Arrival in Prague – Day 1

  

After a long, tedious flight from Cincinnati via JFK, I arrived in Prague on Friday morning.  The airport here is colorful, clean and easy to get around in (unlike JFK, which remains a smelly, dirty mess).  Within minutes, I found an ATM and armed myself with Czech cash, then headed outside to find bus number 119.  

The bus arrived very quickly and soon I was winding my way through the suburbs of Prague toward the city center.  Twenty-five minutes later, I got off at Dejivsky station, and disappeared into the underground to catch the metro towards Malastranska.  Once at Malastranska, I got off and headed back up to the street where I caught the tram to Malastranska namisti (Square).  From there, it was a long steep walk up Nerudova to Castle Steps, especially with luggage.  I pack very light – one small carry on and a tote bag – but by the time I reached my destination, I was about ready to drop.  

My room wasn’t ready yet (it was around 9 am by this point), but the staff told me they would hold my luggage for me, and asked me to come back at noon. So off I went (downhill this time!) to discover Prague…  

My first impression was that I was in a giant architectural candy box–the buildings in old Prague are an incredible mix of medieval, Baroque and Art Nouveau.  The street my hotel was on – Nerudova – was originally filled with craftsmen, artisans and artists and many of the houses that line the street retain huge medieval doors and pictorial house signs, such as the House of 3 Violins or the House of the Golden Cup.  

House of 3 violins on Nerudova

  

As I walked closer to Stare Mesto (Old Town), the picturesque quality grew.   I crossed over Charles Bridge, a stone bridge built in 1357 and lined with dozens of statues of saints on each side.  

Statue on the Charles Bridge

  

On the other side of the bridge was Staromestske namesti, the main square in Stare Mesto, which holds even more architectural treats, such as St. Nicholas, circa 1737, Municipal House (Art Nouveau), and the Church of Our Lady before Tyn from the 14th century, which dominates the skyline with its dark twin pointed spires.  

Church of Our Lady before Tyn

  

At that time of day, the square was relatively empty, but a cluster of tourists were starting to crowd around the Stare Mesto Town Hall for the hourly showing of the Astronomical Clock. On the hour, the chimes start and the 12 Apostles parade above through two open windows. The building (and the clock) have been around since the 15th century.  

The Astronomical clock (the Apostles coming out on the hour)

  

The Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Hall

  

Did I mention that most of the streets in Prague (at least, the parts I have been through) are cobblestone? Pretty to look at but hell on the feet after a while. I was wearing very comfortable Naot leather walking shoes, but I was soon wincing so I took a break from walking and headed for a cafe for some coffee. After I finished, it was noon and time to check into Castle Steps, my Prague “home” for a few days.  

I (well, we, as soon as Pat got in) were staying in the Buttercup Room, a huge room with antiques, hardwood floors and a bathroom with a tub that was to die for. And all for the incredible price of 55 Euros a night. The staff was very friendly and Jennifer soon got me settled in. I was tempted to take a nap, but past experience has taught me that it doesn’t help with jet lag – the best thing to do is stay outside and keep moving…  So that’s what I did.  

This time I headed in the opposite direction on Nerudova – up the hill towards Prague Castle. I was saving that for later, but I knew there was a monastery at the top along with some breathtaking views of the city. Sure enough, not much further up, I stopped by a wall and caught my breath at the view from the top of Nerudova. There was a lot of green in between – a beautiful valley dotted with small houses and grape vines – and the tiled roofs of the city below.  

View of Prague from Strahov Monastery

  

After reaching the top, I strolled through Strahov Monastery and then relaxed with some Czech cuisine (pork, sauerkraut and dumplings) and a glass of St. Norbert ale.  The setting was incredibly peaceful and beautiful, and I rested my feet and enjoyed the scenery.  After that, I headed out towards Petrin, a huge wooded green space in the middle of the city.   It was cool and solitary and quiet, and I relished the change from the bustle and crowds of the city.  As I walked, I noted a huge old wall next to me that seemed to stretch for miles. I later found out it was built in the 1460’s by the Emperor Charles VI as a project to help the poor.  It is now known as the “Hunger Wall” for that reason.  

Coming back was much easier as it was downhill all the way.  Now it was time to head to Nove Mestro (New Town).  It is called New Town and was a planned community from the 14th century.  It’s strange to think of medieval leaders as being pioneers in urban planning, but the evidence is here in Prague.  Getting here was simple – I picked up the no. 22 tram from Malastranska Square, which dropped me off a few streets from Wenceslas Square.  And sitting up at the top of the square was a huge bronze statue of (Good) King Wenceslas, of Christmas Carol fame.  He was a real king who ruled in the 10th century.  He was later canonized and is now considered the patron saint of the Czech Republic.  

King Wenceslas statue

  

By now, it was around 6 pm and the lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me, so I headed on back to the hotel.  I debated briefly stopping to eat dinner someplace, but instead, grabbed a sandwich, a Pilsner beer and an apple strudel, and took it back to my hotel.   After eating, I soaked in a lovely hot bath in the enormous tub then headed off to dreamland.  

Tomorrow – my friend, Pat, arrives in Prague!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lindasteller
    Sep 05, 2010 @ 12:39:23

    Oh how fun! Enjoy your travels!

    Reply

  2. Lisa Bell
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 14:02:58

    Wow! What a great first day. I can’t wait to read about the rest.

    Reply

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