Prague is now my favorite! Just simply amazing!

Trip Start Aug 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 29, 2010

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Monday, August 16, 2010

Wake up call came at 7:15, which gave me plenty of time to get down to breakfast. Again, the hotel outdid themselves.  It will be a serious let down to go to some of the other hotels after spending two days here.

Our walking local guide, Mikayla, met us at the hotel.  The first thing she did was drive us into the Old Town and drop us off at the Cechuv Most, which is also known as the ? Bridge.  We walked across the bridge and continued into the Jewish Quarter.  We  saw the Old-New Synagogue and peered down the street at the Old Jewish Cemetery, where the stones and bodies were packed on top of each other for a lack of space.

Our tour guide led us back along the water front (Vltava River) and we made our way to the Charles Bridge.  This is one of the most famous and recognizable of Prague's sites.  It is said to be one of Europe’s most pleasant and entertaining 500 plus yards stroll.  It was Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, who had this commissioned.  He was heavily into numerology, and it is no surprise that it’s foundation was laid on July 9, 1357, which forms a perfect numerical palindrome (135797531).

We were given some free time at the bridge, and I took full advantage of this.  There was a large statue of Charles IV on the Old Town side of the bridge.  Also on this side is the Bridge Tower, which is considered one of the finest Gothic gates anywhere.  The statues on the bridge began appearing late in the 17th century, and now there is a healthy supply to keep one busy while strolling from one end to the other.

At this time of day, it was just beginning to attract attention on the bridge.  Within an hour it would be so packed on the bridge, it would be nearly impossible to move.  From here we rejoined our group and made our way through the winding streets to the Old Town Square.  Our guide described in detail the significance of the Tyn Church which I had visited the night before.

Along the opposite side, you will find 27 white inlaid crosses which signifies the 27 Protestant nobles, merchants, and intellectuals who were beheaded in 1621 after rebelling against the Catholic Habsburgs.  This is still one of the grimmest times in Czech history.  In the middle of the Square rises a large monument dedicated to Jan Hus.  Hus had fought for freedom for the common man to worship God.  Because of this, he had been excommunicated and burned at the stake in Germany after a inquisition.  This act was done nearly a century before Martin Luther.

About this time, we gathered around the front of the Astronomical Clock located on the Town Hall.  It was getting close to 11am, and the crowd was getting antsy.  The clock has revolving disks, celestial symbols representing the sun and moon, and several statues that give the whole unit character.  A Turk with a mandolin symbolizes hedonism, a Jewish moneylender is greed, and the figure staring into a mirror represents vanity.  The face of Death, whose hourglass reminds us that our time is running out.  When the clock strikes a new hour, Death pulls the cord and rings the bell.  The window above the statues open, and the 12 apostles parade by.  Finally, the rooster crows and the hour rings.  It is a remarkable achievement coming from a 15th century clock.

After the clock rang, we were given our leave to go forth in all parts of the city.  We had until 2:15 to explore on our own.  Kristine and I decided to explore more closely the Old Town Square.  Our first stop was to find a way into the Tyn Church.  Quite by accident we found an opening.  Inside, we were told to turn off our cameras.  Fortunately for us, we watched a few tourists turn off their flashes and very undercover, take pictures when the priests were not looking.  We followed their lead, and were able to capture some of the splendid found in the Church. 

From here, we made our way over to St. Nicolas Church.  It is one of the oldest churches in Old Town, having appeared in records as early as 1273.  Walking out of the Square we located a modern statue where there where over 85,000 keys were attached to, making the largest collection of keys anywhere.  The significance of the keys date to the event when 300, 000 Czech people lined Wenceslaus Square in 1989 waving and clanging their keys until it was announced from one of the buildings balconies, that they had won their release from the ties of communism.

We left the comforts of the Old Town Square and mad our way down a narrow street that led us to Wenceslaus Square.  The Boulevard is named for King Wenceslaus, who was actually a Prince.  "Good King" Wenceslaus was the 10th century Duke of Bohemia, who appears in the Christmas Carol.  After his death, Wenceslaus was made a Saint, but is best known for killing his brother.  An equestrian statue of Wenceslaus appears in front of National Museum.  It is a legend that when the Czech people are facing it’s darkest hour, that Wenceslaus will come riding out of the Blanik Mountain, located east of Prague, with an army of knights to rescue the nation.

We took a quick look inside the National Museum, but were mostly appreciative of the free toilette.  From here we headed back down the boulevard and located a row of souvenir shops and businesses.  Not finding what we wanted, we made our ways back toward the Old Town Square.  Kristine and I decided to sample the Potato Jacket meal in the square.  This was a potato with edam cheese, chicken and ham sprinkled on top.  It was a cheap but tasty meal.  With the fuel to go on, we made our way down Parizska Street, which had upper level retail stores including Prada, Louis Vuitton, and other unbelievably over-priced shops.  We returned to the same bridge we began our day on, and on the other side, rejoined our bus.

The bus led us up the hill into the Castle Quarter of Prague.  From here we were led by our guide through the Castle Square and given a little time to view the city far below.  It was a breathtaking view of the city, where one could see the Charles River and just about every other notable site in Prague.  The first stop while here was St. Vitus Cathedral.  This is a Roman Catholic church, which contains the tombs and relics of the most important saints and kings of the area.  The original construction began in 1344, and was finally finished in 1929. 

From here, we entered the Old Royal Palace, which started it’s construction in the 12th century.  The hall was used to show jousts.  This Palace is still used to today as the residence of the President.  In 1618, angry Czech Protestant nobles poured into the Czech Office and threw the two Catholic governors out of the window.  The governors landed in a pile of horse manure 80 meters below and despite broken arms, they ended up living.  This act is now called “defenestration”.

The final building that we visited while in the Castle complex was the Basilica of St. George.  It is here that St. Wenceslas’ mother Ludmilla was re-buried.  Our bus tour exited here and made it’s way down to the bus.  We were allowed to take pictures along the way of the city far below.

I retrieved my backpack which I had left behind on the bus, and notified the tour director that Kristine and I planned to remain behind.  The rest of the tour group returned to the bus.  We made our way up the steps again to the Castle to retake some pictures we had felt rushed by the rest of the group.

Finally, having had sufficient time to enjoy the view, we headed down the steps to the Little Quarter District.  On the way, we found a local artist selling his original watercolors.  Unlike a majority of booths selling the highly reproduced prints, this was all totally original.  We were very proud to be able to talk him down 50 koruna in price and each got a small picture for 175 koruna (approximately $9).  He signed his work for us, and then gave us directions to our next quest.  With the helpful hints, we found our way to the Church of Our Lady Victorious.  Inside we found the Infant Jesus porcelain doll.  This is one of the most visited sites, and even considered a pilgrimage site for Catholics.  Having crossed this off our list, we made our way toward the Charles Bridge.

We took many pictures under, around and on the Charles Bridge, and about this time, we figured we needed to find a place to eat.  After trying to locate a particular restaurant suggested by Rick Steves, we were disappointed to find the limited menu.  As a result we ended up eating at a pub called Che’s.  Here we both ordered Beef Goulash and dumplings, which I figured was a good Bohemian dish.  It was fairly cheap and hit the spot.

Now it was time to find some souvenirs.  I located some shot glasses and refrigerator magnets to satisfy my eclectic collections.  At the Old Town Square I ordered a Crepe desert with Nutrella Chocolate and Banana.  It was incredibly good, and was tempted to order another one.   Finally, it was time to say goodbye to Prague, as we headed to the metro.  Before we reached our metro station, we ran into the Powder Tower.  This Gothic gate of the old town wall, was built to house the city’s gunpowder.

We reluctantly left the Old Town area and returned to our hotel at approximately 10pm.  I spent the next couple hours posting yesterdays blog, writing this current posting, and checking my messages.

I can honestly say, that Prague is my favorite European city now.  I have now revised my quote to say that any good city should have a “good canal and the Charles Bridge”.  I am going to do anything I can to return to this city again sometime during my lifetime.  The history and architecture is out of this World.  Tomorrow I leave for Vienna, Austria, and do not believe that internet service is available until I arrive in Ljubjana, Slovenia in three days.  Until then, I hope you all enjoy my posts. 
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Simon Moe on

You are so lucky Fendall!! Getting to travel in all those historical places!!

But im lucky too, im in USA!!
Enjoy the rest of youre trip!!

Take Care, Simon

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