Praha (Prague) is the capital city of the Czech Republic and lies in the heart of Bohemia. Home to about 1.24 million people, this city packs and hefty ‘cultural’ punch compared to many other tourist destinations in Europe. The fact that the city has been flourishing for around 1,100 years may explain why it is one of the best places to add to your trip, that and the fact that it withstood most of the horrific violence of 20th Century Europe. Prague was founded in the Romanesque period and continued to grow during the Gothic and Renaissance eras, which means that there is plenty of wonderful architecture and history scattered all throughout this medieval wonderland, ready for you to discover.
It was June when we arrived in Prague, to my surprise it was not the picturesque weather I had imagined, but wet and drizzly. We hopped on the local tram as soon as we exchanged some euros for the local currency and we were on our way. Our hostel was quite far from the city square, which turned out to be not such a bad thing; we walked every day, explored secret over-grown cemeteries near our hostel and visited small local cinemas showing English-subtitle movies and supplying Czech beer and wine in plastic cups!
There a few attractions to which all the thick-sandled-viser-wearing travelers flock. These sites are not to be missed but you may not want to linger here as long as you would at others…
The Charles Bridge stands out in my mind as a particularly touristy tourist attraction. The bridge (traditionally named ‘The Stone Bridge’) was built in the 15th Century under the reign of Charles IV and was the only bridge that connected Prague Castle with the rest of the city until 1841. Built entirely out of local ‘Bohemian’ sandstone, despite the large number of human herds upon it these days it is still a mean feat that should be celebrated and paid homage to with a visit.
Another bustling site that swarms with visitors but is well worth a look is the Prague Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square. The Astronomical clock was first installed in 1410, which makes it the oldest working astronomical clock in the world. The dial of the clock does indeed map the position of the sun and the moon as well as many other astronomical details – for anyone interested in astronomy, history or astrology this place will thrill you. For those who are not wowed by such things, the clock tower has a winding staircase, at the top of which lies a small circling balcony up in the loft of the tower, from this you can grab some really great panoramic shots of the city below.
Within the old town square are many more monuments, statues, old buildings and restaurants. If you are lucky enough there might be a market on or a fair. My friend and I were lucky enough to happen upon the Prague Traditional Food Fair which was packed full of suckling pigs roasting over coals, potato dumpling stalls and numerous delicious things that we could not pronounce.
If you want to get out of the city and explore some less commercial Czech culture I recommend catching the train and making your way about 1 hour out of town to Kutna Hora. Here lies the Sedlec Ossuary, a small chapel which contains the skeletons of around 70,000 people. The bones are arranged artistically around the chapel to create decorations like chandeliers and shields. The chapel is dark and very damp and you certainly feel very strange being surrounded by so many bones, but there is something quite astonishingly creative about the chapel.
If dark macabre crypts are not your thing, then Kutna Hora has other places to offer; there are a few very, very old beer houses that serve up some traditional goulash soup and other Czech delicacies. There is also the World Heritage listed St Barbaras church which has cascading vineyard surrounds and some very impressive detailing inside.
If all of the historic stuff really isn’t your thing, my friend and I spotted a Hooters in the centre of Prague, which was packed to the rafters with gorgeous girls and very drunk men! Prague Castle also hosts a massive vineyard in its grounds where you can sit and look over the city and eat Trdelnik (traditional cinnamon bread toasted over hot coals) YUM!
Prague has got something for everyone, be it art, food, nightclubs, beer, history, architecture or simply comfort. Truly a grand place to see.