Prague is a city I’ve wanted to visit for as long as I can remember. Even after such a short visit I can well understand why a friend of mine stayed in Prague for seven years. It would be an easy city to live in. It’s definitely a pedestrian’s city and I tried to take full advantage by walking the better part of 12 hour days (though I really love their trams too). Breaks consisted of eating and/or drinking. I loved the fact that the Czech version of fast food includes smokies and a beer. Since it was Easter, there was a lot of great food to be had (including more smokies and beer) at the Easter markets set up all over the city. Oh, and after the hit-and-miss of Hong Kong, it was fabulous to be able to get an amazing cup of coffee at any of the many open-air cafes dotting the city, particularly since the weather was amazing for my entire trip.
I’ve lived in Japan with its lengthy history but there’s a difference between Japan and Prague (and most of Europe I imagine); unless you go to a temple or a specific historical area in Japan, you don’t really feel the history of the place but in Prague and the Czech Republic, you’re surrounded by it. It was a bit surreal for me to be walking by buildings that are still being used as shops and apartments and seeing the dates stamped above the doors going back to the 15 – 1600’s. I couldn’t help but wonder about the people that had lived there and what had happened over the centuries. Also, if you’re a fan of architecture you get to see examples of all major styles: medieval, gothic, neo-gothic, art deco and cubist.
Art is everywhere in Prague and I don’t mean only in museums. There’re a lot of public installations all over the city and more than once something would appear overnight in a park. One “artistic” aspect of Prague that was a bit of a surprise at first was the graffiti all over the city. According to my friend, a bit of a leftover from the communist era; bitterness combined with the lack of a governmental department to get rid of it means that it stays unless the building owner removes it himself. Everywhere I travel to, I try to buy some sort of local art product and this time was no exception. At first, I was considering a picture from one of the many artists pandering to the tourists but that changed as soon as I saw the marionettes on display. But again, I don’t want to buy just for the sake of buying; I want something unique, something that speaks to me (though in the case of a marionette, not literally as that would just be creepy). I found what I was looking for at Truhlar Marionettes. Since the Czech Republic has such a long history of puppet theatre, it was the perfect addition to my art collection.
Honestly, there’s no way I can possibly put down all that I saw during my trip and hopefully the photos will speak for me (they are supposed to be worth a thousand words after all). Of course I saw the main parts of the city like the Hradcany (castle) area, and down from the castle into Mala Strana (little quarter). If there was a disappointment in the trip it was the fact that Charles bridge was undergoing restoration work so both ends were covered in scaffolds and the centre of the bridge was torn up. Across the bridge though is Stare Mesto (Old town) and Nove Mesto (New town). New Town is a bit of a misnomer as it dates back to 1348. It just happens to be newer than Old town. These areas were great to wander around but are the main tourist areas. To really get a sense of Prague, go farther afield. You’ll also pay a hell of a lot less for your sausages and beer.