Prague – City of Enchantment
For decades I’ve heard how Prague is the most enchanting and beautiful city in all of Europe. I have to agree. The opulence of the architecture rivals St. Petersburg with it’s larger than life sculpture facades, frescos, and dazzling colors.
The people are warm and inviting. Many of whom easily speak several languages, English being among them. It’s a city that beacons you to leisurely stroll it’s pedestrian bridges and wide open promenade boulevards.
Like any larger city, both the strange and wondrous abide. Prague has a Beer Spa where you can literally bathe in large vats of beer and then “nap” on a bed of hay. No, we did not do that. Nor did we sit with our feet in a window fish tank letting little fishes nibble away. Double yuck.
Jerry and I stayed in Prague for 2 days before we embarked on a 6 day wine cruise down the Danube River hosted by Cima Collina Winery. We checked into the Radisson Blu upon arrival. This hotel is located in the New Town area of Prague close to the happening Vaclavxske Boulevard. It’s where you’ll find high end shops, museums, and all sorts of restaurants. After our long flight, all we wanted was a cold beer and something to nosh on. We passed on the spit fire rotisserie pig we saw on the street and opted for the Green Tomato Pizzeria.
I know, I know. Pizza in the Czech Republic??? We were jet lagged and thirsty. The pizza was delicious and place was cozy and adorable! More importantly, the beer was big, cold, and divine. For the record, the Czech Republic has the best beer on the planet. Most of it (if not all) is call budweiser and is in no relation to our American Bud. Nope, none at all.
You say, we say, we all say… TRDELNIK?
And what could you possibly want after pizza and beer? Ice Cream! Dotted all over were these peculiar ice cream stands called TRDLO or trdelnik stands. Yeah, your guess is as good as mine. Basically, it’s an open ended tube pastry filled with ice cream. I don’t think we’ll be seeing these in Texas or Arizona any time soon. How do you keep the ice cream from melting all over your hands and ending up all down the front of your pants? You don’t. Most of the year Prague temperatures range from being pretty chilly to flippin’-freeze-your-tuckus-off, so the melt factor for the trdelnik is pretty slow. Oh, yeah, and they give you a paper napkin.
The trdelnik is molded around a 2 foot pipe about 2 inches in diameter rotisserie’d over wood burning coals. Once it’s golden, it’s taken off the pipe, sometimes internally glazed with chocolate (highly recommended) and filled with ice cream, chocolate, whip cream, and yes please… more chocolate and strawberries. This made me very happy. For a little more history on this delicacy check out Eurofluence.
Monasteries and Libraries and Cathedrals… Oh my!
While visiting most European cities, you can’t hardly help but bump into something with historical significance, cultural interest, spectacular beauty, or all of the above. Prague is no different.
On our first full day, we took a bus up to the Strahov Monastery and Library near Petrin Park. Truly, this is the Sistine Chapel of literature.
I have such a love of books and libraries, I could have easily spent hours here. It was first established in 1143 and over the years, it has been embellished to something absolutely awe inspiring.
After leaving literature’s Pearly Gates, we strolled towards St. Vitus Cathedral. On our way there, we saw a sidewalk cafe with pretzels hung out on the tables instead of bread baskets. They were also serving mulled wine at the bright and shiny hour of 9am.
St. Vitus is a gothic cathedral filled with incredible architectural details. These are two of my favorites: a set of stairs and a door that led to open stairs up to the priest’s pulpit.
Streets and Thoroughfares
Not far from St. Vitus Cathedral, is the private Lobkowiczky Palace with it’s expansive art collection. Their audio tour provides an interesting and detailed historical account of Prague and the Czech Republic narrated by one of the members of royalty as he guides you through the works of art.
Right out side the palace is the adorable Golden Lane! Some of the minuscule houses are shops. Others you can pop in and see (behind plexiglass) how people used to live in them. Apparently in Medieval time, alchemists lived in these tiny houses while they tried to discover the formula that would turn lead into gold, hence the name.
By this time, we were fast approaching need of nourishment! If you find yourself in Prague and you see a stand offering potato kebab spirals, STOP!!! They’re crispy, spiralized, and salty. Oh, so good and so much fun to eat! We saw these right as we (meaning … me) bordered on angry. Saved by the spiralized spud!
Another “street” of interest you shouldn’t miss is Vinarna Certovka. It rivals the world’s narrowest street, Spreuerhofstraße in Reutlingen, Germany. It has it’s own traffic light, restaurant, and beautiful view of the the Charles Bridge. It’s approximately 2 feet wide and about 32 feet long.
Ok, so maybe it can’t be really a street since it’s mostly stairs. But, so what. Can you see the Charles Bridge?
And here’s the view from the restaurant at the end of the Certovka “street”…
The Charles Bridge
This bridge was built to replace one that had been badly damaged in a 1342 flood. It’s construction started in 1357 under the reign of King Charles IV and it wasn’t completed until the beginning of the 15th century. Until 1841, it was the only bridge across the Vltava River. Later in the 1700’s, 30 statues were erected along the stone railing. Now all the statues are replicas.
Even though the bridge is packed with artists hawking their work and tourists ceaselessly snapping pictures, you can’t help but feel transported back in time as you walk it’s stony path.
Old Town Square
Right over the Charles Bridge is the Old Town Square and it’s astronomical clock. Built in 1410, it is the oldest working clock in the world. As we entered the square, there were easily at least 75 people standing still watching it as it approached the top of the hour. We joined them and waited with them for the clock to do… something.
How to watch Prague’s astronomical clock: 1) find yourself an nice sidewalk cafe on the square, 2) order up a beer or a coffee, and finally 3) settle in to people watch… people watching the clock.
They all (I was one of them) have their cameras and videos ready and waiting for the action! Hold on to your seat as I give you a blow by blow. The 2 little doors up at the very top (see those up there?), well, they slide open, 2 little figurines twirl around, and the doors shut. You are watching 15th century YouTube in action, Baby! Actually, it’s really sweet. Hey, if I was over 600 years old, I hope I would be able to twirl around and open and shut doors too.
Weaving it’s magic
I’m sure, without a doubt, Cinderella and Prince Charming lived out their happily ever after somewhere here in Prague.
Because Prague escaped being bombed in WWII, it is a fairytale city. Even knowing this, I was surprised by the layers upon layers of history everywhere. As we recovered from jet lag and wandered the streets of Old Town and New Town Prague, we found Prague’s history in cafes, down hidden streets, built into the doorways, and of course on the facade of every building. Walking among the buildings was like walking through streets lined with ornately crafted wedding cakes, each one more decadent that the last. There was so much to take in, I still find it mind boggling. There’s only one solution: I have to go back.