Romantic, beautiful and magical
24.08.2007 - 27.08.2007 24 °C
The train ride from Berlin to Prague was so beautiful! The train wound its way along a narrow river at the bottom of a valley surrounded by steep, thickly forested hills. Small hillside villages would go by, with a tall church spire in the middle, and the houses spiraling out around it. On some of the hills were towering cliffs and on two of them we saw a hilltop fortress surrounded by thick stone walls. We spent most of the train ride running from one side of the train to the other side to catch all of the scenery.
As soon as we got off the train old men started hounding us about hostels and other things they were selling. Police were walking around everywhere and there were about ten tobacco shops in the main part of the train station. Another shocking thing was that on the tabloids there were very graphic depictions of women, which would normally only be found in special shops if you were in Canada. Overall the train station in Prague was very scary and totally made us think that Prague was a dirty, dangerous and poor city, with lots of prostitutes and other sketchy people. We were starting to doubt about our decision to come to Prague, but then I remembered that my Grandma had really liked the city went she went, so I decided that the city much be different from the train station.
On our search for our hostel we walked across a bridge that was at least 1km long, only to find out that our hostel was below the bridge and that we had to walk all the way back. When we mentioned the bridge to our hostel keeper he said that the locals call it the Suicide Bridge, because at least 3 people a month jump off it. He said that the unhappy people have often landed right in front of our hostel!!
That night we went to the bar in our hostel and met some of the local young people. After getting used to the language barrier we ended up having a great night and trying lots of foreign alcohol. One of the locals ordered a whole wheel of cheese and just ate it like that! We learned some interesting things about Prague, and it turns out that Prague is really quite a normal city, with no more problems than any other city. The Suicide Bridge came up, and the locals said that when they cross the street they look left, right and UP! So disturbing. To finish the night off we ordered some traditional Prague Pizza, and it was probably the best pizza that I’ve ever had.
The next day we went across the river to the west side of town and wandered in the general direction of the Prague Castle. The roads in Prague are all of cobblestone, and there are very few main roads or streetlights. People seem to drive wherever they want and because there are so many tourists (there are actual throngs of them everywhere) the cars go about as fast as the pedestrians. Tour groups stood on every corner listening to their guides in various languages. The roads seemed to wind around the buildings, and it was terribly easy to get lost, but for some reason it did not seem to matter. We encountered a walled in garden that was quite nice, but a little strange as well because on the back wall there was a fake dripstone wall. An interesting photo gallery of the Prague floods was displayed near the wall. We had lunch in a great little Pizzeria, where we watched people trip on the cobblestones as they walked by and gawked at everything.
The Prague Castle sat on a high hill and the steep street that led to it was lined with a hundred tourist shops. Puppets are very popular in these tourist shops and some of them were truly spectacular and sometimes downright scary. In front of the castle were some unmoving guards dressed in blue. I felt quite bad for them because they had to stand still in the sweltering sun, sweating buckets in their uniforms. From the castle yard we had a great view over Prague; the thousands of red clay roofs, the church spires and the many bridges, including the famous Charles Bridge. It is a truly romantic city.
The castle itself was a little disappointing because I was expecting a typical medieval castle, but this is more of a walled in village. At the center of the castle village there was a great church. It had a bunch of tall, dark, spires and looked like it would be amazing on the inside, but the price was crazy and the line way too long. We walked through the royal gardens first, which turned out to be the best part of the castle. There was a stone wall with grape vines growing on it and we couldn’t help ourselves - we had to take some and they were so sweet and delicious. The rest of the castle really wasn’t great and we left after only seeing half of it. On the way home we crossed the Charles Bridge, and visited the Torture Instruments Museum, which was the biggest gimmick ever. Worst museum known to the world! In that area there were many alcohol specialty stores, so we peeped in to look at Absinthe prices. It turns out that there is one kind that is said to make you hallucinate: Bitter Absinthe. The prices were all very high, and for bitter absinthe it was even higher, not to mention that fact that you would need to take at least 5 shots for it to happen!
The next day we checked out the Astronomical Clock; climbed the Clock Tower, which offered great views of the city; went to Mass in the Tỳn Church; and had lunch at a cute café on the street. Both of our pasta dishes were spectacular, but the bill was a little confusing. They charged us the equivalent of $5 each for using forks, knives and plates!
After lunch we walked to the Petrin Gardens and began the long, steep climb to the observation tower at the top of the gardens. The path was lined with pear, apple and apricot trees, so I went on a couple climbs and picked some fresh orchard fruit. Near the top we came across a rock covered in carvings and at first we were confused as to how everyone carved into the rock so easily, but we soon found out that the rock was actually quite soft. We decided to leave our own carving, so Kyle carved a large ‘J+K’ into the rock. At the top we were surprised to see two churches, a huge walled in garden and a bunch of religious statues. The climb up the observation tower was a little exhausting, but the view at the top was definitely worth it. Back at the bottom of the gardens we watched a little boy play with the pigeons before going to a neat restaurant called Club Architektu for supper. The restaurant was in a 12th century cellar, and you could feel the coldness seeping from the ancient walls. The tables were lit by candlelight and dining room settings looked very medieval. We both ordered a Golden Pheasant beer, which had a very pleasant coffee taste, I ordered a Czech rabbit dish, and Kyle had a chicken wrap.
We spent our last morning in Prague looking for the Yellow Market, but we got ridiculously lost and decided to just buy lunch supplies from a small deli before heading to the train station. Overall I would say our time in Prague was quite magical, especially because we had expected something so different. Even though there are a billion tourists it still feels like you can have unique, personal experiences which I find really nice. I also have to say that I am quite relieved that we didn’t see anyone plunge to their death!
PS - I realized that many people do not have Facebook, so I added some photos on to here. You can find them at this link: http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/orderByID/users/Jaana M/
Unfortunately there is a limited upload capacity, so not all of them will be on here...but at least it gives you a peek into what we're seeing.