Festive Season In Prague
Prague Travel Blog› entry 1 of 3 › view all entries
I visited the Czech Republic between 8th and 12th of December 2003. I was flying with Czech Airlines 'Travel Service Airlines' on flight QS849.
After collecting my luggage, I made my way to the arrival hall, to meet up with my Bakers Dolphin representative, for my coach transfer to my hotel, Olympik Tristar, for the next 4 nights.
The metro Invalidovna is a short walk from the hotel. Take line B to Namesti Republiky or Mustek (both central) the tram line is also near to the hotel, line 24 runs past the hotel. Tickets cost 12Kc and are valid for 1 hour. Tickets can be brought from most hotels or Tobacconist. Buying several at once is best. Validate tickets on trams, by having them stamped. Tram and Metro tickets cost the same.
The following morning after breakfast, I boarded my coach with a Czech Tour Guide, Maria (which the word Nazi, springs to mind) for a morning walking tour around Prague. We will walk from the Castle district in Hradcany to Charles Bridge into the Old Town in Stare Mesto. We started our tour at Prague Castle (Prazsky hard) then followed by St Vitus Cathedral (Katedrala Sv Vita).
We arrived at the Castle Gates, as the hourly changing of the guards was taking place. Itâï¿½ï¿½s a fairly subdued affair, but every day at noon thereâï¿½ï¿½s much more elaborate parade, accompanied by a brass ensemble which appears at the first floor windows to play local rock star Michal Kocabâï¿½ï¿½s specially commissioned gentle slightly comical modern fanfare.
We entered the courtyard to the East End of St Vitus walked towards St Georgeâï¿½ï¿½s Church and finally into Golden Lane (Zlata ulicka) which line the northern wall of the castle. These miniature houses were actually built by members of the palace guard who piled various trades at times when their armed services were not required. Today gift shops occupy them. House No 22, Franz Kafka lived and worked here.
We end our Castle tour, by walking down Stare zam schody, occupied by street sellers, selling paintings of Prague. Here you get a great view across the city.
We followed our tour guild along U Luzickeho seminare towards Kampa, Pragueâï¿½ï¿½s Little Venice. The island is separated by a thin strip of water called Certovka (Devil's Stream), which used to power several mill wheels.
You can get onto Charles Bridge (Karluv most) from Na Kampe via steps. Over four hundred years was the only link between the two half's of Prague. It's the city's most familiar monument. The baroque statues were additions to the original structure. The building of the bridge began in 1357 to replace the earlier structure, which was swept away by Vltavaâï¿½ï¿½s frequent floods in 1342. Charles IV commissioned his young German court architect, Peter Parler, to carry out the work, which was finally completed in the early fithteeth century.
Along from Charles Bridge you arrive into the Old Town or New Town as it's also known. Eventually into the Old Town Square (Staromestske namesti) the most spectacular square in Prague and traditionally heart of the city. Most houses are eighteenth century but their Baroque facades hide considerably older buildings. From the eleventh century this was the city's main marketplace, known as Velke namesti (Great Square) to which all roads in Bohemia led and where merchants from all over Europe gathered.
The town hall's popular feature is its orloj or Astronomical Clock. Crowed or tourists stand in front to watch a mechanical show by the clocks figures. The apostles shuffle past the top two windows. Perched on pinnacles below are the four threats to the city as perceived by the medieval mind: death carrying his hourglass and tolling his bell, the Jew with his moneybags (since 1945 minus his beard), Vanity admiring his reflection and a turbaned Turk shaking his head. Beneath the moving figures, four characters representing Philosophy, Religion, Astronomy and History stand motionless throughout the performance. A cockerel pops out and flaps its wings to signal the show is over, then the clock chimes the hour.
The clock has been here since the beginning of the fifteenth century, the working figures were added in 1490 by a Master Hanus, who legend has it, was then blinded with a red-hot poker by the towns councillors to make sure he couldn't repeat the job for anyone else. In retaliation, he groped his way around the clock succeeding in stopping it and then died of a heart attack. The clock stayed broken for over eighty years. The Old Town Hall, was our next stop. There's great views across the Old Town and beyond. You can either get the lift up to the top or walk up the ramped floor.