I heard from my friends, and my friends have heard from their friends that Prague is a beautiful city. So when my hubby and I decided to go backpacking in Europe, Czech Republic had to be in our itinerary.
From Amsterdam, we took the train en route to Prague. We stopped over Berlin for one hour to take a peek of the Reichstag Building, a grand architecture that houses the German Parliament. Across the building is a vast open park, where people just lay on the grass in spring. A better itinerary would have been to spend at least a couple of days in Berlin. Well, I am to blame why we didn’t spend more time in this city – I was hesitant to visit Germany because it reminded me of the unfortunate holocaust. The brief stop at Berlin made me “forgive” and accept what could not be changed. I scribed a mental note to visit this cool city in the future. From Berlin, we took another train to Prague.
Outside the Hlavní Nádrazí (Main Station), all signs were in Czech. Since we could not make sense of the map, it was just practical to ask the locals for directions. According to other people’s observation the Czechs were said to be “not nice”. This was so untrue in our case – we asked directions from 2 strangers – a mother and her teenage-looking son. Not only were they nice, but they were willing to help. They made an effort to speak English. The son checked his phone to give us more accurate directions. As if it were not enough, he took paper and a box from his backpack. He carefully opened the box, revealing a singular luxury fountain pen adorned with gold hardware, the kind rich CEO’s use. His pen was an accessory sure to impress. He drew a rough map, he wrote the tram number to take. The mom even offered to accompany us to the tram stop (we politely declined since we already must had taken 10 minutes of their time). We thanked them profusely. Their kindness blew me away.
Old Town Square
I stood in the center of Old Town Square, turned 360 degrees and soaked in the cozy vibe brought by the cobbles, horse driven carriages and edifices from an olden era circling the square. An al fresco bistro located in the center of the square, was a relaxing spot to sip some wine and enjoy the surrounding views. I passed by small shops and restaurants and was quite surprised to hear an American 80’s song being played in one of the shops (Knife by Bryan Adams). A few blocks further, I heard Madonna’s Like a Virgin, then a Michael Jackson’s. It led me to carelessly think, was it just 80’s night, or were the newer songs still in transit?
Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock
The Old Town Hall Tower was built in 1338. In one side of its wall, a built-in Astronomical Clock chimes by the hour. It plays a brief mechanical show known as “The Walk of the Apostles”. The clock is ancient, it is more than 600 years old. Over those years, it has stopped working, broken, bombed, and repaired many times. It is a beautiful clock intricately designed in good taste, with astronomical and calendar dials. Tourists gather up in front of the clock, admire its beauty, and wait for it to strike the hour. To truly be amazed by this clock, read its history and how the clock works before visiting the monument. Tourists can also go up the Old Town Hall Tower for a good view of the Old Town Square.
Tyn Church is another popular landmark of Prague. It stands high in the Old Town Square with its 80 meter high Gothic exterior, this church can be seen from miles across. Staring at the two spikes, I thought something was not quite symmetrical. Indeed I was right, later I found out that the two spikes represent the feminine and the masculine.
Walking on the Charles Bridge before the sunrise was like walking into a dreamy sequence of Camelot or Mordor in Lord of the Rings. In the misty fog, huge sculptures of saints on both left and right side of the bridge welcomed me as if saying, “enter the kingdom”. In daytime, it was busy with tourists. Some artists also peddled their handmade crafts. None were made in China, and I hope it stays that way.
Sight seeing around Prague on foot, brought us to the Prague Castle. We didn’t know this place due to lack of research, and as if by fate we were led here. Outside it looked like a governmental palace, with uniformed guards stationed by the gate. The guards stood straight with rifle in hand. They didn’t move an inch. At noon, a new set of guards was marching in an uncanny cadence with precise choreography of what must be a ceremonial change of guards. Onlookers were entertained, and I applauded at the end.
We walked past the guards and found ourselves standing in awe in front of the St. Vitus Cathedral. It is of Gothic architecture, with unbelievable details. It houses the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman emperors. The architectural design, and masonry are to behold.
We strolled around the compound, visited museums and explored alleys, we still were looking for a castle. We asked somebody, “which one is the Prague Castle?”, and the local looked around with arms outstretched and said, “all of these is Prague Castle”. Oh, so I see. Prague Castle is a castle compound of churches, museums and a whole lot of historical buildings that are a number of centuries old.
In my appreciation of the classical music, I urged my hubby to return to the Prague Castle in the evening to attend the Prague Royal Orchestra in concert at the St. George Basilica, another church originally built in the year 920 (not a typo). We took our seats inside the Baroque inspired church, eagerly waiting. The orchestra was to perform popular tunes from Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Pachelbel. I muffled a laugh, because the orchestra played behind a decorated balcony. No one could see them perform in their full glory, we would only see partial silhouettes and the occasional head and torso of the lead violinist. I was glad I didn’t pay for the front row seats. Acoustic wise, the concert was music to my ears (pardon the pun).
John Lennon Wall
The John Lennon Wall is a graffiti filled wall with drawings of John Lennon, the Beatles lyrics, and other political and social thoughts expressed in spray paints. The young Czechs use the wall for self expressions. If you want to leave your mark on this wall, don’t just put your name on it. Think of something relevant to say, and pay some respect.
We asked a stranger for directions going to the Dancing House, a popular building famous for its whimsical curve that is supposed to resemble two dancers. The stranger gave us specific directions. We followed and ended up in a night club. The Dancing House on the other hand is not a disco house but an office space. Its modern architecture stands out from the surrounding historical buildings.
Prague is an intimate city that drew me in. It is charming. I would go back to Prague in a heartbeat, explore other areas and immerse more with the locals.
Written By: Phoebe Aviles