Prague : A feast for the eyes and heart.

Prague Travel Blog

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Bridge over the Vlatva.

Prague…ah Prague…”sigh”…My word. Whether to write a journal entry for or a love letter to this fabulous city?  Ok, I’ll spare you the latter, but it’s a pretty darned special place.  I can see why latterly my parents so much enjoyed their trip or two here.  My time in this centre of Bohemian history and culture is bathed in adoration every step of the way.  I think this city is a reeeal little chocolate box of delights.  A new building; church; street; square or view to delight the senses at every turn it sometimes seems.  This too is true of many other beautiful European cities, but something about Prague…I dunno?… just gels better; works better for the soul.

St.Vitus's Cathedral. The rose window.
  Yep, take one chocolate.  Go on… take another… don’t worry about the filling.  Just reach out, chomp it and then try another…why not?  Indulge yourself.  You might as well, after all this place is as easy on the wallet as on the eyes... and you're on holiday after all!

 

Following a breakfast chat with a pleasant Sri-Lankan doctor in the peculiar bunker-like breakfast basement of the Chili Hostel I head out riverwards.  The sun still sleeps, snug and warm beneath it’s vast blanket of comforting cotton wool clouds.

 

An hour or so flicking through Isobel’s ‘Time Out Guide to Prague’ whilst she was out on the lash last night has given me a few pointers as to what to go check out, but I pretty much just grab a free tourist map of the city from the hostel reception and start strolling.

St.Vitus Cathedral door knocker (Detail).
  My preferred method of introducing myself to an unknown place.  I amble along the bank of the river Vlatva looking at the greyish-green reflections of it’s various bridges.  There is something always quite soothing about the gliding of a river first thing in the morning I think.  Prague has a fabulous, famous historic pedestrian bridge spanning the Vlatva, The Charles Bridge (Karluv Most).  Commissioned by King Charles IV in the 14th Century it acts as an umbilical connection between the medieval heart of The Old Town of Prague and the area on the far banks referred to as Mala Strana; translating roughly to the ‘Lesser’ or ‘Little Quarter’.  The bridge is bookended by the ‘Old Town’ and ‘Mala Strana’ stone bridge towers and contains a large quantity of religious and monarchical statuary perched along its walls.  Some heavy duty restoration work masks some of the bridge at the present time.
One of the spectacular stained-glass windows within St.Vitus.

 

Now in Mala Strana and heading up some winding, steep roads towards Prague Castle, one of the sights that dominates the city landscape when viewed from afar.  The largely walled castle grounds is principally comprised of The Old Royal Palace and Prague’s most impressive cathedral St.Vitus.  As I queue outside the cathedral mild rain threatens and umbrellas are prematurely popped up by doom-mongering tourists, but thankfully it never comes.  The cathedral contains some of the most beautiful, intricate and vibrantly coloured stained-glass windows I have yet seen, however I suspect these are more contemporary than historic.  I really couldn’t say?  Also at the rear of the cathedral nave rest the remains of the canonised St.

Parading the card within the grounds of Prague Castle.
John of Nepomuk (“Nope, I've no idea either…never knew the lad!”) within a large, ornate solid-silver sarcophagus covered in likewise show-stealing silver statuary.  Prague is the first city on my journey that I begin to encounter the ubiquitous guided city-walk tour groups with their infinite swarming numbers and frantic guides waving ‘amusingly coloured’ sticks and wands in the air to keep their group’s attention.  These cause such a log-jam whilst walking (crawling!) around the sarcophagus that you feel you’re in a carnival procession rather than a revered and saintly cathedral!

 

Within the castle walls are accesses to various parts of the historic castle, palace and exhibitions therein (varying priced passes will obtain varying levels of access to these sights) and also Golden Lane, a quaint stretch of tiny little medieval terraced residences (built in the days when EVEN I would have been in danger of bumping my head on door-tops!) now occupied by various money-sucking tourist-trap-crap shops.

The ornate, baroque interior of the beautiful St.Nicholas Church.
  There’s a dungeon too and then a beautiful view back over the city if you care to ascend to the Wallenstein vineyards above the castle.

 

Back at the base of the pedestrian hill (a long, wide stairway down called Staré Zámecké) and now time for a change of scene.  A little splash of green in the quiet Wallenstein Gardens.  A real little gem set in the sunshine today, and away from the main thoroughfare.  A small(ish) well kept garden arrangement of plants, hedge-bordered paths and water features including a pretty pond inhabited by large carp fish which your eyes follow about whilst lone peacocks (the men’s feathers having fallen for the season already) strut about the periphery.  You move through the garden to a strange and impressive high wall of artificial drip-stone ‘stalactite’ formations.

The pretty Wallenstein Gardens.
  Fascinating to stare at and see if you can spot any of the carved ‘beasts’ amidst its many amorphic forms.

 

In the heart of Mala Strana (The ‘Lesser Quarter’) you will come across and MUST visit the Church of St.Nicholas.  Do not hesitate to hand over the pitiful entry sum of 70 krona as you will not regret it.  This church is absolutely one of the most ornate and beautiful high-Baroque style churches I think that I have been in so far on my travels (and remains so at the time of writing/ early Oct 2008).

 

“Oh my GOSH!”… so much seen I could (yes, you know I could!) fill pages waxing lyrical about the treasures to be found in and around Prague’s many and winding, pedestrian-friendly city streets, squares and avenues!

 

Still on the Mala Strana side of the Vlatva river more quaint churches and the fabulously colourful and creatively schizophrenic ‘John Lennon Wall’.

The 'stalactite' wall in the Wallenstein Gardens. Can YOU spot any creatures within it? First one to shout out gets a prize...err?... well, maybe.
  This is - as the title suggests - a large wall entirely covered in textual and image-based graffiti tributes in relation to the famous former Beatle, his lyrics, philosophy and image and all.  It resides in a fairly non-descript byway of the city and I have no idea of the provenance of the wall.  Why there?  Why Lennon?  Maybe you can let me know?  Fantastic nevertheless.  I never quite feel you’ve got a full feel for the soul of a city unless you’ve caught at least a fleeting glimpse of some of it’s finer moments of graffiti and likewise ‘street’ communal art.  The 'new' mashing it up with the old, hopefully artistically and not too disrespectfully.

 

Mooching back in the direction of The Charles Bridge there seems to be a queue for an imminently departing boat tour trip up and down the Vlatva river so I think “what the heck, yep for 200 krona I’m hoppin’ on board too!”  The weather is now staggeringly hot (the hottest of my journey so far!) so a good time to be kickin’ up your feet and floating down river.

  I listen as the multilingual guide speakers enunciate information about the various sights and buildings along the riverbanks and skylines whilst almost dosing off in the warmth and water-relaxation of the moment on the return leg.  A chap behind me actually does. A sunny summer slumber.  Warmth is quite a drug sometimes!

 

I stroll back across The Charles Bridge now and into the medieval centre of the city.  Specifically the Old Town Square (Stavo Mestske Namesti) a fab, large pedestrianised space where cycle-taxis, horse and carriages and even a pair of newlyweds happily congregate amidst the throngs of tourists and touring groups here to see the sights.  Here again you are spoilt for choice as to where to put your eyes first!  Another grand church by the name again of St.

The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn.
Nicholas here as well as the unmissable gothic twin spires of The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn which against the blue skyline I could stare at for aaaages!  Also a REAL crowd pleaser to be found in the Astronomical Clock upon the side of the Old Town Hall Tower.  An intricate work of time keeping genius that vast throngs of touring groups collect under awaiting the hour to strike when a little trap door  releases Christ and his 12 disciples as well as a skeletal figure of Death tolling the hour :)  For next to nothing you can take a funky, modern lift (which looks to me like it’s set up to achieve time travel or somethin'!) up the core of The Tower for some stunning views of Prague all around.  Another must I would say if you find yourself in the city.

 

Aaaagh!!… so much to recall!… the opera house; some other impressive tower thingamy; the synagogue; the mighty Wenceslas Square with the gold-domed National Museum at the top of the hill and a fab temporary photographic exhibition of the radical and satirical photo-journalists and cartoonists that continued to work anonymously before and after the Soviet tanks rolled into town to begin the occupation exactly 40 years ago this year; the building and shop facades with their occasional frescoed frontages; and the… and the… AND THE… and it just keeps on coming ‘til the sun goes down and beyond.

The Astronomical Clock in The Old Town Square.
  Sweet delight after sweet delight.  One chocolate surprise from this glorious box of delights after the other ‘til you’re so bloated with happiness and contentment that your smile near bursts the sides of your culturally over-gorged chops!  But then they’re all gone… the chocolates that is! you ate them ALL!  You pig! “How could you be so greedy and enjoy the experience so much!!!”… but it’s ok… “Phew!”… I panicked there for a second… Prague’s not all done.  Not by a long way yet ‘cos you just discovered the box is far from empty.  The sun’s gone down.  The city and all it’s monuments light up as do your eyes as you realise, disguised, there is a little corrugated plastic dividing tray within the box… you can lift it off, and there spread before you a WHOLE new layer of treats to select from! “Put your hands up for Prague.
Beautiful Prague from above!
  I LOVE this city!”
:)

pms70 says:
I am so glad you enjoyed one of my favourite cities of all time so much! And I must admit, you saw a lot more than I did when I was there... I did spend a couple of hours in a pub drinking and talking to a German lady who had been living in Prague since the war, and it was an experience in itself! Good memories and I will have to go back there one day...
Posted on: Oct 09, 2008
cmgervais says:
I love Prague too. Good blog.
Posted on: Oct 08, 2008
keeweeset says:
Your phrase: "money-sucking tourist-trap-crap shops" just made me laugh! =)
I'll definitely need to try this delicious box of chocolates one of these days...Prague looks and sounds great! :)
Posted on: Oct 07, 2008
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Bridge over the Vlatva.
Bridge over the Vlatva.
St.Vituss Cathedral. The rose win…
St.Vitus's Cathedral. The rose wi…
St.Vitus Cathedral door knocker (D…
St.Vitus Cathedral door knocker (…
One of the spectacular stained-gla…
One of the spectacular stained-gl…
Parading the card within the groun…
Parading the card within the grou…
The ornate, baroque interior of th…
The ornate, baroque interior of t…
The pretty Wallenstein Gardens.
The pretty Wallenstein Gardens.
The stalactite wall in the Walle…
The 'stalactite' wall in the Wall…
The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn.
The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn.
The Astronomical Clock in The Old …
The Astronomical Clock in The Old…
Beautiful Prague from above!
Beautiful Prague from above!
St.Nicholas Church (another one!) …
St.Nicholas Church (another one!)…
The Charles Bridge over the Vlatva.
The Charles Bridge over the Vlatva.
The Old Town Tower entrance to The…
The Old Town Tower entrance to Th…
Statuary upon the Charles Bridge.
Statuary upon the Charles Bridge.
Restoration works upon the Charles…
Restoration works upon the Charle…
A rather artistic bollard.
A rather artistic bollard.
The front entrance to Prague Castl…
The front entrance to Prague Cast…
Restoration on St.Vitus.
Restoration on St.Vitus.
The main nave of St.Vitus.
The main nave of St.Vitus.
Brass decor in St.Vitus Cathedral …
Brass decor in St.Vitus Cathedral…
The large, ornate, solid silver sa…
The large, ornate, solid silver s…
A rather gruesome torture device w…
A rather gruesome torture device …
Uhhh?  Another view from Wallenste…
Uhhh? Another view from Wallenst…
The city viewed from the Wallenste…
The city viewed from the Wallenst…
Weirdo in the Wallenstein Gardens …
Weirdo in the Wallenstein Gardens…
The Wallenstein Gardens.
The Wallenstein Gardens.
Statue within the Wallenstein Gard…
Statue within the Wallenstein Gar…
The beautiful (inside & to some ex…
The beautiful (inside & to some e…
The frescoed cupola of St.Nicholas…
The frescoed cupola of St.Nichola…
Statue within St.Nicholas Church.
Statue within St.Nicholas Church.
The frankly insanely over-the-top …
The frankly insanely over-the-top…
Carved graffiti proving that peopl…
Carved graffiti proving that peop…
... always mman!  (the John Len…
"... always m'man!" (the John Le…
The Bespectacled Beatle (John Lenn…
The Bespectacled Beatle (John Len…
Imagery upon The John Lennon Wall.
Imagery upon The John Lennon Wall.
A portion of the fabulously sprawl…
A portion of the fabulously spraw…
A rather eerie bas-relief effigy o…
A rather eerie bas-relief effigy …
Love and peace on the John Lennon …
Love and peace on the John Lennon…
View of the Vlatva River.
View of the Vlatva River.
A marionette performer upon The Ch…
A marionette performer upon The C…
Vegetarian restaurant sign : Hmmm…
Vegetarian restaurant sign : "Hmm…
The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn.
The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn.
The funky lift shaft (& stairs) in…
The funky lift shaft (& stairs) i…
The Old Town Square.
The Old Town Square.
Newly weds pose in The Old Town Sq…
Newly weds pose in The Old Town S…
A frescosed building/ shop front.
A frescosed building/ shop front.
Some tower in the medieval centre …
Some tower in the medieval centre…
The National Museum at the top of …
The National Museum at the top of…
Remembering political art from 196…
Remembering political art from 19…
Prague
photo by: vulindlela