Prague in Winter: Cobblestone, Castles and Kafka
Prague Travel Blog› entry 5 of 11 › view all entries
Prague is a town that belongs in an old Grimm fairytale, one where swans and gargoyles take on other lives in the night.
January 2nd was a cold, gray day. We took the tram down the hill from Zizkov and started walking toward the water.
The first cool thing we came across was this big, colorful synogogue that wasn't listed in the book and looked way different from the ones in the Jewish quarter. It was decorated with pink and blue mosaic pieces and even had star of davids mosaic-ed into the sidewalk in front.
From there, we entered the areas where we had been the night before, still somewhat littered with the remnants of New Years. Old town, St. Nicholas' Church, the astronomical clock.. it's funny, I sat in front of that clock tower for hours on end two nights before, staring in the cold with nothing to do.
Christmas garlands lined the narrow alleyways as we walked through town. The giant blue-light Christmas tree that had held court over the square the night before had already been dismantled. The buildings that shone yellow in floodlights against the ghostly neon blue of the tree were now completely different in the gray winter daylight. Gargoyles and statues peeked out from above, in the nooks of old buildings and from podiums on the street. In the light of day, Wenceslas Square went from Bagdad-on-fire to a bustling shopping district, complete with souveniers shops, department stores and H&M.
We walked through the Jewish Quarter and ended up on the banks of the Vlata. A flock of swans drifted lazily on its waters.
We got onto Tram 22, which takes you all the way up to Prague Castle, which looms over the city on a hill. The castle is guarded by those silent guards, like at Buckingham Palace, except Czech. Of course, we posed for pictures in front of them. There's something about posing for silly pictures with a guard that can't talk that's like a man slipping on a banana peel. It's like classic comedy that just doesn't get old.
Right through the entrance of the castle, you will come to the gorgeous St.
The best view of Prague I found is from atop the Prague Castle wall. I got there just in time for sunset. I walked down a path from St Vitus' Cathedral to the edge of the Castle wall. There was a crowd, but off to the side, there is a section of the castle wall that you can climb.
Perched on top of something that some 12th century soldier probably hid behind while shooting arrows, I had an unobstructed view of the city below -- the pretty churches, the gorgeous red-orange roofs, the bridge being lit up for the night -- all as the reds and purples of the sky settled in for the night.
Watch your step though... there's a long drop down the hill on the other side of the wall, and the climb up the wall itself is just a series of rickety and crumbly concrete blocks stacked on top of each other.
It was dark already as we lef the castle. We took the tram back down across the river, then walked along the riverside promenade back to the Charles Bridge.
There's something about this view from the Charles Bridge that reminds me of Cinderella Castle in a nightmare. Which makes it, you know, awesome. I loved the statues that lined the edges of the bridge. Especially at night, when the dark figures loom eerily over you, contrasting and complimenting the brightly lit spires of the city in the distance. In the cold, snowless winter, the statues on the bridge seemed to glare down in the dark, bathed in old world charm and mystery.
We went to dinner at a tourist-oriented restaurant with one of them "best of XXX place" specials that I so love. It was a variety plate with delicious Prague ham, duck, meats and dumplings.
The bridge is very touristy, even in the middle of winter. There are souvenier shops all around the entrance to the bridge, and we got drawn into one in search of a warm hat for my freezing head. I had my eye on one of the ridiculous faux-communist giant furry russian hats that were being sold all through town.
The souvenier shop we went to was staffed by a group of hilarious and sort of stereotypically post-communist young salesmen. You know, the kind of Eastern Europeans that have just adjusted to capitalism like little fishes in water, so much that they constantly dance to techno while they sell you things.
I walked out of that store with a ridiculous fuzzy white communist hat on my head.