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Published: July 29th 2005
There is plain and simply no other way to start an entry about this fairytale city of ancient castles, cathedrals and bridges. Broadly the modern Czech republic is comprised of germanic like bohemia in the west and the wine loving slavic Moravia in the east. Whilst only established as an independent country in 1993 Czech has a deep and magic history that still reverberates through the centre of it all, Prague.
Maticka Praha (Little Mother Prague ) as the locals call it is situated on the Vltava Riva and comprises of Hradcany(the castle district), Mala Strana (little quarter), Stare Mesto (Old Town) and Nove Mesto (new town). But lets not get confused here, the new town is an embryonic 657 years old! The town is dominated by the Prague Castle on the hill, King Charles Bridge and the Astronomical clock but these are nestled amongst a maze of medieval cobblestone lanes full of all sorts of wonderful surprises.
So like any well rounded individual who has just landed in a cultural babylon I immediately set about getting to the nearest pub and sampling the beer! Bare in mind that this is the home of the original Budweiser(Budvar)
The underneith the tower in the townhall
and Pilsner(from the town of Plzen in the south). So in true Czech style the bartender grunted, poured and threw the beer across the table at me and I grunted back, threw the money at him, and guzzled it urgently.
Ohh and boy was it good! Both were excellent, but Budvar won by a whisker. But how can this be given the horrible nature of American Budweiser I hear you ask? Well the brewers Anheuser-Busch who founded the American Budweiser used the name as it was synonymous with good beer. Subsequently both the Czech brewery and the American brewery have been in a legal tussle for over 100 years.
So after sleeping off our cultural exploration from the previous night, Brett, Emma and myself set off to explore the city. Our first stop was the cobblestone Staromestke Nam square which has at it's centre the Jan Hus Monument which was erected in 1915 to commemorate 500 years since the religious reformer was burned at the stake. The square is lined with the old town hall(1338) & astronomical clock(1410), the gothic Tyn Church(1365) and the baroque St Nicholas Church (1730).
Built in 1338 the town hall has gradually
Coats of Arms
been enlarged with additional buildings, with various different styles and functions. You begin in the eastern side of the tower which houses the Astronomical clock. The clock which was mounted in 1410 represents the geocentric conception of planet motion that was consensus gentium at the time. Every hour the clock entertains the crowd with a parade of apostles and skeletons. Don't miss a plane over it.
We then went down and into the cellars of the town hall which, over 300 years ago were on street level and living quarters for rich merchants. It was decided that due to regular flooding the entire square should be raised a level, hence leaving these old residents underground. During our exploration underground our guide, a young Czech woman, pointed out a bone in the wall. She explained to us:
"The bone is a dog's bone that was put there for good luck, very silly" - we all chuckle and give a knowing look - "Very impractical, I much prefer a horse shoe!"
We then headed back upstairs and into another building where we were shown the various guilds of Prague and their respective coat of arms. Through into the old
On the booze again!
court room filled with beautiful oak desks and one of the oldest and largest ornate stoves (approx 300 years). Then onto the reception filled with massive paintings and one of the most expensive vases in the world that was given by the French to Czech. We then returned to the tower and climbed up to see the fantastic views of Prague.
Our next stop was the fantastic Charles bridge erected in the 14th century and is lined with 30 statues of various important saints. The bridge itself was named after King Charles IV (1346-78), Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of Bohemia who brought fine gothic architecture and erect various landmarks. Once again we climb the tower (little were we know this was to become a common theme for the rest of our trip) and happy snapped away. From on top of the tower, on the summer solstice the sun sets directly behind where St Vitus' remains lay in the castle complex.
We then headed up Nove Mesto to the Maze and Kitschy Petrin (mini Eiffel) tower erected during Soviet rule. Good for views. We ended our day with a traditional Czech Goulash in a bread roll and a
The View from the square
few tasty drinks before retiring to our hostel for another night of Hostel Shenanigans.
A few days later (it makes logical sense to put this in here) we headed up to explore Prazsky Hrad (Prague Castle). The castle complex contains over 30 attractions but the best being St Vitus Cathedral, St George's Basilica and the royal gardens. Most attractions require payment but you can freely roam the complex, have a coffee and admire it all.
Whilst in Prague we also got a start at a Czech party that was fully catered for and had as much booze as you can get into you. Many years of Iron Curtain rule has to a large extend, made the locals appear to be grumpy and reserved. An opinion shared by many fellow travelers and young locals. However at this party we saw the true side of the Czechs who were most accommodating, warm and friendly. We all left stuffed with food (mainly meat), booze and general cheer.
So far in my travels, Prague is by far the most beautiful and impressive place I've been to. Don't be put off though, Prague isn't as cheap as many people make it out
to be and, given Czech's recent induction into the EU, is sure to get even more expensive. Get there while you can!
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