*This is a blog post detailing a past trip. The post refers to my year abroad in Germany that I undertook between the summers of 2016 and 2017 (6 years ago at the time of writing). Therefore, details shall be a little foggy, but I have written the post for completeness. Ensuring my blog captures everywhere I have travelled.
Having first visited Amsterdam and then Berlin, destination 3 of my 2-week 21st birthday trip was Prague. The capital city of the Czech Republic, is bisected by the Vltava River. Nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires,” it’s known for its Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core, with colourful baroque buildings, Gothic churches and the medieval Astronomical Clock, which gives an animated hourly show. Our train from Berlin to Prague took around 4.5 hours, meaning we arrived early evening, checked into our Air BnB, freshened up then headed out to explore. First up we went for some dinner at WingHaus as we fancied some home comfort food. The wings were exceptional, and while not a traditional meal, it certainly satisfied us. After this we made our way to Dubliner Irish bar as some friends we knew from home were also in the city and had come here for their last night, so we decided to join them for a few hours that evening.
The next morning with our first full day in Prague ahead of us, we headed out to get some breakfast before joining a free walking tour. Our accommodation was very close to Prague Train Station and also the Národní Museum. This meant we had to walk past the Statue of Saint Wenceslas and Wenceslas Square to get into the old town. The long pedestrian street that leads down from the square into the old town is full of little vendors selling various street food. I stopped a one and ordered 3 traditional Czech hotdog things. They looked great and I handed over the money (Czech Koruna, not Euro as I’d been used to) before walking off. Having not quite gotten used to the conversion rate a few steps later I realised I hadn’t paid a few quid like I initially calculated, but actually about 30 for these bloody hotdog things. I turned around and began to protest the extortionate price of the food. After some back and forth the lady agreed to give back some money but, we had well and truly been ripped off haha. I have heard this is a common trick used by some in the capital, by no means does it warrant avoiding the place, just have your wits about you and have better maths skills than me is all I’d say.
Having eaten our overpriced breakfast we met up with the tour guide for our free tour of the old town. Once again a great way to explore the sights and understand the history of the city. The old town of Prague is a beautiful place to wander around with its historic buildings, charming alleyways and a plethora of shops, restaurants and bars. On the walking tour, we stops by numerous attractions from the Powder Tower, which used to be the old city gate. The Church of Our Lady before Týn, a 14th-century landmark with 80m towers, ornately carved exteriors and a baroque altarpiece. As well as one of the old town’s most famous attractions, the Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square. The medieval timepiece on the facade of the city hall puts on a unique display of the twelve apostles as the clock strikes every hour. Around this time you’ll see crowds of people all gathered outside the clock tower to watch the show unfold. The clock itself is over 600 years old having been commissioned and built in 1410. There are many legends and tales that relate to the clock which all adds to its fascinating history. One of the most prominent, and probably why the clock has remained to this day, is it’s said that if the clock is to stop working, all of Prague shall suffer. Hence it has been repaired and restored numerous times. Giving us the wonderful attraction today. The final stop on the walking tour was the Lennon Wall. Located in a small and secluded square across from the French Embassy, the wall’s original purpose was as a form of protest again the communist regime of the time. Since the 1960s the wall has been decorated with love poems and short messages of hope and defiance. It received its first decoration connected to John Lennon, a symbol of freedom, western culture, and political struggle, following his 1980 assassination, when an unknown artist painted a single image of the singer-songwriter and some lyrics. The wall continuously undergoes change, and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under layers of new paint. Even when the wall was repainted by authorities, the next day it was again full of poems and flowers. Today, the wall represents a symbol of global ideals such as love and peace. Our tour guide even had a few cans of spray paint, meaning we were able to tag the wall ourselves. No doubt they too, have now been hidden, under many more layers of paint.
After the walking tour, we then explore the old town ourselves, trying out some of the local bars and restaurants before hitting the town that evening. As well as offering a wealth of cultural experiences the nightlife scene is also very good.
The next day we were up and ready for more exploring on foot. The city is probably best explored this way as things are all well within reach of one another. First up we took a trip to the Jewish Museum and Cemetery. As with pretty much most of Europe nowhere was safe from the occupation of the Nazis during WWII. Meaning like most cities there were prominent memorials and museums documenting the atrocities that had occurred and unfolded during this time in Prague. From here we moved to Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. Both sit upon the hill a little way outside the old town overlooking the city. Prague Castle, built in the 9th century is now the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 70,000 square metres, at about 570 metres in length and an average of about 130 metres wide. Meanwhile, St. Vitus cathedral is a prominent example of Gothic architecture and is the largest and most important church in the country. Located within the Prague Castle complex it contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. The whole complex is really impressive and no trip to the city would be complete without exploring this historic part. Located within the complex you’ll find the statue titled Youth, by Miloš Zet. The statue depicts a naked teenage boy, which you will soon realise has a very shiny penis. It is said to be good luck giving it a rub. Seems a little wrong, but clearly plenty of people give it a go due to the shine that comes off the statue’s golden member.
Having finished exploring the castle complex we then came back into the old town via the beautiful Charles Bridge. Construction of the stone bridge was started back in 1357, taking 45 years to complete finishing in 1402. To be honest I think this is something we have lost in the modern world. We are always so concerned and concentrated on the here and now. In a world where everything is at your fingertips, with instant food deliveries, shopping deliveries etc. We are losing touch with delayed gratification. We want everything now and thinking even a year ahead seems strange. Nowhere do I think this is more apparent than in modern-day politics. Those in power seem not to care about what shall happen in 10 years, let alone 45 years. They just want to please in the now, to ensure they get reelected or stay in power. We need to take a lead from the great societies of the past and look to work on projects that we might never see to completion, but that will benefit those who come after us. Nowhere is this needed more than in the battle against climate change. The Greeks also knew a thing or two about this long-term planning, had the perfect proverb for this sentiment. “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” Anyhow, I’ve digressed a bit. Having marvelled at the beautiful bridge, that remains to this day and benefits the people of Prague, we headed to a nearby restaurant for some traditional Czech food. The obvious choice was the goulash and dumplings which was delicious. Washed down with a Staropramen beer.
On our final day in the city, we first headed to Letna Park, which provides great views of the city, River Vltava and Charles Bridge. It is also home to the Prague Metronome. Which was erected in 1991, on the plinth left vacant by the demolition of an enormous monument to former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. A plaque at the base of the Metronome reads “In time, all thing pass…’. From here we then made our way across the river to the district of Petrin, where the Petrin Tower is located. Looking a bit like a mini Eiffel Tower a trip up the tower offers a spectacular view of the old town of Prague, from an angle and vantage point you are unable to find anywhere else in the city. The view of all the red title roofs is still vivid in my memory even all these years later. Back in the old town we then also paid a visit to the Sex Machines Museum. This offered quite the laugh looking at all the weird and wonderful contraptions in the exhibition. That evening we once again hit the town for our final night in Prague. I think we were in the city during midweek and not the weekend, so didn’t see it at its lively best. But even so, the unique bars of the city and great beers were thoroughly enjoyed regardless. At the end of the night, before heading back to our Air BnB for the last time we took a walk to Charles Bridge to see it lit up at night. I’m pretty sure it was about 1 am meaning the throngs of tourists were also gone, so had it to ourselves. If you do happen to be up this late in Prague. I thoroughly recommend a trip to the bridge at this time.
Morning broke and it was time for us to leave Prague behind, we had a train to Budapest to catch. The final stop on our 2-week trip. On arrival to the train station, there was quite a big police presence. We were travelling at a time when ISIS terrorist attacks across Europe had been sadly quite common. One of the police officers asked for our passports and upon seeing mine was convinced the document I had given him didn’t belong to me and it wasn’t me in the photo. As I tried to protest my innocence and prove it was actually me I did get a little scared. Thankfully he eventually believed me and let us on our way to catch the train. To pass the time on the 6-hour journey, we pooled together all our remaining Czeck Konuara and brought as many beers as we could afford. Which was actually quite a lot. This made the journey far more enjoyable. We departed the Czech Republic, transited through Slovakia and Bratislava, before continuing on into Hungry and Budapest. It’s safe to say we were in great spirits when we arrived and more than ready to hit the town on our first night in Budapest. Which I shall detail in the next and final blog of this two-week trip.