There is only one word that will do Prague justice; Prague is magical. With its cobblestoned streets, medieval castles, astronomical clock towers and old as dirt bridges, Prague looks like a fairy tale town trapped in time.
We made it to town after Paris and it was a balm to our stressed out souls. You can still see signs of the Czech Republic’s not so distant Communist past when we were on our way from the airport to the old town. The buildings all look like each other, square and plain, sans adornments, zero frills. The bus (ridiculously cheap at $1.58 per ticket) took us from the airport to the underground and we made it to Stare Mesto (old town) without any problems. Our underground exit was literally a stone’s throw from the apartment we were staying in. Our host couldn’t receive us since our flight was delayed so many hours, but his girlfriend was a dear, super friendly and informative she gave us tips galore to take advantage of the little time we had in town. We took her at her word and went to a restaurant she recommended that had authentic Czech food and beer.
DH and I walked first to the Astronomical Tower in the Old Town Square and waited for the hour to chime, the clock has been there since its construction in 1410 and off it went telling us the time, the standing of the earth and the other planets…so flipping cool I couldn’t stand it.
From there we rushed, starved and thirsty to dinner to Lokal, the restaurant we were told to go to. We waited by a table for some space to clear and drank pretty damn good beer in the meantime. Prague has this weird sense of unpretentiousness and calm, there were a lot of people waiting for tables to clear and I am sure they were all hungry as we were, but the waiter kept on walking around with a seemingly never ending supply of beer, replacing empty jugs for full ones while we all merrily drank beer that was cheaper than water and patiently waited without complaint.
We had an interesting dinner of goulash (DH) and fish (me) with dumplings (a sort of steamed bread that tasted lot better than it sounds) and fried cheese (why doesn’t EVERYONE fry their cheese is a mystery to me) From there we went to the iconic Charles Bridge and walked around in the dark, surrounded by equally awed strangers, stepping on stone that had been laid since the late 1300s. The bridge seems like is guarded by 30 statues one creepier than the next, all looked to me in the dark like the Witch-King of Angmar and I couldn’t walk by them without getting a serious case of the hibbie jibbies.
The next day we woke up bright and early and the day couldn’t have been more gorgeous, crisp cold air, shinny sun and blue skies. God, Prague looks so gorgeous in autumn, the light just makes everything glitter and the ridiculously pretty architecture looks even more so under the sun.
Since we hadn’t climbed enough ancient stairs in London and Paris we climbed the clock tower and enjoyed the views of the Old Town and the Prague Castle with its St. Vitus Cathedral in the back.
St. Vitus Cathedral has been there if I remember correctly since 1060 but a church to the same saint has been in that place since 930. The building itself it’s enormous and I had to practically sit on the floor to be able to lean back and appreciate it all. It’s so gothic too, with the intricate details and the scary gargoyles, so incredibly romantic and with such a rich history.
We walked and walked around, taking it all in and imagining ourselves in that time and how different life was, how short and dangerous, how betrayal ran rampant, how power and a kingdom meant more than love or family to some. Life was so frail, yet people were powerful and willful enough to built palaces and churches and towns that still stand and remain breathtakingly beautiful.
The Czech Republic opened borders only 25 years ago. Before that it was part of Czechoslovakia and thanks to a “Velvet Revolution” it peacefully transitioned to what it is today.
I can’t think of that city without sighing and I am so glad we decided to include it in the trip, even if we did have to sacrifice Venice. I still remember how to say ‘thank you’, ‘beer’ and ‘castle’ in Czech, a very sonorous yet pleasing language.
We left Prague with a suitcase full of marionettes, soaps, chocolate, fridge magnets, books, notebooks and pretty Koruna coins. We were on our way to Rome and I did nothing but dream of Prague’s red rooftops all the way there.