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Published: July 25th 2009
OK, I admit I've been slack in the blog stakes lately, been a little too busy having a good time in London town. I have decided to turn over a new leaf and get back into the web communication game with the May bank holiday jaunt to the jewel of eastern europe, Prague.
Ambar and I booked the trip back in Jan to make the most of bargain book in advance tickets with a real airline for a change (no hidden charges ... wooo hoooo). Arrived at Prague airport Thursday at a reasonable time and thanks to one of my Czech workmates brilliant instructions we were able to use the public transport system (100 kn for a 24hr ticket), bus 119 to Metro line A and then off to Hotel Karlin, slightly out of the old town but well connected by tram and the Metro at Florenc. You never know what to expect when you book into a place, but this hotel was excellent. 4 nights for about £90 each for bed and an impressive breakfast buffet spread can't be beaten. I have spent many a night in hostels, but I'm developing a taste for this flashpacking lark ... much
Prague is one of those cities which draws you to walk and the visit was a mix of walking, eating and enjoying the odd bottle, stein and shot of the local tipples. The beauty of this city is in the detail all around you. I think when walking you have to remember to look up at the beautiful buildings and all the amazing decorative details that used to be included as part of architecture. This is truely a city of towers, turrets and beauty.
Every visit should include a night walk - we spent our first night just walking through the old city streets and over the Charles Bridge to Kampa Island and then back again to see the city lit up at night and to enjoy a less crowded first taste of the city. It's a chance to orient yourself at leisure without any hassle (not that Prague has much hassle factor - unusual for such a tourist destination). I would also recommend the free walking tour of the city as it shows how easy it is to get around without trams or the metro as Prague is reasonably compact.
The special bits of
Prague for me were Charles Bridge which is well worth a very slow wander (avoid the middle of the day tourist scrum when a very slow wander is not a choice but a necessity). We did it at night, in the morning, midday and in the late afternoon after rain - my favourite was the late afternoon crossing when it was still busy with artists, but less crowded with people. On this trip across there was a group of local musicians playing for the crowd and it was lovely to just stop and enjoy the music and people watch.
Other highlights were an orchestral concert in one of the beautiful churches which are often closed except for concerts and services. Concerts can be one of the few ways to go inside and see the decorations and if you arrive just as the concert is about to begin you should be able to get the ticket cheaper, just look unsure as they try to tempt you in. Prague Castle and it's centrepiece St Vitus Cathedral are well worth a visit, the Cathedral is glorious inside particularly the stained glass windows - my pics don't do it justice. The Jewish Quarter
is full of nice late 19th C buildings, but the highlight there was the Jewish Cemetary where there are an estimated 10,000ish graves squished together in a tiny walled block, they just kept burying people and raising the headstones so you end up with stones practically on top of each other. It's a peaceful and calm place if you can avoid too many people - take you time and just soak up the atmosphere. Probably my favourite little Baroque church was Church of St James behind the Church of Our Lady before Tyn in the old town square and the view from the city hall tower is hard to beat.
Czech food is great - if you like meat, dumplings and potatos - full of goulash, schnitzel and roasted meat platters (it's a carnivore's heaven!). Probably the best meal we had was in a little place called Grill Bar U Rumpalu ([url=http://www.urumpalu.cz) a short walk from Wenceslas Square in the new town. It's a small, cosy place and they do all the traditional Czech dishes with good, cheap local beer and the service is friendly and helpful. It was recommended by a Czech workmate and seems to be a
bit of a local favourite. We avoided eating near the old town square and it seems a great strategy as the prices are around double what you pay a few blocks away and the quality not as good (but we did have drinks there as it's a great way to end a night).
You could do Prague in a day or 2, but I really love just wandering a city rather than trying to tick the 'Czech List'. If we'd have stayed another day we would have done a day trip to Kutna Hora, just to see the church decorated by human bones - that'll have to wait for a more extensive Czech experience.
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