Prague, Czech Republic October 25, 2010Posted by Richard Foote in Travel.
Although the seminar in Munich only had a relatively small attendance (12 in total), it was a great bunch and went off rather well (Martin Decker in this blog piece certainly seemed to enjoy it).
Next stop on my little whirlwind tour of Europe is Prague in the Czech Republic, where I’ve had two fantastic days exploring this wonderful city. I was going to suggest that Prague might just be the secret little gem of Europe but considering the hordes of tourists from all over the world packing the streets and squares, I’m not too sure it really is much of a secret anymore. I love the history that’s associated with so many European cities and Prague has just about as much rich history and amazing architecture as any other European city I’ve visited. Prague was lucky in that unlike many other European cities (Munich being a perfect example), it remained relatively unscathed following WW II and so many of its rich treasures are still here with us to enjoy today. There are just stunning buildings and streets to see everywhere in the city.
I’ve done nothing but walk and walk and walk among the lovely cobbled streets and pathways and taken so many photographs that it’ll take me hours to go through them all. I’ve seen so much that I barely know where to begin except perhaps to briefly outline my top 5 highlights:
1) The Old Town Square that is on par as one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever visited. With its amazing Old Town Hall and Clock Tower on one side (climbing to the top of the tower is an absolute must for a perfect view of the city as is waiting for the clock bells to chime on the hour), with the hugely impressive Church of Our Lady before Tyn on the other side (the twin spires are just something else), with the imposing Church of St. Nicholas in another corner while the rest of the square is just surrounded by colourful and decorative buildings, it really is a special place. In the evening, all lit up, it takes on yet another dimension.
2) Charles Bridge with its cobbled street and wonderful historic statues along both sides, it’s fantastic towers on each end, its interesting markets and stalls and of course with its stunning views of the Vltara River and the city of Prague on both banks, is without a doubt one of the most wonderful bridges anywhere. I would have crossed it about 10 times in total and never once grew tired of it.
3) Nerudova Street in the Little Quarter of Prague is not only extremely scenic but it’s also absolutely chocka block full of interest with each building. It’s a bit of a climb as it winds its way up towards Prague Castle but it’s well worth the effort as the views are stunning and the buildings full of character. Many of them have an identification symbol above the door (such as a lamb, lobster, scales, etc) which were used to identify the house before street numbers were brought in. Lots of tourist shops, crafts stalls, restaurants to keep one occupied as well. At the base of the street is St. Nicholas Church, well worth a visit if only to see it’s incredible domed ceiling. One thing with Prague is that nothing is free and if you’re allowed within a church at all, there is usually a small charge. I certainly don’t have a problem with paying and helping with the upkeep of these magnificent buildings (you also get charged to use most public toilets, which with a few beers and chilly conditions, can soon become a very good investment as well !!).
4) Prague Castle is perhaps the most dominant feature in Prague as it looks down from the top of the hill onto the rest of the city but what a view it is. I do kinda feel sorry for the ceremonial military guards as they stand still and stoney faced while protecting the various castle entrances, with hordes of tourist pulling faces and trying to get their photo taken with them. I can only imagine the temptation to stick their bayonet up the arse of an annoying tourist must be difficult to control at times !! The castle itself has heaps of things to see but it’s the central St. Vitus’s Cathedral that is an absolute must see with parts dating all the way back to 1344 when work first began. It’s simply an architectural masterpiece in the Gothic style, with its flying buttresses and gargoyles on the outside and its beautiful vaulting, decorations, statues and stained-glassed windows on the inside. Best of all, Prague castle has a public toilet that many people miss and don’t know about !!
5) Hard Rock Cafe where they have a guitar signed by all the members of Radiohead. Perfect photo opportunity :)
Without any doubt, Prague is one of the most stunning and beautiful cities in all of Europe. If it ever was a secret, the secret is well and truly out now !! Tomorrow, it’s the start of my indexing seminar but I’ll certainly be paying the Old Town another visit before I leave Prague.