Prague

The miracle of my life is to awaken every morning in the 21st century – in Prague. [Alan Levy]

I first visited Prague many years ago but before digital cameras took off. It was a sunny day then and from there I think I departed to Vienna, Austria. There is a lot of hyperbole about Prague, like Paris it stirs up peoples’ emotions and maybe hyperbole is not a fair description because many who have been there describe it in such favourable terms.
I have now been there twice and would not mind a third visit. I went purely to visit one of my best friends Sasha, an Azeri studying in Prague. However I also had the chance to meet another very kind friend Andrii from Ukraine who had also moved to Prague for work.

Sasha had apparently chosen Prague and not considered London or the UK because of rain. Perhaps a bit ironic because despite stereotypes from my trip this time I am sure it is Prague which is the rainy city. The weekend I was there and actually the whole week was forecast with rain. And it did very heavy at times. As for London, it is a myth, with New York, Rome and Sydney all taking their places before London in a rainy city contest.

However Prague is beautiful in sun, rain or snow. Definitely better in sun but like San Francisco worth the visit in any weather. The beautiful architecture of the old town is intact despite communism and war.
The Old Town square with the Tyn Church over looming is just one of a large number of beautiful spots. The views from Petrin Hill and from Charles Bridge or any of the streets in the centre is beautiful.
Because of the rain Sasha and I spent time first in a restaurant and then cafe and then to Prague castle (by which time many places had closed). We had time to pass through the Toy museum but little to see inside the castle itself. St Vitus Cathedral in the castle complex houses the relics of the Czech national saint, Saint Wenceslaus. A controversial statue of the Saint on an upside tdown horse all exist near to Wenceslaus Square.

A more serious, perhaps, statue of the saint is also present in Wenceslaus Square, where during the day there are many restaurants and shops. I have read at night it could be perhaps seedy but I noticed nothing of the sort when I arrived late at night. And the area seemed safe with many tourists. I stayed at Hostel Miles off the square. I experienced some disappointment with their booking process that meant I had no room for two nights when I had requested three nights and emailed to confirm, and gripes about their service, But as for the quality of the hostel itself it was fine and well located.

Prague has many beautiful views from the castle steps, towers or inside the town. like Paris it just has an abundance of laces with a view. In addition the city has trams that are not just interesting but extremely useful. A useful Metro service, that is pretty in a moderate way.

An Inspector calls…

One of the biggest annoyances in Prague is surprisingly arriving.. Also one of the best pleasures of course 🙂
But the pleasure is being in the city. Arrive late in Prague at night as I did, you may find all shops shut. The cheapest way into the city is the 119 bus. There is a ticket machine by the bus stop it takes coins. Annoying if you took cash from an ATM and can’t spend it to get change and the bus driver’s direction is to buy a ticket. If you decide to get on without a ticket (you don’t show it to the driver – you validate it) you should add to the real possibility that a ticket inspector may suddenly ask for validated tickets and then a huge fine.

No wonder why I sometimes read people calling it a scam. But there were a number of us, at least four, in the same situation and we got on the bus anyway (nowhere to get change). When I arrived at a metro station I bout the 3 day pass – perfect for my stay.
I did come across the mysteriously appearing ticket inspectors later in my trip on the metro by then of cause I was using my ticket.

Oh, don’t forget to validate the ticket in the yellow machines by the subway before the stairs or on the bus. This is very important. And if you have a multi day pass you validate it only once. Tickets are very reasonable..

Prague may be a peaceful city now, ignoring the hordes of tourists etc but it is a city with a past of high religious tension. The ‘reformer’ Jans Huns was burned by the Catholics and his ashes thrown into the Rhine. A statue to him lies in the square. As well as 27 crosses of the square floor dedicated to 27 Protestants beheaded by Austrians there.
Prague castle also was the centre of a interesting piece of history.
It was there were the thirty years war started when two Catholics were thrown from the window by Protestants. As for in Prague the Protestants did not fare very well in the end.

There are plenty of Jewish buildings (I was surprised how many) that survived particularly in the aptly named Josefov (Jewish Town) even if not many of the Jews themselves from Prague survived the Nazi purges. The area was to be preserved as a museum of an extinct race..
One of the smaller interesting museums is the Museum of Communism.
Using humour, and poking fun at some of the stupidity of communist regimes in the Czech Republic in particular. It is also very informative and the video detailing important events in the Czechoslovakian struggle such as the successful Velvet revolution.
I enjoyed meeting Sasha. The second day we mostly talked without seeing much but nevertheless enjoying the time we spoke very much. I then met Andrii in the evening. We went to a Czech restaurant where we had traditional foods Plzensky Gulas and Staroceska Basta. As we did not eat in the actual centre the portions were huge and the prices very reasonable. This reminded me of my first visit which was the same but further out. I wish I could remember the restaurant from my first trip years ago. If you want good Czech food at a reasonable price don’t eat in the centre. Actually the same for a coffee (or in my case a hot chocolate).
Andrii and myself saw Petrin Hill, which was beautiful at night time despite the tower being closed. And then walked part of Prague was beautiful and a place I should return to. It was great to meet him again.