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Published: August 1st 2010
With London to Prague flights seemingly only leaving early morning for some inexplicable reason, our first day saw us getting up at 2am and making our way to Stansted for a rather relaxed check-in (the early hours of the morning apparently too much for easyjet staff as well as tired passengers.)
We arrived in Prague from cloudy and cold England to find the city in the middle of a heat wave. Although I'd checked the weather forecast before we left it was a little dfficult to imagine temperatures of 31 degrees whilst sat in England but, for once, the weather forecaster was correct. Transferred to the hostel which turned out to be an apartment in a gorgeous old building just behind the National Museum.
Not wanting to waste the first day (the fact I had had two hours sleep in the last twenty-four hours notwithstanding) we changed and set off. The hostel, at first glance, seemed very well situated.
That was until we realised that Wenceslas Square was not actually a square but a long avenue that took at least twenty minutes to get down before we'd even started the walk to the old town passing a plethora
of shops that mad us feel like we were still in England; Prague apparently has a Marks and Spencer, Debenhams and even a Tesco! Mixed in between these modern additions were some truly incredible traditional houses with intricate paintings all over the facade of the house.
My map reading skills seemed to be taking a holiday so we managed to take a detour first of all to the Powder Gate and the Muncipal House (which in my defence were on our to-do list so it was worth getting lost to find them!)
Fortunately the Powder Gate turned out to be where the royal processions used to begin so all we had to do was follow the processional route down Baker Street (with a shop with Sherlock Holmes above the door!) to the Old Town Square passing the House of the Black Madonna on the way. This apparently is an example of very rare Cubist architecture which is unique to Bohemia.
The building itself seemed a rather squat, ugly burnt orange building although the actual statue that gives the building its name was lovely if a little random.
Even more random was the old Exchequer House that
now housed a money exchange!
After finally arriving at the Old Town Square and located the Tourist Information to buy Prague Cards (giving us access to 50 tourist attractions for around £20 - not too bad!)
We stopped and joined the crowds to watch the Astronomical Clock mounted on the Old Town Hall. The Clock gives the time of day, the months and seasons of the year, the signs of the zodiac, the course of the sun and the holidays of the Christian calendar - officially anyway! I was stood looking at the clock for ten minutes (timed from my watch) and still never figured out how to tell the time from the confusing mix of hands and decorations.
On the hour, the figure of Death to the right of the clock rings its bell and the figure of the twelve Apostles appear above the clock. Really quite impressive if a little impossible to quickly check the time by!
We went inside the Town Hall to see the Council Chambers where the Bohemian Kings were elected, the chapel and the interior of the clock mechanisms. Then onwards and upwards (being very lazy and taking the lift)
to the top of the tower to see the panoramic of the city. Prague Castle looks surprisingly close from the top although I assume we'll find out otherwise when we try to walk it tomorrow!!
We decided to be somewhat more energetic and walk down (mostly because the lift did not seem that secure coming up.) The Old Town Square is really beautiful, surrounded by rather picturesque (and if the guide books are to be believed - incredibly overpriced) cafes.
Once upon a time the square was used for a rather more gruesome purpose - the place of execution for Prague! The white crosses in front of the Town Hall commemorate the Protestant noblemen executed here following the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620.
Unfortunately Monday seems to be the day in which all the museum in Prague are closed - not really sure why but we will hopefully have time to return to the Church of Our Lady of Tyn and the Dali and Alfonso Mucho exhibits tomorrow.
Add to that we were still exhausted from our early morning start we admitted defeat and went in search of food.
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