Prague – The Capital of the Czech Republic

My husband, Tom, and I have just journeyed back in time to the old world atmosphere of the Czech Republic and it is magnificent!

The old

An old world atmosphere with cobbled streets and picturesque buildings.

There is a downtown area with new modern buildings.

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The New

Unarguably the most famous of the modern day buildings is the Dancing House.

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The design was inspired by the famous dance couple Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers. Two corner towers resemble the dancing couple – Ginger is represented by a glass tower, while Fred is represented by a concrete one.

Fun and fascinating!

However, we spent most of our short time in Prague in the Old Town (circa 1200s) and “New Town” (circa 1400s) areas. Here, there is a much different feel, as if the city/country were frozen in time centuries ago.

An Introduction to Prague

Our first day dawned chilly with a  threat of  showers, but knowing our time in Prague was short, we headed out to explore.  This I must add was a bit difficult in Prague and let me explain why. In Paris, we didn’t know the language or our way around, but we had a good map and the streets had names like Rue St. James. In Prague, the map was tiny and the streets were named things like Jeruzalemska and Vrchliskho and to make matters worse, the streets change names every few blocks so Jeruzalemska turned into Kylevka and then into Oldrichova. 😳

That was a  challenge! But being the determined souls that we are, we found our way to the first “Must See” in the guidebook – Wenceslas Square.

Wenceslas Square

Named for the king of Christmas carol fame, Wenceslas, who was actually a duke, reigned over Bohemia in the early 900s. He was killed by his brother but was so loved and respected by the people of Bohemia that he was declared a saint and made a king posthumously.

Okay, enough history.

We were in Wenceslas Square and it quickly became evident that something exciting was getting ready to happen. Groups of people in colorful costumes were congregating on the sidewalks and in the streets.

Bands and groups of dancers were getting ready for the festival.

Small bands were warming up their instruments and there was a feeling of anticipation in the air. We moved on following our guide book and ended up in Old Town Square where there were even more people in costumes as well as food kiosks, street entertainers, and people everywhere.

 We discovered that we had happened upon the annual Prague Gypsy Festival! There were groups performing while crowds clapped and tapped their feet to the music – so, so fun!

People, young and old, came to celebrate.

The performers were having such a great time and so were we!

There were also food kiosks everywhere and the aromas were mouthwatering.

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The food was DELICIOUS!!!

We grabbed a bite to eat while we absorbed the party atmosphere and enjoyed the celebration. What a great introduction to Prague!

Old Town

Old Town is the center of the historic district. Many of the buildings here date back to the 1200s, built in the gothic style with wonderful towers and spires.

St. Nicolas Church – built in the late 1200s.
An alter In St. Nikolas Church – a reverent, quiet, beautiful place.

The Powder Tower – a mideval tower erected in 1475. This gate stood near the castle mote and is where each king began his coronation march.

We headed back to Wenceslas Square on our way back to the hotel. I should add that this square is in New Town which only dates back to the 1400s. Here there is more baroque style in the architecture (that really sounds like I know what I’m talking about and I so totally don’t, but that’s what the guidebook said).

Prague National Museum at the top of Wencaslas Square.
Beautiful old buildings everywhere – this one is the Municipal House Art Nouveau building.
Prague’s “5th Avenue”

Though I can’t spell or begin to pronounce this street’s name, it is Prague’s equivalent of New York”s 5th Avenue – Prada, Bulgari, Cartier…

Prague – Day 2

Saturday dawned bright and beautiful, so we had decided to make the trek to Prague Castle – about 3 miles each way, but that was if you could follow the map and took the direct route which we couldn’t and didn’t and ended up going about half a mile in the wrong direction and having to retrace our steps…expletive! We eventually got pointed in the right direction and headed toward the castle enjoying the views along the way.

The Czechs are known for their glass ware and we saw shop windows filled with beautiful examples.

Cobbled streets and beautiful architecture.

The castle sits atop the highest hill in Prague. The area is so beautiful that the walk didn’t seem all that long.  We walked across a large bridge over the Vltava River and were soon climbing the stairs to the precipice. The grounds are lovely and the views from the garden walls – spectacular!

The meandering Vltava River.

Prague Castle watches over the crowded city below.

About a million stairs later, (after this trip I’m going to make an exercise video called Calves of Steel…) we finally reached the castle.

Prague Castle

As everywhere we’ve gone, we found street entertainers, but these people take street entertaining to a whole new level.

Outfits befitting castle street performers!

We enjoyed the entertainment, took pictures, and savored the experience. Then around 11:40, there was a mass movement of people toward the gates of the castle, and we learned that there would be a Changing of the Guard at 12:00 (Prague Castle now houses the governing body of the Czech Republic). We managed to get near the front and, though squashed between hoards of people, Tom managed to get a pretty good picture.

The changing of the guard at Prague Castle

Lots of pomp and circumstance in the changing of the guard – pretty cool to watch.

St. Vitus Cathedral – this Gothic style cathedral was added to the castle in 1344.

After our fill of the castle, we made our way back toward the city below to get a look at the Vltava River and its surroundings. As we approached the river area, a guy dressed as an old time sailor approached us with a deal we couldn’t refuse – a river tour, a free beer, ice cream, and a chance to be off our feet for and hour – SOLD!

Sights along the cruise route – The St. Charles Bridge.

Our cruise took us through narrow canals.

A pretty little area along a canal off the river. Our guide said it was used in the making of one of the Harry Potter Movies.

The trip was interesting, relaxing, and enjoyable – well worth the cost of admission!

We headed home tired, having walked 7.5 miles by the time we got home, but having thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Some final photos on our Last Day in Prague

The Clock Tower circa 1410

A tour is available to the top so up we went – yep, more stairs, but the views from the top were magnificent!

Prague Castle sits high on a hill watching over the city of Prague.
Prague Castle sits high on a hill watching over the city of Prague.
Church of Our Lady Gothic style built in 1256.

And so we said goodbye to beautiful, old world Prague.

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