Prague, A New Favorite City

There are very few cities I have traveled too in which I had fallen in love with the city right from the start.  I felt this way upon emerging from the underground station in Paris and walking the colorful streets of Florence.  Yet this feeling reemerged once again during our first stroll in Prague.  The Gothic architecture, narrow streets and hidden squares make Prague feel like your taken back in time to a European fairy tale.  Then of course there is the castle, that is perched upon the hill dominating views from every which way.

One of Prague's most famed sites, Tyn Church

We started our time, which was too short, in Prague by strolling along the river that cuts the city in two.  Vantage points of the Prague Castle and the St. Charles bridge are at at all angles that provide perfect photo opportunities.  We had planned to spend our second day roaming on the caste grounds so our walk along the river was in the direction of the famous Jewish quarter.

The famous baroque and gothic architecture.

There are not many historical Jewish quarters in Europe due to the Nazi reign but the Prague quarter was left virtually untouched.  This was due to the Nazi's idea of having the Jewish quarter becoming a museum  of an 'extinct' race.  The thought is some what horrifying and eerie but it is a must see while in Prague.  Unlike the Paris Jewish quarter that boasts bakery and falafel, Prague's Jewish quarter boasts a lot of history, including the oldest active synagogue in all of Europe.

View of oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe.

Walls of the Pinkas Synagogue are inscribed with
76,000+ names of all of Prague's victims
 in the holocaust.

After spending a couple of hours in the Jewish quarter, we made our way to Prague's old town and the old town square.  In the first few hours of strolling Prague, I had loved every instance, but walking through Old Town sealed it's fate as one of my top 3 favorite cities (Florence and Paris being the other two in no particular order.)  I could have easily spent a whole day walking the alley ways stumbling upon all sorts of restaurants, cafes and bars big enough to hold only 10 people.  After stopping for a few pictures of the famed Tyn Church (see above), and picking up a cup of hot wine (which is a must in Prague), that is exactly what we did.

The crowded Old Town Square waiting for the astronomical clock.
See next post. 

We ended up at a famed Czech beer hall where we of course tried the local Czech beers but had a meal that defined our trip.  Through the first seven days, we had eaten a lot of meat given the fact that we were in Germany and Austria.  Yet our shared meal in the beer hall was the meatiest one yet.  Four different animals which included a skewered pig, duck, beef and pork - I had never seen so much animal in my life.  We ended our night on a pub crawl that was put on by our hostel.  It took us around to small underground bars that gained their fame during the Communist reign in Prague.

Our skewered pig. 

Our second day in Prague was spent on the opposite side of the river at the largest castle grounds in Europe, Prague Castle.  You of course have to get there by crossing the St. Charles Bridge which is one of the oldest in Europe.  It of course is packed with tourists by mid morning but the next time I go back I would not mind a morning run along the river to catch the bridge before it is swarmed with people.

The bridge and castle behind me. 

The area around the castle grounds were no different that the Old Town of Prague.  Colorful cobble stone streets with Gothic architecture engulfs the thousands of visitors each day.  Walking up the hill to the castle is no joke, all of us were a little short of breath by the time we reached the top.  The climb is a little easier if you enjoy a trdelnik and hot wine. There are stands selling these right after the St. Charles Bridge along with kabasa sausage and smoked pig (These aren't Manhattan hot dog stands, no need to be afraid of them).

Changing of the guard at the castle. 

Gargoyle's peer over the castle's visitors. 

When we finally made it up to the castle, we were greeted by the two guards standing tall at the entrance.  I shouldn't say greeted as just as you may see at Buckingham Palace, these guys do not move.  We also got a glimpse of the changing of the guard which happens every hour.  The castle grounds are huge, hence the largest in Europe, and we could have easily spent more time wandering around.  We made sure to hit the St. Vitus Cathedral which is the dominating structure of the complex.  Notre Dame like gargoyles jump out to visitors on the outside  and beautiful stained glass windows glisten light through to the inside.  And although it sounds painful, the 200+ stairs up to the top of the tower is worth it as it provides the most memorizing views of Prague.  We could have stayed longer and unfortunately did not have time to look in the gardens but there was still more to see and we were running out of time.

Stained glass windows in the church.

View of Prague from atop the church. 

Still on the castle side of the river, I had been told we had to wander and find the John Lennon wall.  So wander we did, with hot wine in hand, and after 30 minutes of venturing around we finally stumbled along the 30 yard wall.  There was something oddly appealing about the wall aside from some of the graffiti art so we ended up spending more than a picture click there and of course left our John Hancock.  Our last sight of the day was half way up Petrin Hill.  It would have been nice to spend some time at the top hanging in the park but about a quarter of the way up, our stomachs were growling so off we went to find more meat.

The John Lennon wall (some of us still sipping on hot wine). 

Leaving my mark. 

For our last meal we wandered into the Old Town and decided to stop at a restaurant. It must have held no more than 20 people but it was delicious.  Karavella was the restaurant but what I was told is to wander around and pick a place that has a hand written menu listed outside.  This tip did not fail us so I would recommend it.  We spent our last night sampling five different types of music in Prague's famed Karlovy Lazne.  It is a five level club that is a frequent tourist and study abroad hang out.  Each level is a different genre of music so we made sure to hit each floor along with the ice pub.  A perfect way to end our Kalovy Lazne night, and anyone's at that, was a fried cheese sandwich in Wenceslas Square.   Sadly this rapped up our trip to Prague but I left with a feeling that this was a city that I will return too, more sooner than later.

Bundled up in the ice pub. 


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