Last Friday I greeted the morning at an earlier hour than I like (5:30 am shower began the day!). After a taxi, three trains, and plane ride, we were in Prague! This was my first trip to t
he continent of Europe (in England they would just say "the continent"-like it is some far away place). From the airport we took a bus and then the metro to our hostel. We never even got
lost (that is really good for Laurel and I)! Once we arrived at "Miss Sophie's," our hostel, we
were really impressed. First the hostel was easy to find, was on a quite side street, and was very clean and cute. Second, we had made reservations to stay in a dorm, but when we checked-in
the receptionist told us that we had been upgraded to a private room for no extra charge! We found our room and bathroom to be very nice. The beds were great too! After we got settled, it was time to go exploring. I had made a list of all the places I wanted to go, but we like to just get out and walk around the different parts of the city and get a feel for the orientation and stuff. We walked around the National Museum, Wenceslas Square, and the Old Town Square.
Wenceslas Square was a huge place lined with commercial shops and restaurants that we would mostly recognize. The Old Town Square was my favorite place. It literally is a huge square, flanked by the Tyn Church Towers (pictured) and the Old Town Hall (which houses the famous astronomical clock).The middle is occupied by several food vendors selling sausages and sides as well as these wonderful sweet, dough things. There is also an impressive statue of Jan Hus, the country's most famous martyr. At night it is really amazing to watch all the people eating and drinking amidst the wafting smell of sweet vanilla and open fires. By this time it was evening and we were hungry (especially with all this good food surround us)! We ate at a restaurant on the square and it was very good. I had a chicken with mango sauce. The menu was in at least 8 languages. It was huge! The waiter was very hesitant to give us tap water to drink. Most people order a beer (it is VERY cheap), juice, or wine to drink. I just wanted water! After dinner we walked across the Charles Bridge and it was a wonderful place to see the beautiful city at night. We stopped in a cocktail bar close to our hostel and had a drink. I had a "Jessie" (it was calling my name). It had been a long day of traveling and lots of walking, and I was tired.
The next day was filled from beginning to end with sightseeing. First thing was the "Dancing Building," a place that was designed by an American architect and some people think it is a
complete eye sore while others think it to be a wonderful nod to postmodernism. I like the design and thought it was unique. It didn't really go with the rest of the area's architecture
though. I was completely in love with the cute streets around the Dancing Building. They w
ere washed in different colors and unique. As it was along the river, it was a wonderful place to see the city across the river. After a mini-picture shoot, we explored that part of Prague a little bit more and eventually made our way across the Charles Bridge. During the day, the bridge was filled with sketch artists, jewelry vendors, and a jazz band (there was also a woman singing opera on the side of the street...she was really into her opera sining!). Next to see was St. Nicholas' Cathedral. This place was absolutely amazing.
I can't even explain how ornate and beautiful the interior was. The pictures I took (and I took a lot) don't even begin to give it justice. Here is just one of the many alters. If you go to Prague, this is the church to visit.
Finally we made it to the castle. Prague castle overlooks the city and has wonderful views, but it is a bit of a hike up the hill.We had wonderful timing and arrived just in time to see a changing of the guard. It was really cool and lots of people were around. There was music and the guards had really fun looking hats. I was really glad to see this ceremony.
It took us a bit to understand the idea that the castle was just an area enclosed by a large wall. The castle is not just one building. Within the wall there are several building and churches. We bought a ticket to some of the attractions, but the Old Royal Palace was closed, so it wasn't was neat as it could have been. After a sufficient photo shoot of the city, we grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor and continued on with the day.
The remainder of the day was filled with a visit to the John Lennon Wall, a graffiti wall that originally protested communism, but has become a symbol of peace and love (pictured below), as well asanother church and the Old Jewish town. The Child of Prague Church has an amazingly ornate wax statue of the Baby Jesus. It is only 48 centimeters tall, yet it resides in the huge case that has gold and decoration everywhere. For some people, a pilgrimage to this church in Prague is a big deal.
The day's sightseeing was finished up with another trip through the Old Town Square. There was a jazz band here too! We walked around the Jewish Quarter of Prague. The history behind this place is what makes it interesting. Jews lived in this area from as early as the 10th century. Between 1893-1913 the area was demolished as part of an initiative to model the city after Paris. All that remained were six synagogues, the old cemetery, and the Old Jewish Town Hall. With only that small amount of Jewish remains left, the Nazi occupation would have been expected to demolish it, but it was preserved to represent "an exotic museum of an extinct race." The Nazis assembled a museum of Jewish artifacts from all over Europe and made the Jewish museum. That museum can still be toured today with many of the same artifacts that Hitler chose to be included in the museum. I didn't tour it because it is a bit expensive, but I did see the Old Cemetery which was really creepy. Gravestones are just pilled one on top of the other.
This cemetery has nothing to do with the holocaust. It was just an old cemetery in the
After a late afternoon nap, we went out for dinner. We had really good personal pizzas for dinner at Prague's most famous pizzeria. Mine had spinach, tomatoes, and ricotta cheese.
Yum! They gave us free ice cream too! It was a great end to a wonderful day. After a substantial walk back to the hotel we went right to bed.
We still had a few hours left in Prague on Sunday. Our flight didn't leave until 3:45 pm, so we spent the morning exploring Vysehrad. It is a castle used for protection. There is a beautiful cathedral within the walls. There is also a cemetery in which over 600 famous Czech are buried. We looked at Antonin Dvork's grave. He is a famous composer. The cemetery had some very beautiful headstones and mini-monument type constructions.
We then went to the Petrin observation tower. It basically is a mini Eiffel tower (I am going to visit the real one this weekend!). We didn't go up into the tower, but we did take a lift to the top of the hill and looked out onto the city. Prague does not fail in the "great views" category.
Considering my love of food and eating while on trips, it was fitting that we ended the trip with a fabulous meal. We went to Bohemian Bagels, a local chain that is very popular and fairly cheap. I had a turkey club on a bagel and it was huge and so good! We made our way back to the hostel to get our bags and then retraced our steps to airport. This picture is a view from the plane ride home.
There weren't any problems in immigration. The longest part was the train ride back to the manor. It was over 3 hours! Need less to say, I was glad to be back.
School work has taken over the past two days more than normal. I am working hard on a paper and presentation for British Studies. We had an all day field trip today to a beautiful castle and a 19th century workhouse (they were serious about getting rid of the poor around here). Today was a long day, but it is still amazing to discuss aspects of a historical period and then go experience it only a few miles down the road.
I should finish my paper tonight just in time to catch a train to Paris tomorrow! I am so excited to go! It almost seems surreal. Don't worry I am sure reality will hit once I actually get there.
Check back in a week or so for a really great post about Paris!