The castle tour that nearly turned into a pub crawl.

Prague Travel Blog

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Ready to go, and feeling like a million bucks in my new $12 skirt :^D

We covered serious ground today, all on foot. Yes, Prague offers public transportation options such as a tramline and a metro, but you could miss something that way! We walked, walked, walked. Excellent, but tiring too.

Our first mission was to stop at the real estate agent’s office to pay for our apartment. It wasn’t exactly on the way to Prague Castle, our intended destination, and it took a little longer than we expected. So when we finished with that, it was already time for lunch. Luckily we had an excellent map to help us find the tiny street where Lehkahlava -- a restaurant recommended by Fodors -- is located. It was a long way and we got a good look at the Old City on the way, as we traversed wee streets and major ones to find this funky vegetarian café.
The interior of Lehkahlava. We couldn't actually see this because it was so dark. I got this photo from their website.


We entered the restaurant through a heavy curtain and were lead into a dark room to be seated. The ceiling was dark blue, with small holes for tiny points of light to come through, like stars. There was a small fixture at our table that produced a disk of light the size of a baseball. We had to take turns with the patch of light to read our menus, and in the end took the easy way out, ordering the special of the day. Only $6! We started with lentil soup, and then they brought us huge plates of rice and couscous and a stir fry of cabbage, green beans, mushrooms and tofu. Really tasty, and did I mention it was only $6? Good place.

OK, then it was time to really be tourists! From the restaurant we were close to Charles Bridge, a Prague landmark.
View of Prague Castle from Charles Bridge.
The bridge was built in 1357 (!), and saintly statues were added along the sides starting in the 17th century. As we walked across the bridge with the hundreds of other tourists, peddlers and performers, the blackened statues looked down on us, and I am pretty sure some of them were laughing.

About halfway across the bridge, the walking path narrowed considerably due to construction or renovation. Instead of enjoying the INCREDIBLE view of the Prague Castle area in front of us, we were jostled and swept through with the crowd of tourists until we landed on Mosteca street. This street is lined with beautiful old buildings (OK,  I guess that pretty much describes ALL the streets in Prague!).

This very crowded street had tourist information booths, cafes, and shops selling crystal and art glass as well as other tourist kitsch.
More architectural delights.
We walked along here, admiring the many architectural delights, and then crossed over to Nerudova Street which we followed uphill to the “castle.” [There really isn’t one “Prague Castle.” It is really a collection of structures built between the 10th and 20th centuries.]   

We then found ourselves at the foot of the castle area, in Hradcany Square. This square played the role of Vienna in the movie Amadeus. It is surrounded by incredible buildings, and the view of Prague from here is just stunning. I have to say again…this city is absolutely unequaled. It is incredible. I know, everyone says that. But it’s true!  

It was right around this time that I started to realize that the identifier keys in my Fodor’s guidebook were completely screwed up.
It's like a doll house, but was once someone's home.
I would read the description of a particular building out loud, and Steve and I would scratch our heads…THAT doesn’t sound right!?  It was very confusing until we realized the book was broken. Frustrating.  

Anyway. At first we planned to just stroll the grounds and gardens for free instead of paying the $17 entry fee. We walked across the length of the castle area and ended up at the Golden Lane, which I was really looking forward to. But turns out you need one of those tickets to get in! So we paid the $17 after all.

The Golden Lane is a row of tiny, colorful buildings that used to house the castle guards. They have been transformed into cute shops, all touristy of course, but I enjoyed it a lot. Franz Kafka used to live in No 22, which now appropriately houses a bookstore.
Nightmarish inmate cage.


After this, we went into Dalibarka Tower which is a former prison. There were some creepy torture devices there, such as a “rack” and a “violin.” There was a small cage with leg and neck irons inside. Was a terrible fate that would have been! They had posted some informative boards about the history of the tower and this was pretty interesting, if gruesome, place to visit.

Then it was time to walk back through the Prague Castle grounds and use our tickets to visit the places we had missed the first time. St George’s Basilica didn’t do much for me (another really old church), but I really liked the Royal Palace. You enter through an enormous hall (dating from 1493), which has the most amazing old wood floors and a soaring vaulted ceiling.
St. Vitus’s Cathedral.
Fantastic.

We did not pay extra to go into St. Vitus’s Cathedral (this is the pointy church visible from pretty much everywhere in Prague.) But I can report that it is quite amazing from the outside! Construction on this gothic masterpiece started in the 10th century and was not completed until 1929. According to Fodor’s, the cathedral is the “spiritual heart of not only Prague bit of the entire country.”  It is incredibly large and were we duly impressed with it up close and personal.

At this point we were so tired and achy. It had been a long day of walking and sightseeing. I had the rather brilliant idea of checking out one of the pubs listed in the book. We have both been wanting to try out some of this famous Czech beer, and the timing felt perfect.
Enjoying a cold one at U Zlateho Tygra.
So we made our way to a place called U Zlateho Tygra. We found it easily enough, but it looked dark… was it closed? Is this another bum guidebook recommendation? We tentatively pushed through the door and found a smoky room full of people sitting at long wooden tables… definitely not closed!

People stared at us when we came in. The dark atmosphere and unsmiling faces seemed intimidating. Plus, there were people sitting at every table...no room for us? We both kind of wanted to walk back out, but then a waiter indicated we should sit at a table with three others… so we did as we were told.

As we sat there wondering what to do next, the waiter dropped two foamy mugs of beer in front of us. No need to fuss with a menu and make any hard decisions, as they only serve one beer: Pilsner Urquell.
Our final tally.
It was cold and delicious. I even forgot about the smoke a little bit and we chatted with our tablemates… two Londoners here for the weekend, and one local. We talked about beer around the world, and the couple’s fascination with steam engine travel (they have traveled the Mississippi and had some interesting tales).  The company was good, the beer was delicious…we settled in quite nicely.

When the beers got low, the waiter simply brought another round and marked a line on the paper he had placed in front of us. Such an efficient process, and you could tell they were well practiced. The place was full of people drinking beer after beer after beer.  

After two beers each we were on the fence: should we have another round, or should we leave? We ended up leaving, but at this point I really wanted to head on to another pub on the list.
People staring up at the Astronomical Clock. We had no idea what was going on, but we joined them anyway.
We could make a night of this! But Steve was beat and wanted to head back home, which was undoubtedly the wisest course.    

On the way to our apartment we passed through Old Town Square again. We noticed a huge crowd of people staring up at the old clock there (I later learned it’s the Astronomical Clock). Although we had no idea what they were staring at, we joined them and commenced to staring at the clock ourselves. In three minutes, at exactly 5pm, the old clock came to life. A skeleton pulled a chain to ring the bell, the mandolin player played a tune. It was a pretty lively show for something that dates from 15th century, and the crowd made a collective chuckle before dispersing.

We left as well, and went back to the apartment.
The clock does its thing.
The long day of walking (and the beers!) got the better of us, and our day of sightseeing was most definitely done.   
     


  
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Ready to go, and feeling like a mi…
Ready to go, and feeling like a m…
The interior of Lehkahlava. We cou…
The interior of Lehkahlava. We co…
View of Prague Castle from Charles…
View of Prague Castle from Charle…
More architectural delights.
More architectural delights.
Its like a doll house, but was on…
It's like a doll house, but was o…
Nightmarish inmate cage.
Nightmarish inmate cage.
St. Vitus’s Cathedral.
St. Vitus’s Cathedral.
Enjoying a cold one at U Zlateho T…
Enjoying a cold one at U Zlateho …
Our final tally.
Our final tally.
People staring up at the Astronomi…
People staring up at the Astronom…
The clock does its thing.
The clock does its thing.
Welcome...BOO!
Welcome...BOO!
Entertainment on Charles Bridge.
Entertainment on Charles Bridge.
The view south from the Charles Br…
The view south from the Charles B…
Another view near the end of Charl…
Another view near the end of Char…
Church near Prague Castle area.
Church near Prague Castle area.
Beautiful Prague, as seen from Cas…
Beautiful Prague, as seen from Ca…
Little imp is sticking his tongue …
Little imp is sticking his tongue…
Me, hanging out at Franz Kafkas o…
Me, hanging out at Franz Kafka's …
Steve checks out No 20 on Golden L…
Steve checks out No 20 on Golden …
Tiny house on Golden Lane.
Tiny house on Golden Lane.
Love the sign. Come on in you pigg…
Love the sign. Come on in you pig…
The vaulted ceiling of the Royal P…
The vaulted ceiling of the Royal …
Inside the Royal Palace.
Inside the Royal Palace.
View of Prague from the Royal Pala…
View of Prague from the Royal Pal…
Ceiling detail at the Royal Palace.
Ceiling detail at the Royal Palace.
Gilded window at St. Vitus’s Cat…
Gilded window at St. Vitus’s Ca…
Everyone wanted this guys picture.
Everyone wanted this guy's picture.
An expressive flutist.
An expressive flutist.
Entertainment at the entrance to P…
Entertainment at the entrance to …
Scared the crap out of me as we we…
Scared the crap out of me as we w…
Oh, oh I am already looking blurry!
Oh, oh I am already looking blurry!
U Zlateho Tygra.
U Zlateho Tygra.
Done!
Done!
The Astronomical clock.
The Astronomical clock.
Prague
photo by: vulindlela