Old Town Beauty Days 1 and 2: Prague

Last year for the Easter weekend, Jeff and I took our first European trip to see the Pope in Rome. It was such an incredible experience with sunshine, history, and thousands of people, we wanted to do something a little different this year. After much research, we decided on Prague.

2015-04-02 14.41.42Prague is one of the cities I had dreamed about in college when words like “study abroad” were being thrown around casually. Granted, I never did go and study abroad, but the images of the Old Town never left my mind. When we arrived at the airport for our early flight, we had another casual celebrity sighting. Eve ordered the same drink (mean green smoothie) I did at the Leon Cafe in Terminal 2 and went off for her flight. It was a little thrill just before we boarded.

We landed inside of a snow globe. A freak snow storm met us as we made it to Prague dashing our hopes at a warmer-than-London holiday. But it was absolutely beautiful to see the large snow flurries surrounding our plane and cab. We braced the cold and bundled up as we headed out for our first night in the Old Town. 2015-04-02 14.48.06Our flat was wonderfully situated not half a mile from the Old Town center which was just filling up with Easter Market stalls not unlike Munich at Christmas. They were filled with trinkets and food. Of course, the food was all in its gluten-glory, but I managed to find some chocolate to snack on. I know, quite a challenge.

2015-04-03 11.53.57But the chocolate didn’t stop there. The next morning as we wandered around, we came across the Chocolate Museum. There are many kitschy museums in Prague like the Torture Museum, Sex Machine Museum, and Medieval Museum, but when you put chocolate into the mix, you have our attention.

Well, if it wasn’t for the free taste testing session, it would have been a waste of time. There wasn’t much to offer except for some displays and signs showing tea cups for serving hot chocolate, old wrappers through history, and a couple of videos showing the harvesting of cacao beans. All in all, not very informative for adults, but I could see it being entertaining for children.

We did find another escape game like we had in Amsterdam and Budapest. This was called Trap Prague and we were secret agents having to infiltrate a soviet spy’s flat to find the incriminating evidence before an hour was up. We are still on our losing streak with taking 66 minutes to escape. But like Budapest, we had the final clue and were inputting the final codes to have the clock run out. Oh well.

2015-04-02 15.25.23We wandered around the Old Town some more and made our way to the famous Charles Bridge. Now, when we first saw the bridge, we were immediately taken with the architecture. There is a beautiful sort of black archway that you walk under to get to this bridge that is then lined by 30 statues (now replicas) and street lamps. What we didn’t know was some of the history of this structure.

Originally built in 1357, this is a bridge that overlooks the Vltava River which is the longest river in the Czech Republic at 270 miles long. The bridge was commissioned by King Charles IV who laid the very first stone, hence the name “Charles Bridge,” to connect the Prague Castle with the Old Town. When we were in Budapest, we were so taken by the famous Chain Bridge which had been severely damaged during WWII. What is actually 2015-04-03 13.05.42interesting and great about Prague is that it wasn’t a military target during the war, so the majority of the buildings and structures were left untouched, including this bridge. While it has had its fair share of damage from floods and other battles like the Thirty Year’s War in 1648, it has maintained its structure through the late 1800s to today.

Today it was definitely a venue for musicians and artists to pander to tourists taking a stroll across the river, but the scenery did not go unnoticed.

2015-04-03 16.51.13We made our trek toward the Prague Castle: the crown jewel of Prague. This incredible building stands tall and dark over the beige and burnt orange skyline of the surrounding houses. It’s incredibly gothic with its black walls and tarnished bronze towers. There were a few options of viewing the castle and the surrounding buildings. Because the church was closing at 4p, we bought the second tier tour that took us through the church, the famous Golden Lane, St. George’s Bascilica, and the grounds. The prison was included no matter what package you buy. For 250 KC or £6.63, you have some pretty remarkable history to walk through.

The St. Vitus Cathedral was magnificent. The incredibly high ceilings made for a very loud echoes, but the stained glass was 2015-04-03 14.54.59also something to see. The light reflected just right making the reds even more vibrant, and the gorgeous pinks explode. First founded in 930 AD by Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, the Roman Catholic church was finally finished in construction and decoration in in the late 1800s. One of the side chapels was actually named St. Wenceslaus Chapel that contains some trinkets and relics from the saint aptly named after the man who founded the structure.

IMG_2421From the church, we followed the tour through the Golden Lane. This part of the tour wasn’t that great, but it was pretty cool to see how life would have been during the times of the 16th century alchemists. You can step inside a small house and see a seamstress’ cottage or an alchemist’s lab, but these were pretty kitschy with the displays so obviously fake and Disney-like, we sped through this part.

But it did bring us to St. George’s Basilica. This is the oldest surviving church within Prague Castle dating back to 920 AD. It IMG_2407was actually just a small chapel room with not much to see. The building obviously felt old and historic. I did wonder what the walls would say if they could talk. But after looking at the stone walls and Easter wreath, we continued our way to the last stop: the jail and dungeon.

Again, this was set up like an amusement park of sorts with fake instruments adorning the walls, but it was interesting to see the actual space and maybe what they had used to torture the poor souls of ancient Prague. This part of the tour was free with any ticket into the castle.

2015-04-03 16.59.55We wandered out of the property and found ourselves scaling a very steep and muddy hill all in the pursuit of finding the building that hoisted the American flag so proudly in the skyline. While we always seemed just a hillside away, it was pretty incredible to see the American embassy surrounded by dozens and dozens of in-bloom Cherry Blossom trees.

There is such a small time-frame for Cherry Blossoms, and I was thrilled to see them in all of their pink and white glory gracing the hillside in Prague with the American flag flying proudly in the wind. I don’t often get patriotic, but something about seeing the flag made us want to get close to it.

2015-04-03 16.56.54

We had one more stop that side of the river before we decided to head back to the flat. We were exhausted from our 2015-04-07 08.30.45mountain scaling, but also, I had just realized my boots, my beloved weatherproof boots, were no longer weatherproof–or cobblestone-proof. Three holes had formed in the soles, and I was walking almost directly on the stones of the road. What a time to not bring a second pair of shoes!

2015-04-03 17.38.45But in the Kampa Island neighborhood of Prague, we were told to check out the John Lennon Wall. This crazy wall in the middle of this neighborhood is completely covered in graffiti in honor of the late John Lennon. In 1988, the wall became a place for people to air their grievances in ink about the communist regime. This became a major issue as authorities assumed those who defaced the wall were alcoholics or crazy to support a capitalist man. But now, the wall stands for peace and world love. An explosion of artwork and color cover this wall positioned right near Prague’s own Love Lock Bridge and the John Lennon Pub.

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2015-04-02 14.57.22That night we headed back to the flat via Old Town to see the famous Astronomical Clock. We were told it was nothing special, but like the Glockenspiel in Munich, on the hour, a chime is rung and little figures come out and dance around like an ancient and massive cuckoo clock. This is a medieval clock originally made in 1410 making it one of the only three astronomical clocks in the world and the oldest one still in working order. I was most amused by the skeleton figure ringing the bell to what looked like death signaling another hour of life passed.

We headed back to the flat and let another night pass as we rested for our next two days in this gorgeous old city.

 

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