So after having one full day in Prague you’re left with the question “why haven’t we been here before?”. Prague is one the most exquisitely beautiful places we have been to. The architecture is magnificent and everywhere you turn there is another incredible building to admire. Taking photos just doesn’t do it justice. All I can say is that if you love Paris and love Vienna then you will fall in love with Prague. There is an entire history lesson wrapped up in one city dating back to the 14th century and covering a multitude of princes, kings and rulers. Whilst last night we were in a awe of the beauty of the Old Town Square, this was magnified a thousand times today when we caught a Hop On Hop Off bus and then had a one and a half hour tour of the Castle complex. The castle complex is just that; a myriad of palaces and buildings enveloping a giant Cathedral. This cathedral is huge and given that the entire area is perched on a hill overlooking Prague, it is visible from most locations in the city. To endeavour to describe what we have seen is to devalue the enormity of the area and the beauty and grandeur of what we have seen.
The cathedral is built in a gothic style. If you have seen Notre Dame in Paris you will know what I mean. On the outside it is quite dark except for the large windows that you know will be stained on the inside. Spires spring forth from the body of the cathedral almost radiating small tentacles that come from the stem of the spire. At various corners where the spires join the body sculpted gargoyles hover over the facade to not only scare away evil spirits but also act as an avenue for water to escape on rainy days. This building took 500 years to build and was only for the generosity of the Hapsburg family (Austrian aristocracy) that it was able to be completed at all. Inside the building is another reminder of Notre Dame except that it is one straight building with no side “wings” or bays. The stained glass windows though are incredible and today the light shining in illuminated the walls the colours of the rainbow and created a scene that looked like a giant rainbow scattered on a huge blank canvas.
At one stage another Hapsburg, Maria Therese lived in Prague when there was a shared Government. She lived in the Castle and wanted things to look Austrian seeing as she was a little homesick. Therefore she decided to renovate and built herself a huge palace like structure around the Cathedral. These buildings could have easily been taken from the plans of the Schonbrunn Palace or the buildings around the Louvre in Paris. They were however in a U shaped configuration more like the Paris design. In saying that they are similar, only in design and appearance not size. These buildings are mostly longer and take up a much bigger area. Someone had a lot of money but the end result is on a scale that I have not seen before unless you include something like Buckingham Palace and this is much more unique.
Having been at the castle for a couple of hours we then made our way to Prague Segway tours for our traditional January Segway (or that’s how it’s turning out at least). Getting there was an adventure as we only had one small map. We got there by following this beautiful road that wound its way down the hill to the bottom. We were later to learn that the blue numbers on the buildings were street numbers but the red numbers were the order of the houses that had been built in each precinct or suburb. The street was cobblestone (as are many in Prague) and had some really interesting shops like the Gingerbread museum (yes their gingerbread tastes good!) Whilst cobblestone is really pretty and exudes old world charm, it can be very slippery and therefore you find yourself walking slowly and trying to grip the surface with your toes as much as possible.
Our Segway tour guide, Tomas took us on a three hour trip around Prague. Segway tours give you a great overview of the city. You are not walking so you get to travel further distances whilst having a guide who can quickly answer a question whilst looking at the object This tour was no different except that it was just the three of us so we were able to ditch the castle component, having been there in the morning and substitute it for the parks and city look out areas. We got to see both sides of the river but probably my favourite was the lesser town which was more interesting, quieter and authentic. Apparently it has become the home for embassies and other influential figures.
By 5pm when we returned back to base, the sky had become dark and the weather had cooled significantly. Gloves, hats, coats and beanies were the order of the day despite the fact that it had been clear for the whole day and there was no sign of rain or snow.
After the Segway we had dinner at an Italian type restaurant called “Maestro” not far form the Charles bridge. The food was great and at $50 Aus for the three of us including drinks and entrees it was a really good deal. Heading back from dinner we were convinced to go to a classical concert at the Klementium that was due to start in a couple of minutes. Philip and Claire were keen to get me to a classical concert as we were supposed to see one in the afternoon but went on the Segway instead. The concert went for an one hour 10 minutes and took place in a Baroque looking church. In Prague most people are atheists so churches are not really used for their initial purpose. Therefore lots of them have been converted into intimate classical concert venues with absolutely fabulous acoustics. I enjoyed the concert; some I knew, some I didn’t – probably wasn’t Claire and Philip’s favourite thing of the day but hey you know what they say…when in Rome…
After purchasing one way train tickets in preparation for tomorrow and taking one last look at the illuminated Old Town Square we got back to the apartment at around 9:30 pm, some 13 hours after we left in the morning. It had been a long day but we had got to see a lot of the city and have an even deeper appreciation of its beauty and splendour. A really fabulous stop on our travels.