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

A pretty city without secrets. Prague.

  8 votes
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The Czech capital managed to emerge unscathed from all the European and World wars. This left the city abound with architectural monuments dating back many centuries, almost as far to the date when the city was founded some 1100 years ago.

The Prague Castle at night, seen from the Charles's Bridge.
The Prague Castle at night, seen from the Charles's Bridge.
The last time I was in the Czech capital it was on the 12 October 1997. Quite a while ago. Most of the time at that time, I was crawling from pub to pub, so I cannot say that I remember much else from that visit. I did spend most of the time at the old town, but since weather was excellent and the company I was with was even better, we preferred sitting with beer and lager in our hands to the wandering about the town on a dry stomach. All the obligatory sights, such as the square, the clock, the bridge were ticked off promptly and we could then relax and argue over pints.

So, this time round, I am intending to reverse the programme and do more touristy stuff. And since I am here on my own, I am pulling all the strings myself. Now, all will depend on weather whether my visiting schedule succeeds. The forecast does not currently look good for Sunday, so the initial plan is to cover everything this evening and on Saturday. But who should believe weather forecasts?!

The plan for later was to re-discover the Old Town Square, the famous astronomical clock, the oldest bridge in the city, the Mala Strana and the Prague Castle. Well, actually, I do not remember whether I was ever at the castle, so it would probably be discovering it for the first time.

Is Prague crowded or what?! I do encourage people to travel as much as they can, but please - so many people at one spot at a time is not I have in mind. It is much, much, much, much too many visitors in Prague. Visiting the city is therefore no longer pleasant. It might have been, if the tourists cared to notice, respect and consider one another.

Favourite spots:
The New Town townhall.
The New Town townhall.
If I could find a pretty spot with no crowds, then that would definitely be my favourite place. Yet, this is like wishing for honey in a beehive with no bees. And considering what is happening to our bees these days, no-one is allowed to wish for this!

So, with no chance for a quiet spot, I would either pick the ramparts of the Prague's castle allowing for a great view of the Vltava river and the Old and New Towns. Or it would be the Charles's Bridge offering a great view of the castle; particularly at night or early in the morning, when the Hradčany district is illuminated by lanterns or gentle sun rays.

I also liked the little park in the New Town, at the feet of the the New Town Townhall. It was definitely less crowded and the view over the magnificent tower of the municipal offices was great, especially when the afternoon sun put some extra spotlight on the structure.

What's really great:
A vintage Praga car.
A vintage Praga car.
The great thing about Prague was how nicely this Baroque city had survived the turbulence of the 20th century. Such a lovely place and so badly ruined by the swarms, hordes and packs of people moving everywhere chaotically and with no consideration of others. Almost like in India or China, where overcrowding is a real issue. It seems to be Prague's problem as well.

There was one thing that I particularly liked about Prague. It were the vintage Praga and Skoda cars, which one could hire for short sightseeing tours at a cost of approximately CZK 1,200 (EUR50). Many of the cars looked fantastic and were in excellent condition.

The famous clock at the old townhall.
The famous clock at the old townhall.
Once in Prague, one could believe that the city has a single sight only - the Old Town Astronomical Clock, dating back to the 14th century and fixed on the southern side of the old townhall. The crowds (several couch-loads at a time) that it pulls is interestingly incredible. It is nice and all, but could it be slightly over advertised?

Well, of course Prague has other sights. Two of the most prominent one are the Hrad (the Royal Castle) with its complex on the hill; and the Charles's Bridge. The former has the palace and royal chambers, a basilica, a cathedral, and a small alley with thousand years old little houses called the Gold Little Street.

I addition to those, the city boasts countless baroque mansions, tenement houses, palaces, theatres, towers, gates, and even department stores. The best way of visiting Prague is just to get lost in the alleys, markets, squares. The capital is small and best explored on foot.

Hilton Prague, room 7021.
Hilton Prague, room 7021.
A little shy receptionist gave me room #7021 at the Hilton Prague, right outside the UNESCO-listed conservation area of Prague. The room was very pleasant, and the bed was amongst the most comfortable beds I had ever slept in. And I must have slept in several thousands of beds in over 130 countries... The bed linen was positively caressing; white and soft. The pillows were plenty and responded superbly. The hotel provided bathrobes and excellent slippers. Towels were fluffy and immaculate. Everything was spotless and well organised. Free tea, coffee, and mineral water were provided, and the hotel management sent me a complimentary bottle of Znovan Classic Brut (a local sparkling wine) with a bowl of fresh fruit, including strawberries which went down very well with the bubbly.

The hotel charged about EUR145 per night, and when one had a budget to pay EUR70 extra, access to the Executive Lounge was included. And this meant free breakfast, snacks, drinks and booze throughout the day.

The entry to the Cloud9 Bar & Lounge.
The entry to the Cloud9 Bar & Lounge.
A good number of fellas from West Africa, particularly after sunset, reminded every guy on the streets what Prague's nightlife had become known for - the strip and go-go clubs. They handed out leaflets, and were not especially discreet about it. Now, those clubs ranged from exclusive top range to the downright sleazy and bizarre, for a lack of better word. And all would classify as expensive.

Fortunately, Prague also offered a regular (sex-free) night time entertainment and action; clubs, bars, pubs, discos - many open 24 hours, as well. At the time, when I visited, the Chapeau Rouge was amongst the most sought after venues. Although, I never ended up finding it, yet hundreds of people in the streets asked me if I knew how to get there.

I could recommend the Cloud 9 Bar, one of few offering a panoramic  night view of the city in a very comfortable setting.

The Charles's Bridge at night.
The Charles's Bridge at night.
I am not going to write about cafes in this section, since Prague had an uncountable number of those, literally around every corner, so everyone should be able to find something for themselves; many were located overlooking the main sights, and each and every one offered exceptional conditions people (err, crowd!) watching.

From my very personal perspective, and perhaps highly unoriginal, the Charles's Bridge was amongst the best hanging out spots in Prague. It provided for excellent views of the city, was car-free, offered close encounters with local art (however doubtful), music, and was very historic - the oldest bridge in the capital. There was so much happening on the bridge that one could write books about it. Many of which would definitely be in the crime category; you need to be well aware of pickpocketers! 

The Little Square, view opposite the Taverna Toscana.
The Little Square, view opposite the Taverna Toscana.
Taverna Toscana at the Male Namēsti served good pizzas (CZK195 - CZK230) and rather overpriced beers (CZK100 for a pint). The exclusively male service was slow, not very attentive and the waiters wore really dirty clothes. When I spotted this, it was too late to cancel my order and leave. The menu was interesting, the pizza was good and the staff did speak about a dozen languages. And the place had a great location - in the middle of the old town and superb for people watching.

Other recommendations:
The Karlstajn Castle
The Karlstajn Castle
If one had some more spare time, and had seen everything in the capital, Karlstajn, some 40km away, is a superb little place with an incredible castle. The castle was used as the tresor for the crown jewels. As of June 2011, the castle was open for visitors every day, except Mondays. The interior is interesting and there are a number of unusual, and wooden, passages. The castle's architecture is simply quintessential Czech. The rectangular towers, the steep roofs and edgy facades could only be placed in this part of the world. The complex is perched on a hill overlooking a small, picturesque town with slightly elongated central market. It is so easy to photograph it, too!

Published on Monday August 15th, 2011

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Fri, Sep 09 2011 - 08:58 AM rating by marianne

perfect overview of what to do, and not to do in Prague

Mon, Aug 15 2011 - 11:52 PM rating by horourke

Great report

Mon, Aug 15 2011 - 12:34 PM rating by eirekay

Charming report, and worth five stars for the pictures alone! Thanks for all the wonderful details!

Mon, Aug 15 2011 - 11:54 AM rating by pesu

Krys, you were there in June? I was in Prague in May '10 and remember nice quiet times in Mala Strana (in a little street caf? near the Danish embassy) or in the park on Kampa island or strolling down from the castle through the vineyards - I seem to have been very lucky! Nice report again - thanks! :)

Mon, Aug 15 2011 - 11:26 AM rating by mistybleu

Another wonderful report. I really enjoy the way you write.

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