- NOTE: This post is based on my original blog entry.
My friend and I got into Prague early morning Sunday at an ungodly hour. We couldn’t check into the hotel yet, so we dumped our stuff off with the hotel staff and went wandering the early morning streets. Our hotel was right off of Wenceslas Square, so we headed up and down that for a bit, then wandered south into Nové Město, then north through the Staré Město. We ended up crossing through the Charles Bridge into Malá Strana, then Hradčany, and almost all the way to Prague Castle within an hour. Yeah, so we had to stop ourselves, otherwise we’d have nothing to do the rest of the trip. We headed back south into Malá Strana and took a lunch break at a place called Luka Lu. Czech (the language) was noticeably absent in that area, and not because of tourists necessarily. Maybe it was a big overseas college area or something; alot of English spoken by the younger-than-me people we saw.
We made our way back to our hotel and checked in. I think we passed out for a bit before heading out again late afternoon. We wandered some more along the Vltava river, saw the Fred and Ginger building, late afternoon/early evening beering at Potrerena Husa in the Smíchov neighborhood, then a Czech dinner at Krušovická Pivnice.
We had breakfast Monday morning in the hotel restaurant. Pretty good for your standard continental breakfast. On a side note, they called hash browns “mashburns“…I chuckled, then immediately adopted this funny new vernacular. Mmm…mashburns.
We immediately headed out towards Prague Castle. Given it’s the prime attraction of the city, we thought we’d hit it up as soon as we could. Prague Castle isn’t so much a castle as it is a massive complex (though I think it’s officially the largest “castle” in the world). There’s no recognizable bailey, turrets, or even pronounced castle walls (there are walls, they just don’t look like your typical castle walls). The most prominent silhouette of Prague Castle is St. Vitus Cathedral, which was pretty amazing. We roamed the cathedral for a fair bit, along with a few side chapels. The castle grounds themselves were pretty nice too; old Golden Lane, some of the older medieval aspects left intact, the castle gardens, etc.
Afterwards we had dinner at a small restaurant near the base of the Charles River on the Mala Strana side called Biskupsky Dum. I had to write that down. It’s not exactly something I can go back and Google for. Actually, I wrote down all the restaurants we went to, because half the time we couldn’t even pronounce it.
Mashburns in the morning. We decided to do a bit of wandering Tuesday. We started at the Havelský Market for some souvenirs and knick-knacks, and then spent a good deal of time hunting down two modern design stores, Modernista and Kubista, which were definitely not where the guides said they were at. But while we were on Celetná Street, we perused those shops too. I even picked up something for my niece.
We headed north after our shopping towards the Jewish Quarters, but once we got there, we didn’t really feel like paying to see the inside of a synagogue. We wanted to see the old Jewish cemetery, but you had to pay to get into that as well. We continued northwards towards the massive metronome on the hill overlooking Prague. I read in my guidebooks that the largest statue of Joseph Stalin used to stand on the spot where the metronome sits now, but it was torn down in the 60’s. Too bad. The metronome was interesting though, and massive. We started snapping postcard Prague shots once on the the hill, and then we just continued westward; winding through the massive park lands that eventually connected with the Palace Gardens of Prague Castle. So since we were back in Hradčany, we decided to make our way to the Loreto Church. But we got there literally right as it closed. So we then took a stroll thru picturesque Nový Svět, then to the Strahov Monastery, which had also just closed. Damn. We decided instead to hang out at the brewery across from Strahov, Klášterní Pivovar Strahov, which had some great brews and food. We even chatted up an American couple who were from Saudi Arabia and were on their way to Oktoberfest. Rock on, dudes.
Day 4 – Kutna Hora
Wednesday was our official “get out of Prague” day. To Kutná Hora that is, a town east of Prague full of “old crazy shit”. We took a train from the Prague Train Station, and got dumped off at a station that resembled nothing in our guide book. Hmm. Apparently we had to bus it another half an hour to the town center, on the way passing by apartment complexes and supermarkets, all the while next to a passenger that looked like a blonde Doogie Howser.
It took us a bit of wandering and map-hunting to get our bearings. The town was a bit oddly laid out, though they did have plenty of half-assed signs directing us in the general vicinity of what we think we wanted to see. Seriously, worst maps ever made. The town itself seemed half-abandoned; the center of it anyway. Definitely a little eery; like the towns-folks knew something the tourists didn’t. “Oh, don’t mind the ravenous zombies that pour out of the human bones-decorated crypts and terrorize the town at night during the months of August and September“
We finally found our first destination, the St. Barbara Cathedral. Definitely amazing. Its architect was the same designer as St. Vitus, but I liked this one a little better. Its trademark are the three distinctive steeples that look like tents. I couldn’t get any decent exterior photos, so you’ll just have to Google that. We then wandered aimlessly a bit through town, trying to figure where anything was. We eventually stumbled on the Italian Court, which used to be the town’s mint. It was pretty quiet that day though; just us and a few people resting on the benches. Eery.
It was getting late in the day at this point, and we didn’t want to stick around for the aforementioned zombies, so we bused it halfway back to the train station since the prime attraction of the town was actually in a smaller village outside of the town center called Sedlec. The prime attraction in question is of course the Sedlec Ossuary, a creepy crypt underneath a church with chandeliers and wall decorations made from human bones. Creepy, but totally worth it. Afterwards we treked the rest of the way back to the train station on foot and chatted up an elderly Australian couple while waiting for the train to arrive.
We made it back to Prague early evening and decided between the two of us that we’d done the “Czech” thing enough and needed some variety. So we headed to a Thai restaurant called Noi we frequently passed by whenever we wandered around Malá Strana.
Thursday was designated Get in Shape day, sort of. Ok, that was a lie. But it turned out to be a bit of a workout anyway; lots of climbing and stuff. My friend wanted to head up the hills we always walked by in Malá Strana, so we strolled that-a-ways in the morning towards Petřín Hill. The area was similar to the other park system we walked up two days prior, except with extra attractions! Like the Eiffel tower clone (Petřínská Rozhledna), the hunger wall, and the mirror maze; which was this small faux-castle with a mirror maze inside and a diorama of some battle that happened on the Charles Bridge.
We made our way down the hill back into Malá Strana and decided to go see the Wallenstein Gardens too, which were nice and full of peacocks. We stumbled onto the Vojan Gardens by accident (we were looking for bathrooms), walked past the Lennon Wall (dedicated to John Lennon; no one really knows why), had a sausage lunch in Wenceslas Square, then a beer break at Skorepka in Staré Mesto. I ordered a liter of the Tuplak; of course I didn’t know I was ordering a liter, but yea, surprise. It was evening by then, so we caught the free Goran Bregović concert in the Old Town Square, then ate a shitty dinner at a touristy Italian restaurant near the town square.
Last full day in Prague. We started it off with a trip to the Mucha Museum, where I learned how to pronounce “mucha” (hint, he’s not Spanish…it’s moo~hcha). We then wandered aimlessly a bit before deciding to head up the Astronomical Tower in the Old Town Square. Seeing the whole city like that atop the tower was pretty amazing, especially on the last day after we’d wandered the streets for a week. I was craving a doner, so we got that before taking a break back at the hotel. We also got some pastries from one of the stands in Wenceslas Square; something called “trdelník”, then sort of slummed it (we were literally down to our last few dollars) with cheap beer, night-time photography, and an early bedtime. The next morning, we took liberal advantage of the hotel breakfast, then headed off to the airport.