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marianne Prague - A travel report by Marianne
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Prague,  Czech Republic - flag Czech Republic -  Hlavni Mesto Praha
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marianne's travel reports

Traveller in Prague

  17 votes
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Everyone wants to visit Prague and it seems as if 90% of them visit the city. I have never been to a more crowded place in my life. It looks as if everyone wants to see the same things. That's why I suggest some other, less obvious sights and museums.


Prague travelogue picture
I heard stories about Prague's crammed streets and crowds of tourists.

Believe me, this is TRUE.

Even in September, when the holiday season is almost over, Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square are the stomping ground of camera-slinging tourists.

The good thing about Prague is that the city is compact and all sights are within walking distance. This also means that once we had seen the most important sights we could avoid the mass.

Prague is amazingly photogenic. It is speckled with Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture. The Vltana river, Moldau in German and other languages, flows like a satin ribbon through the heart of the city. Prague Castle is on a hill above the west bank, to the south is the 13th cent Mala Strana or Lesser Quarter.

Karluv Most or Charles Bridge connects the west and east bank and is the most crowded bridge I have ever seen. On the east bank is Josefov, the former Jewish ghetto, these days mainly known for the Jewish cemetery and Synagogues. South of Josefov is Staré Mesto (Old Town) with the famous astronomical clock on Staromestske Namesti, Old Town Square.

Every hour, on the hour a multitude of tourists watch the spectacle: Death rings a bell, a procession of apostles pop out of one window. They nod at the tourists and diappear in another window. The cock crows. The hour strikes. It is all over in one minute.

Václavské Námestí, Wensceslas Square overlooked by the Narodni Museum, the National Museum, is a long wide bustling boulevard, and not a square at all. But one of the must-see places.

So far I had missed all this because I thought that Prague was over crowded. These days flights from the Netherlands (where I live) are very competitive in price and I decided to join the crowd.

Many excellents reports about Prague's most important sights have already been written. That's why I will take you to other places.

Favourite spots:
Hotel Europa
Hotel Europa
Prague is a true gem for Art Nouveau enthusiasts. Art Nouveau is a new architectural style end 19th early 20th century characterised by geometrical lines, figures and flowery garlands. Architects made functional details such as windows and balconies as decorative as possible.

My favourites:

1) HLAVANI NADRAZI, the main train station on Wilsonova Trida. Cross the main road behind the newly built station to get to the old building. The station hall is now a restaurant. An Art Nouveau commemoration plaque in the station hall refers to the founding of the independent Czechoslovak Republic.

2) HOTEL CENTRAL, Hybernska Ulice 10, (just across the Powder Tower). It was renovated in 2004 and now a 4* hotel.

3) GRAND HOTEL EUROPE, Vaclavske Namesti 25, (Wenceslas Square), today a 2* hotel. Its bright yellow façade a true attraction.


What's really great:
Princess libuse
Princess libuse
4) VILLA HENLENCA, Ulice Na Vaclavce 30. Its striking feature is the square tower and floral sgrafitto. (a technique in which the top layer of plaster is scratched to show parts of the first layer).

5) WIEHLÜV DUM (Wiehl House), Vaclavske Namesti 34, (Wenceslas Square), colourful murals, gables, turrets, an oriel window, and a belfry.

6) DUM U MINUTY, (House at the minute) next to the Old Town hall, Male Namesti, is decorated with sgraffito friezes picturing knights, princes and allegorical figures. As a child Franz Kafka lived on the second floor.

7) Art Nouveau STATUE OF PRINCESS LIBUSE. She sits between two windows on the façade of numbers 22 – 24 in Karlov Street.

Libuse was the first woman to rule Prague. She had visionary powers and foretold that the seven hills of Prague would develop into a beautiful city.


Sights:
Municipal House
Municipal House
8) OBECNI DUM (Municipal House), is at Namesti Republiky next to the Powder Tower. This domed building with a wrough-iron and stained glass canopy as entrance is the ultimate example of art nouveau architecture. Before you go in have a close look at the colourful mosaic above the entrance. The two sculptures flanking the mosaic represent Repression and Rebirth of the Czeck people.

The Municipal House is much more than a museum. It is a building very much in use. Its halls are used for conferences, concerts and social events.

The Smetena Hall with its immense organ is the largest concert hall in Prague and can seat 1.200 people.

The Lords mayor's Hall is decorated by Alfons Mucha, a famous Czeck Art Nouveau artist. He decorated everything from the ceiling to the doorknobs and hinges.

The Municipal House can be visited by guided tour only at: 10.15 – 12.00 – 15.00 – 16.00 hrs. We booked ours in advance as the number of people for each tour is limited.



Accommodations:
Former ticket hall of the train station, now a café
Former ticket hall of the train station, now a café
These are my three favourite museums

MUCHA MUSEUM, Panska 7, display of the artistic works of Art Nouveau-style artist Alphonse Mucha: posters, decorative panels of the four seasons. He designed the stained glass window in St Vitus cathedral, the murals in Obecni Dum, jewellery, images on postage stamps and bank notes. The 30-min documentary is worth watching. It gives a good impression of Mucha's life and work


MINIATURE MUSEUM, Strahovske Nadrovori 11, in Mala Strana

Mr Konyenko is an instrumentmaker and his speciality is eye-microsurgery. The details of his art works are amazing and so are their dimensions. That's why the museum is equipped with microscopes and magnifying glasses

All sculptures are true master pieces:
* the Eiffel Tower carved in a cherry stone
* a sailing boat on the wing of a mosquito
* the portrait of Chekhov engraved on a poppy seed
* A flea with gold horseshoes grasping a padlock, keys and a scissor in its paw. The scissors are 0.9 mm

Nightlife:
Museum of Communism, Interrogation room
Museum of Communism, Interrogation room
The MUSEUM OF COMMUNISM, Na Prikope 10, next to the McDonalds, the entrance is shared with the Casino.

A glimpse of the past. How oppression, fear and double-speak were parts of daily life from the communist coup in February 1948 until its collapse in November 1989.

The museum is divided into three rooms: the communist dream, reality and the nightmare. Snippets of daily life are shown: a classroom, an almost empty grocery shop, an interrogation room.

I very much liked to see the old photo of the Stalin monument that used to be on the plinth in Letna Park instead of the huge metronome.

In another room I watched a documentary film about the period from the Soviet occupation in 1968 until the Velvet Revolution in 1989. It gave a very good impression of these historic facts.

Hangouts:
View from Petrin Hill
View from Petrin Hill
Petrin in a 318m high hill, on the west bank of the Vltana river. At the top is Petrin Tower a 60m high view tower built as a lookalike of the Eiffel Tower but only 1/5 th of its size

We climbed the 299 steps to a circular viewing platform. It is inside, but windows can be opened to enjoy an unretricted view. Absolutely breath taking. We were here on a clear day which certainly added to the splendour.

There are two ways to get to the view point.
1. by funicular railway which starts at u Lanovy Drahy, a side street of Ujezd street
2. on foot. Numerous paths snake up the hill and all lead to the view point

The 216-m high television tower in the Žižkov district is clearly visible from Petrin. It is worth a closer look because tiny men crawl along its façade or peep round corners.


Restaurants:
Zizkove television tower and the little men
Zizkove television tower and the little men
The tower is a 20-min walk from Wenceslas Square. Simply follow Vinohradska, a wide street with interesting architecture, turn left at Jiriho z Podebrad metro station and head for the tower.

The best place to eat or have a coffee is Hanavsky Pavillion in Letna Park, across Chechov Bridge at the end of Parizaka str in Josefov. Climb the stone stairs that lead to Letna Park and turn left at the huge metronome. It was placed here in 1991 after the velvet revolution.

See my Travel Tips for a photo of the original monument.

The pavillion is a wrought-iron structure built for the Centennial Exhibition in 1891. It is in the shade of fragrant smelling pine trees. It made me think that II was in the countryside far away from sight-seeing tourists.

Other recommendations:
Sgrafitto façade
Sgrafitto façade
How to get from the airport to the centre:

Ruzyne, Prague's Airport is some 14 km the the north-west of the city centre. When you step into the arrivals hall the ATM is on your right, at the far end. The bus ticket booth is on your left. A combined bus / metro ticket is Ck (Czeck Koruna) 20, (€0.70).
The bus stop is right across the parking place in front of the airport building. Bus 119 goes to Dejvicka Metro station, from here you take the metro to the centre. The total journey time from the airport to the city centre is 45 mins.

Where to find train timetables:

In the train station concourses you will find rotating drums displaying the timetables. If they do not provide you with right information go to ČD, the state railway office where almost everybody speaks English. This is the web address: www.cd.cz

All about public transport: http://www.pragueexperience.com/travel_f-lights/public_transport.asp

Information about Prague in general:
http://www.prague.net/

Published on Tuesday December 5th, 2006


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Sat, Dec 09 2006 - 12:45 PM rating by st.vincent

A nice report Marianne with useful information. I must visit the miniature museuem if I return to Prague.

Thu, Dec 07 2006 - 01:10 PM rating by davidx

I'm sure as good a report as this, particularly when you specifically avoid much of the over-visited places, more than justifies 5*

Wed, Dec 06 2006 - 11:08 AM rating by rangutan

A great upper **** with a lot of info and tips in full body and with great pictures. Obviously not written as an award winner, something seems missing that shows and comes through so wonderfully and brilliantly in your other reports? [4.2]

Wed, Dec 06 2006 - 05:06 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

what a wonderful report,it contains so much info
great work

Tue, Dec 05 2006 - 08:57 PM rating by picasso

Dear Marianne-as always very,very interesting to read,with also wonderful photo's.Thank you very much for out of tourist track information.Yes it seems most tourist always visit the same touristic attractions al the time and it is a pleasure to read something different.

Tue, Dec 05 2006 - 07:21 PM rating by whereisliz

Another truly great report! I was there a few years ago, and I second your recommendation for the Communist Museum.

Tue, Dec 05 2006 - 03:12 PM rating by frenchfrog

As ever, a perfect report! Thanks for showing us the "out of tourist tracks" spots. I have been to Prague in 1998 in November (-22C), there was nobody, but the city was just starting to open, I am sure that now, the city changed a lot more!

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