This was our first trip to Prague since moving to Germany in October 2008. Prague is only 4 hours from our house so we decided to drive. We chose the Memorial Day holiday to take advantage of the four day weekend. Plans were made in March for seven of us to share a penthouse apartment south of Old Town. The apartment had a terrace, 3 bedrooms, kitchen, 2 full baths and living room. A great deal for 180 euros/night. We planned to load up 2 cars on Friday night after work and come back on Monday evening. As the date grew nearer, the size of the group grew smaller and seven days before our departure we were down to three people and one car. We selected a different hotel, decided to leave on Saturday and prepared for the trip.
Beautiful Buildings line the route to Old Town Square.
The ride to Prague was rather uneventful and that is a good thing in most cases. We arrived at our hotel at 1:30 pm and checked in. The receptionist was a cheerful woman and very helpful. She gave us a map, circled the location of the hotel and pointed us toward Old Town. It is important to carry a map in Prague because all of the streets wind around and it is easy to get lost. This is common in most old medieval cities in Europe. The hotel was just east of the Powder Gate which is the entrance to old town. It was built in the 15th century and the only remaining portion of the fortification wall that used to ring the whole old town area to the river. If you like, you can enter the tower, climb to the top and get a great view of the city. It's not free but only costs a couple of euros.
A slice of pizza for a quick lunch.
The currency is Krowns. They are slowly converting to the Euros and will switch over completely next year. Not sure of the exact date but the Czechs are not to keen on dropping their currency. The same thing happened in Italy when they had to switch over from the Lire.
We passed through the Powder Gate and Tower and headed toward Old Town. From our hotel it took 15 minutes to walk to the tower and another 15 minutes to Old Town. The Old Town Square is a great place to people watch and appreciate the architecture. The buildings reflect both the baroque and medieval periods of history. This has been the center of activity since the late 1300's. Public executions, martyrs burned at the stake and public speeches have all been held in this square.
The Charles Bridge is filled with entertainers. This was puppeteer who was entertaining the audience and this little girl was mesmerized by the little puppet. Enjoy!
Today the square is a major tourist spot filled with horse and carriage, tour groups, outdoor dining and people just passing through.
The main attraction on the square is the Astronomical Clock. It was constructed in the 15th century before anyone knew that the earth actually revolves around the sun and not the other way around. It was difficult for people to tell time by looking at the clock so they mounted another simple clock directly above it. I have to admit I had a hard time from looking at the astronomical clock. We stood under the clock and listened to a tour guide discuss the construction and history of the clock. According to legend, the man who invented the clock was invited by the king to join him at the castle to honor him for making such a glorious clock.
View of the castle from the old town side at the foot of the Charles Bridge
The clockmaker went to the castle and was held down and blinded. This was done to prevent the clockmaker from duplicating his famous clock. As you can imagine, the clockmaker was very angry. He left the castle, found his way back to the clock and damaged it so that it would not keep accurate time. He also put a curse on the clock and anyone who would work on the clock would die. So for over 100 years the clock the time reflected on the clock was not correct. Maybe that is also why they added the simple clock on the top. I don't know if it was true but it makes for an interesting story. The Tyn Church is located on the square opposite the town hall building with the astronomical clock. It is only open to the public 30 minutes before service begins and we did not see to catch it at the right time.
Prague Castle stands on the hill
I would be worth a look if you happen to be in the area during church service hours.
After leaving the square we headed toward the Charles Bridge following Karlova street. Twisting and curving like a river. This was a short 5-10 minute walk and the street was lined with the typical tourist shops, jewelry, bohemian glass and art galleries. This is a popular street and filled with tourist coming from and heading to the Charles Bridge. The entrance to the Charles Bridge is the Old Town Bridge Tower which was added to the bridge in 1373. To the left of the bridge you will find a nice outdoor terrace and night club called Klub Lavka. We ate here on our last day in Prague. We entered the bridge through the tower. It was very crowded and the pedestrian area was only half the normal size because the right side was under construction up to the middle of the bridge and a high chain link fence kept visitors contained in a space no wider than 3 meters.
The Charles Bridge
Once we cleared the construction area, the whole bridge opened up and we were able to step aside and get a good look at the city, enjoy the entertainment and take some more pictures. This is really a great bridge built in 1357 and has survived over 650 years of turbulent history. The statues lining the bridge were added during the 17th century. I hope it withstand another 650 years but judging by the flow of tourists it will be lucky to last another 100 without extensive work.
After leaving the Charles Bridge we entered Mala Strana (lesser city). My wife and her friend decided to go up in this tower and I stayed down on the ground and had my first Prague Pilsner. This was good choice for me because it gave me a chance to kick up my feet and sip on a cold Budweiser (no relationship to the Anheuser Busch stuff).
Naz poses near the bridge
They were up in the town taking pictures for over 30 minutes. She took some great shots but come on, 30 minutes in a tower. How long could it take to do a 360 and take all the shots you need? What 10 minutes? Anyway, they finally came down and we headed off up the hill to see the Prague Castle. On the we we stopped at Cowboys (see my review for additional information on this place). Then we made it to the castle at around 7:30 pm. Unfortunately the church and museums were all closed at 6 pm so we just wandered around outside took more pictures and came down from the castle following the stairs on the east side.
We crossed the river using the bridge just north of the Charles bridge. The bridge has a pedestrian walkway but cars and trains use it as a major access point to the old city.
We wandered through the old town square, found the Dahab restaurant (see my review for additional information) and then headed back to the hotel for a much deserved rest. No clubbing for this guy. I was just happy to take off my shoes and watch CNN in the hotel room.
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