once around 1am and again around 1:30am.  The patrolman looked like a real Gestapo guard---not a smile or even a "Guten Tag".  We wanted our passports stamped so after he coldly checked our passports and had given them back to us, we asked for them to be stamped.  As we watched him abruptly walk away with our passports, we wondered if that was a good idea!  But he did return with them and all was well.
Our birth on the train from Prague
The 1st class sleepers had a bunk and a fold down couch.  There was also a little sink by the window.


I was overwhelmed with the beauty of Prague. We only spent 2 short days there, but packed in alot. It was great having my personal tour guide, Angie, who had lived there for over 5 months. I hadn't really thought of Prague as a tourist city before, but it sure made an impression on me. It escaped the destruction of the Hitler regime and is a great place to really see architectural history. Hopefully I'll get back there someday---with my guide!

--- to continue on our 2 week trip, click here:  Ronchamp   (quite an adventure getting there!)

No comments:

Post a Comment