Prague has always been high on my list of places to visit. It has always sounded romantic, beautiful, a bit mysterious, and until recently very inexpensive.
When we left for Prague, our last stop on our 5 city Central Europe
trip in January 2013, I was absolutely thrilled to be heading to the
Czech Republic. But by the time we left, my rose colored glasses had
been removed. The city is beautiful for sure, but even in cold, drizzly
winter it was teeming with more tourists than I had experienced even in
the high season in Paris.
We arrived at night, after a
5 hour train ride from Vienna, and were picked up by the company we had
rented our apartment from. Our flat was perfectly located just a few
steps from the Old Town Square, great for sightseeing, not so great for
dealing with the crowds of tourists.
the six of us laid claim to bedrooms we headed out in search of a
cocktail and a bite to eat. Passing through the square we were all
struck by how absolutely lovely it was. The Christmas market was still
in full swing and a massive Christmas tree kept watch over all the
vendors. The famed clock tower looked straight out of "Harry Potter".
morning we would grab these delicious cinnamon style rolls from one of
the stalls at the Christmas market and a coffee from the Starbucks also
located there. East meets west.
On our first full day
we strolled around the winding medieval streets, bombarded by t-shirt
shops and money exchange outlets. We settled on a traditional looking
restaurant for lunch and were started off with shots of Becherovka said to encourage the appetite. Czech beer, fried cheese, and goulash followed. Diet food this is not.
then gathered in front of the Astronomical Clock in time to watch it
perform on the hour, along with about 1000 others. This was where we were
meeting up with a free walking tour, which we thought would be the best
way for us to see the most in our 2 short days in town.
guide ended up being more interested in telling everyone the pitfalls
of exchanging money on the streets with strangers (wtf??) than
explaining much about the buildings and history of Prague. As it was
cold and rainy and we were all a bit bored with his lectures, we ditched
the tour half way through and walked ourselves around a bit before
returning to the Old Square where the crowds had gathered again, and the
clock was doing it's thing.
next morning Dayne, Caitlin and I set out to the Jewish Quarter, a
small area consisting of the remaining Jewish buildings and archives
that the Jews were allowed to keep here, the other Jewish neighborhoods
were razed during WWII. Our first stop was the Old New Synagogue where all
men were asked to don a yarmulke before entering.
walked to the Ceremonial Hall from here, a 2-story building with many
displays of Jewish relics and peek-a-boo views of the neighboring
The Jewish Cemetery is the small, fenced off
burial grounds of thousands. Confined to such a small plot of land, the
graves are overlapping and stacked on top of each other. Markers sit
haphazardly, decaying, many of their engravings barely legible. It's a
maze, a sea of the deceased. It's astonishing.
ynagogue. Here there were more exhibits including some showing common life rituals.
last stop was the Spanish Synagogue named for its style, also housing
hundreds of displays of artifacts and a treasure trove of photographs
from the time during the Nazi occupation.
We met up
with Forest and Thibault for lunch at one of the restaurants our airport
driver had recommended to us, Restaurant Mlejnice. Dayne and Thibault
both ordered the pork shank which was possibly the largest thing I have
ever witnessed someone eat.
six of us regrouped after lunch and walked over the beautiful bridge
and then up to the storybook castle on the hill. Again, even with the
rain, gloom, and cold the bridge was person to person tourists.
Unfortunately by the time we arrived at the castle both it and the
cathedral were closing for the day but we did encounter the dapper guard
detail as they marched around the castle square and even harassed a poor
lone guard in charge of the Christmas tree.
admiring the views from the hill we made our way down and back across
the now dark bridge. Failing to get into the other recommended
restaurant of our choice we all grabbed hot grilled sausages and fresh
fried chips from the vendors in the Christmas market and made the short
walk back to our apartment to have dinner.
Christmas market would be our final meal the next day as Dayne and I
cobbled together the last of our Czech crowns and bought as many grams
of roasted 'Prague Ham' as we could. Elbowing our way past the square of
tourists, we walked to our apartment and devoured the hot and delicious
plate of pork and bread.
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