We headed off to Praha from bustling Berlin. Like true Indians, we leapt into the bus, scrambled up the narrow stairs to the upper deck to get the front seats. Two other women, who had the same idea, beat us to it and spent most of the journey sleeping! Really! We got 4 seats though – 2 front with a fab view and 2 in the 2nd row. Scenic route with fields of gold on either side. They grow so much of Rye! We passed through Dresden and made a mental note to stop there next time. Looked really quaint and nice.
We arrived in Praha late evening and a friendly cabbie took us to our Airbnb accommodation in tiny Cernosice. It’s a small town on the far side of the Berounka river and the apartment had a spectacular view of the city lights. Our hosts were very kind – they had stocked the kitchen with different kinds of Czech bread, eggs, milk, coffee etc. It was Good Friday but since we were hungry and not really fasting, we headed off to the town square to find a restaurant. We wined and dined on Czech food and slept well that night.
Next morning saw us getting tickets to the Hop On Hop Off tour. Our first stop was The Church of Our Lady Victorious which houses the famous Infant Jesus of Prague status. The little wooden statue which is wax coated exudes so much of innocence and strength. You can’t help but genuflect and pray! Please note it’s better to buy souvenirs in the stores that line the street outside. You can get them blessed inside the Church. The quality of souvenirs we bought in the Church store leaves much to be desired.
We ambled on over to the Charles Bridge which is built over the River Vltava which flows through the centre of Prague. It is said that the city grew around this river for over 1000 years. It was teeming with tourists, so we also joined the happy crowd. Flanked by statues of saints on either side, this bridge joins the Prague Castle to the Old Town. Big baroque statues of some of my favourite saints – John the Baptist, Anthony of Padua, Joseph, Anne, Francis of Assisi, Francis Xavier etc. These are however only replicas. The original ones from 1700, are housed in Vysehrad Monument. Stop near the statue of St John Nepomuk and make a wish. Street musicians playing jazz, great accordion players, artists run amok on the bridge. However, since it’s only for pedestrians, its actually great fun to jostle your way through.
Go to the National Museum – this superb neo-Renaissance building is at the top end of Wenceslas Square and has interesting exhibits.
The Astronomical Clock is simply wonderful. Watch the procession of the 12 apostles on the hour, every hour! If you have the energy to climb, then go up the tower for a spectacular view of the city – you can see every single spire!
Prague Castle is humungous. This huge rambling complex houses palaces, a church, a monastery, many museums, art galleries, viewing towers and the famous St. Vitus Cathedral – a Gothic masterpiece which was commissioned by Charles IV back in 1344. If you fit, you can climb the South tower for some amazing views. I decided not to, for various reasons – the main one being I’m not very fit!! St. George’s Basilica, a Romanesque church in Prague is the oldest church Prague Castle complex.
Founded in 1703, St. Nicholas Church owned by the Jesuits, at Malostranske Namesti, is the largest church in Prague. Truly an imposing structure. Don’t miss the fresco detailing the Celebration of the Holy Trinity by Franz Palko. It is in the 70m high dome of the Church.
Wenceslas Square is Prague’s main square. Lots of small shops in the square serving Czech food. Drinking mulled wine, we feasted on chicken with potatoes, sausages in curry sauce, some Trdelnik – which is a kind of spit cake, wrapped around a stick, grilled and rolled in a sugar and walnut mix. Many street buskers singing and trying to earn money. Made for a very nice evening.
We popped into Hamley’s and the child in us enjoyed that thoroughly. M&S was having a sale but the doors shut fairly early.
The food you must try – Dumplings (knedlíky) are usually served with meals. Made with wheat or potato, these are very wholesome. Side dishes include noodles (nudle), boiled or risotto rice, Potatoes (brambory) are boiled, mashed or fried. Rolls (rohlík), buns (žemle), braided buns (houska) are eaten at breakfast. You also get sweet rolls or loupák which is made from sweetened dough and milk. Goulash soup (gulášovka) and dršťková are made with small pieces of beef and vegetables. Potato soup (bramboračka) is made from potato, onion, carrot, parsley, garlic and celery.
Prague is a beautiful place – you must spend at least a week here to imbibe the culture and enjoy all the sights. Be prepared to walk a lot – so walking shoes and good thick socks a must.