Coming into Prague on the bus from the airport was an interesting contrast in Soviet-era construction versus elaborate pre-Soviet buildings. We found the mix of styles intriguing and immediately knew this trip through Eastern Europe would be a great experience. Once we got into the heart of the city, the beauty of the buildings kept our eyes up even though we were exhausted from the flight.
Two years ago when we flew to Italy, we had business class seats. This time around, we had to settle for economy comfort. Economy comfort got us a little extra legroom, but ultimately was still economy. Thus, we did not get any sleep to speak of on the flight.
We quickly found our hotel, Hotel Pav, which was comfortable, priced right and reasonably close to the Charles Bridge (about a 10-minute walk). After settling in to our room, all we had the energy for was dinner near the hotel.
Just a couple blocks down the street was a great little restaurant. We ordered typical Czech cuisine including a hearty meat plate, some dumplings and a couple of drinks each. Cost? Less than $30. That is one of the main reasons why we came to Eastern Europe: it’s cheaper.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and crashed. Seriously, we were asleep by about 6 p.m. I know we broke all kinds of “avoiding jet lag rules,” but we just couldn’t hold out any longer. Knowing that the sunrise would be before 5 a.m., we figured we would be up and moving early regardless of what time we went to sleep.
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New Town and Old Town Prague
After crashing on arrival day, we knew we had to make our first full day count, and boy did we! Our FitBits tracked 30,000 steps on our first full day in Prague, which is about 15 miles!
We started out with a brief jaunt up to the train station to secure sleeper car tickets for the trip to Krakow. The official sight-seeing started with a walk through New Town, starting in Wenceslas Square and down one of the main drags through town. There were lots of shops and restaurants and was the site of the 1969 Soviet crackdown. The National Museum is there and still has discoloration from the repairs done by the local workers, who defied the Soviets by using the wrong color in patching the wall.
Next, we walked along the main drag to the Old Town. The main square was large and open with tons of cool stuff to see. The City Hall Tower has an astronomical clock and some neat examples of a variety of architecture including Gothic and Baroque.
Our tour continued through Old Town, which reminded me a bit of Rome: narrow streets filled to the gills with tour groups. We crossed the Charles Bridge, which was great in terms of view and cool statues, but crowded. It was Sunday and the locals obviously enjoy the bridge just as much as the tourists. Once across the bridge, Bonnie spotted an outdoor food festival, which had some good chow.
After lunch, we headed back across the river and walked along the bank until we came to the “Astaire and Rogers” building, which was built to look like a couple dancing. At this point, we decided to take a break for a couple of hours, so headed back to the hotel.
After a quick recharge at the hotel, we walked back across the river to go up Petrin Hill, which is a very nice park. It was gorgeous, lots of trees and not many tourists, just a bunch of Czechs enjoying a Sunday afternoon. The view from the hill is spectacular and was a relaxing break from the city.
Next, we stopped at a wine bar to sample some Czech wines, which were pretty good! From there, we headed back toward Old Town and the main square to see the clock go off (we missed it earlier) and enjoy the nice afternoon light.
At this point, it was time for dinner, so we found a traditional Czech restaurant to eat at. The food was hearty and the beer was good! My only complaint…most bars only have one label of beer, so trying a bunch involves moving around a lot.
Jewish Quarter and Prague Castle
For our second day, we visited the Jewish Quarter and the Castle section of Prague.
The Jewish Quarter is one of the largest left in Europe. There are several synagogues and a cemetery where thousands of Jews have been buried on top of each other for generations.
The castle and associated palace, cathedral, chapel and museums dominate the skyline of the city. The complex is interesting, but spartan compared to the palaces in Italy… An entirely different culture. Still, we enjoyed the sweeping rooflines and the exhibits were fascinating. We spent a few hours exploring the complex.
One of the more fascinating exhibits is the torture chamber. The exhibit included plenty of the implements of pain and suffering used in the past.
After the nearly 15 miles we walked the first day and 10 miles the second day, we decided to spend some time resting that afternoon and planning our trip to Kutna Hora for the following day.
Prague is a beautiful city and is easily worthy of a couple of days. The architecture, the beauty of the city along the Vltava River, the food and the people combine to make for an outstanding stay.
The city is pedestrian-friendly. We never felt the need to get a cab or do anything but walk. While we did walk a lot, we could have spread our visit out over another day to spend less time on our feet.
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