Pivo, the only word I learnt in Czech
Looking out of the tiny airplane windows as we descended into Prague, the ground was covered in a crisp, white blanket of snow and I knew it was going to be a rather cold trip. Well it was February in eastern Europe, what could I expect. Travelling from the airport to the centre was rather easy, the hard part was not falling over on the ice; I soon found out that with snow-covered landscapes, comes ice covered pavements, the joys.
Having to wrap up in my many layers of clothing, every time I wanted to take a trip out of a heated building, felt like I was preparing for a trip to the Arctic (yes, I am being a tad over dramatic) but with blue skies and an abundance of historical sites to see it was worth it.
Prague’s Old Town does not disappoint. Colourful buildings which, underwent face lifts throughout history to suit the latest architectural fashion, have left the square with an abundance of mixed architecture. Gothic sits next to Romanesque and Baroque and paints a picture of a changing Prague. The best part is you can sit in the square and admire it all with a beer in hand, Win – win.
Of course, I couldn’t visit Prague without paying a visit to the famous astronomical clock (it would be like going to Sydney and not seeing the Opera House), so I joined the crowd as it took up position waiting for the hour to strike. It took us 3 attempts to actually make it through, we were always 5 minutes late having been distracted by something or someone, for instance the guy that had dressed as a giant polar bear of which we needed to have a picture with…! The 15 second show, shows figures appearing at the 2 doors before they rotate to the next, when you think the clock is 600 years old and still working it becomes quite impressive.
Getting our fix of history and ticking off the top tourist sites, we walked across Charles Bridge, up the hill and into the castle. We expected the climb up the hill to be a bit difficult, given the ice, but what we weren’t expecting was to be searched by the police before we could enter, this was new and just a tad intimidating. I must point out that they were checking everyone before they could enter the grounds, we weren’t just randomly suspected of being criminals. The Castle complex, the largest ancient castle in the world, dating back to 870, filled us with historical knowledge and left us struggling to comprehend the 1110 years of it. In contrast, we visited the John Lennon wall. An unsuspecting wall covered in gratify in memory of John Lennon, a colourful wall with a colourful history. With John Lennon being an idol for young Czechs who rebelled against communism, his death brought grief to many and tributes were written upon the wall. Clashes between the young and the authorities continued until the end of the communist regime in 1989. Now the wall stands as a peace wall, projecting the ideals of peace to its many visitors.
Walking through the meandering streets I passed older ladies dressed in fur coats, walking next to obedient husbands, who seemed to come from a time gone by; a small glimpse of history contrasting against the modern tourists. Shop fronts decorated with traditional puppets lined the streets and yet they looked slightly terrifying to me. Tourist traps are in abundance, one being Trdelnik’s, a cinnamon roll that although tastes delicious isn’t unique to Prague, as advertised by the many, many street vendors. As day turned to night, we drank Czech beer moving from bar to bar before making the decision to head back, as our route took us past an Irish bar, we found ourselves walking through the door as if the sound of the Irish music had drawn us in. If in doubt find the Irish bar.
The cold weather came as a great excuse to sit in warm restaurants and try the local food. Goulash and dumplings proved to be a popular favorite along with soup served in a bread bowl. However, I couldn’t quite bring myself to try the pork knuckle (a giant piece of pork), that appeared to be a traditional dish, advertised everywhere. The bakeries were also a, go to place, a cold afternoon was spent people watching as we ate strudel, drank coffee and made plans. Our last night was spent in the hotel bar as we watched the rain bounce down outside. This may seem a little sad, but it wasn’t. With wine flowing and card games going strong, the night turned into an amusing one.
Prague you were a winter delight and a perfect escape. Next time I visit, however, it will be warmer!