Seeing as I am still writing about my trip through Spain and Portugal which happened back in August and being that I am a tour guide who travels nearly every weekend, it’s time that I start mixing posts so that I am not infinitely months behind when writing about a destination. I will start from the most recent trip I have taken for work and go backwards while I continue moving forward in recounting my trip from August. This is the first true installment telling of my life as a tour guide.
What can I really say about Prague. I knew before I even saw it that it would turn into one of my favorite cities, I had high expectation and I wasn’t disappointed. Prague is a city that you have to see for yourself, standing in the midst of the beautiful architecture and reading the history all-over the facades of the pre-WWII buildings. Everywhere you turn there is a fascinating castle, cathedral, clock or tower and mixed into all the streets are the hoards of interesting locals and travelers, sharing the cobblestones with not so much as an angry glare.
I think the reason that I fall so easily for these Central European cities is because they are so different from what I’m used to seeing. The style of the city and the sounds of the language, can be differentiated completely from Italy. There is not a similarity in sight. It’s always refreshing to see something new, as an itchy-footed traveler, I’m constantly on the lookout for something new and exciting. The change is refreshing and it’s what keeps me sane while I’m settled in one place for a while.
The sights of Prague can’t be described and can’t be justified by pictures, which is why I’m having a hard time writing about them. I did my best to capture them in photos and I’ll do my best to describe the best of what I saw in Prague.
Prague Castle: Of course, the Prague Castle is the first on the list, as the biggest castle in Europe it looms majestically as the big brother of the cities vast array of architectural gems. The way it sits so perfectly, so royally over the banks of the Vlatava River left me in awe each time I saw it. I hear at night it’s a completely different story, the brightness of it’s lights illuminating the entire river, unfortunately, on the evening we ventured to the Charles Bridge the castle was not lit and we were disappointed to find the hillside dark. However, one night we ventured up to the highest reaches of the Hilton Hotel’s Skybar and were pleasantly greeted with the beautifully twinkling lights of the entire city of Prague and I can therefore, get a very good idea of the beauty of the monument at night.
The walk up to the castle itself is amazing and full of history and photo ops galore. Once you reach the top of the gradual incline, you have a marvelous view of the city with the domes of the cathedrals popping up indiscreetly over other building tops, as they tend to do in Europe. Prague stretches further than the mind could imagine when you are standing in the middle of Stare Mesto surrounded by tall buildings.
I didn’t pay to venture inside the castle, although it was a decision of time rather than money, at only 110 koruna for student entry (about €4.50) it won’t break your budget. The (free) stroll through the castle grounds was just as satisfying as we gazed awestruck at the sky-scraping spires of the St. Vitus Cathedral. One thing I enjoy most about these famous monuments, more than the history and significance of the building itself, is watching as all of the other travelers pose for pictures and enjoy their chance to finally see something they’ve heard so much about.
Charles Bridge: On our first day we took the students on a free walking tour of the city and we heard through the grapevine (we couldn’t hear the guide very well ourselves) that apparently they have just finished the construction on the Charles Bridge, which has been in progress since 2007! When the flood of 2002 proved that previous reconstruction (in response to the flood of 1890) was not substantial, changes began being made to pillars number 8 and 9 and apparently we picked just the right weekend to explore!
The thing that I enjoyed most about the bridge was the vendors selling their crafts along the sides. It’s funny for me to say that seeing as I avoid the Ponte Vecchio of Florence every chance I get. By now, most readers must know that crowds aren’t my thing and if you add in pushy salespeople, I’m off faster than that salesman can talk. Something about the atmosphere of the Charles Bridge was different for me. Sure it was crowded beyond belief and every inch held a sales stand but the people were tranquil and the products beautiful. I suppose the change of city warrant a welcomed change of goods as well. My fellow tour guide, Jenn, and I took advantage of the cheap prices and got three beautiful sepia photographs for 250 koruna (€10).
John Lennon Wall: Wondering off the Charles Bridge we headed through the quiet, cobblestone piazzas to the John Lennon Wall, a beautifully graffiti-ed monument to peace, art and freedom. Shortly after Lennon was killed in 1980 young Czechs left their political protests on the wall; You’ve got Lenin, now leave us Lennon, was found scrawled on the wall one morning and it started a declaration to freedom and peace that lives on loudly today. The wall is full of beautifully created pictures and declarations to loved ones and protests for a peaceful world. I was moved by the significance that the messages spoke of a time when things were not as they seemed.
And lastly, the thing that I missed but was dying to see:
The Dancing House (Tancící Dum): This divine piece of architecture sits fairly far down the river from the Charles Bridge and therefore, seems to fall off the visitors map on a short trip. It is located just near the Jirákuv Most (bridge) and is commonly known as the Fred and Ginger building, after Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and was created in 1996 as an office building. It is often also called the “drunk building”, which made me giggle and houses a French Restaurant on the top floor with fabulous city views.
These are my top picks if you only have a short time in Prague. What are your recommendations?