PC – Mahesh and Rucha Khot
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Bucket lists are so mandatory to some. They are atleast to me. A famous Hindi dialogue by Rajesh Khanna goes like this ” Babu Moshaiya, zindagi badi honi chahiye lambi nahi”, literally translated it means that life should be big and worthwhile and not just long. To make it worthwhile we need memories, to make memories we need experiences and to garner and treasure these experiences what better way than to travel and keep dreaming about seeing your favourite places. Well, so here goes one more of my favourites trending in my mind since 2016. Prague, Czech Republic. I could roam to most of the European cities during my deputation in Europe, 2016 onwards, but never came an occasion which could take me to Prague, luck and determination is important you know. Finally in 2018 ” muhurta ala”, or simply speaking the time had come. I planned Czech with Praveen and Mahesh my all-time favourite travel buddies and strongest comrades. Few people define friendship through their actions and these two are my best men.
You will find many things to do or not do in Prague on Google and the internet of course, but I am listing down some of the few best experiences that gave me a heart in this place. It was raining when we visited Prague. We were here for three days, but the next two days we had good sunshine. Prague is easily watchable on foot and with metro, you do not need extra public transport to travel from one place to another if you are a good walker or runner. There are two trekking points uphill near the castles where you might require extra efforts otherwise the center of the city is pretty much alive and healthy all throughout the day.
Mind you I was five months pregnant when I embarked upon this journey of a lifetime. I call it the journey of a lifetime because I do not know when I will visit Prague and Czech once again after my Little One comes into this world, because there are other places to explore and discover as well!!
When To Go
In Prague and the Czech Republic, the tourist season runs roughly from Easter through October. July and August have their advantages, with the best weather and longer days, fewer tourists in Prague than in the peak season of May, June and September. In spring and fall, the weather is milder and the colors and scents are more powerful.
Winter travelers find the concert season in full swing, with remarkably fewer tourists, also many sights are closed or open on a limited schedule. In December there are Christmas markets on main squares around the country, fragrant with the scent of hot wine with cloves.
Prague Old Town
The center of Prague is Old Town. This is where you will find the iconic picture of the town and the spiky topped Church Of Our Lady of St. Tyn across from the Astronomical Tower. This square is filled with Christmas markets or Easter Markets during the right season. Take an elevator at the top of the Town Hall Tower and enjoy the view. Ignore the throngs of tourists and the hawkers that try to sell you everything under the sun or you can enjoy at the Starbucks on the square with a steaming hot cup of coffee. The center of the city has a rich culture and scientific heritage, well preserved with a skyline of spiky towers, medieval cathedrals, and Victorian age buildings.
From the Square you can get to the Wencelas Square which is an enormous long square lined with retailers that you find anywhere in Europe, capped with the National Museum. The famous Velvet Revolution began in this part of the city!
Prague Castle is a fortified hill with several different things to take in. You have to pay to get into the premises, but the ticket lasts for two days. Highlights of the hill include the St. Vitus Cathedral, whose towers dominate the skyline of the hill, and you can climb one of the towers. There are also several exhibits about the history of the castle, and the palace buildings. A row of old low houses called the Golden Row once housed the city’s famous author Franz Kafka.
At this spectacular castle with a view you will learn about individual buildings and gardens, with a selection of modern and ancient stories. A majestic chapel greets you as you enter the top and special spiral potato chip vendors, corn-corb vendors, jelly vendors etc. greet your way as you tread uphill. It was Easter time when I visited Prague with my friends so we had a feast at the food festival on the top. There was fried bacon on olive and mayo salad dressings, scrumptious and huge burgers which had cheese oozing out from the sides, yummy skewers and marinated chicken grills places on hot plates to entice the customers, sizzling and creamy flavors of waffles with all the fruity flavors you could dream of, the traditional sausages laid out with freshly baked oven bread, the list can go on, it was a treat to the eye to see so many yummy and vibrant food colors. As we moved around in the castle, we entered the chapel in a few minutes and this did not catch my eye, after seeing most of Europe, all chapels start looking similar and the same happened with me.
This magnificent beauty is one of the largest squares of the world and interestingly was the largest town square of medieval Europe. It was founded in 1348 by Charles the fourth and then named after him, at that time it was known as the Cattle Market till the 15th century, after much adieu in 1848 it was named after its founder. Charles Square also has a dedicated park that runs from 1860. It has one of the city’s main metro station named as Karlovo namesti and numerous tram lines that make the roads busy in all the directions.
Dancing House Prague
This iconic building was designed by Vlado Milunic in collaboration with Frank Gehry on a vacant river front plot. This building is pretty new and marks the beginning of modern architecture and liberal era in Czech Republic. It was designed in 1992 and was fully functional in 1996. The design is absolutely modern and controversial. On a street full of Gothic and Baroque architecture, this piece of art stands out. The house actually resembles a pair of dancers therefore the name Dancing House. It has a perfect location in front of the river front and can be reached easily via Prague Metro.
Charles Bridge is one of the most visited sights in the whole of the Czech Republic. It is the oldest stone bridge in Prague and the second oldest in the Czech Republic which have survived until today. Its reputation gained name thanks to the connection of strict Gothic and monumental Baroque sculptural decoration. 30 statues and a crucifix have been placed here for over 300 years. Over the bridge you can find the famous Royal Route. It was also important from a military point of view when the Swedes attacked the city in 1648. In the past the bridge was used by horse trams, trams, buses and even cars. As one of the only reliable river crossing in the entire region, Charles Bridge played an important role in boosting the commerce and transportation all around the city of Prague. During its long history, the bridge adapted to many types of use, being briefly used for trams, carrying armies, and in recent times being entirely dedicated to pedestrian use. Today, however, it is dedicated to pedestrians only. The bridge is 516 meters long and 10 meters wide. It is carried by 16 pillars and is constructed of sandstone blocks. In 2010 an extensive renovation of Charles Bridge was completed.
One of the world’s oldest working astronomical clocks, complete with animated wooden figures that come alive in a captivating must-see show every hour. Crowds gather in the Old Town Square throughout the day to witness this famous ceremony. Small doors on the clock open as the bells begin, before animated figures appear and sculptures move. A figure of Death holding an hourglass looks forward to the change of the hour, whilst other sculptures representing vanity, greed and pleasure all look on. The oldest part of the clock itself is the astronomical dial, beneath which you’ll spot the calendar dial. The clock signifies the positions of the sun and moon, as well as the month which is symbolized by a detailed medallion below. The zodiacal ring also shows you the current star sign. It costs nothing to enjoy the spectacle at the Astronomical Clock, but you will have to pay a small charge to climb the tower. Visiting early in the day is recommended as large crowds gather here all through the day. There are also cafés around the square offering great spots to watch the ceremony while you enjoy a drink. Located in the Old Town Square, you can reach the Astronomical Clock easily both by tram and metro.
Public Transport in Prague
Public Transport Tickets (valid on Metro/trams/buses) Adults & Students Children 0-9 yrs (6yrs+ must carry a passport or photo ID)
Single Ticket for 90 minutes travel 32czk (crowns) free
Single Ticket for 30 minutes travel 24czk free
1-Day Pass (24 hours) 110czk free
3-Day Pass (72 hours) 310czk free
Do’s and Dont’s in Prague
I’ve found that the best exchange rate you can get is to use your debit card and withdraw money from local ATM’s. Just make sure you are in a well guarded area when you make a withdraw.
Don’t ever change money with people on the street.
Prague’s worst problem are petty thieves. Always make sure you close all your bags, don’t have your money or passport in back pocket and be on alert.
I would also suggest to reduce the amount of jewelry you put on. Thieves usually concentrate in main tourist areas and work in teams.
Even though Czech is now a member of EU they still use crowns. You will need to have some cash as most small business still operate on cash basis and I would not just give them my credit card.
Going to a restaurant in the heart of Prague can be expensive even by western standards. Try to avoid those restaurants and cafes in the main tourist areas, instead ask locals where there is a good restaurant with local cuisine or track a few hundred meters away from the main tourist tracks.
The best way I found is to use the local underground (Metro). It is very cheap, fast and gets you to most places you would want to go.
The main language is Czech, many people in Prague speak German and these days a lot of young people can speak English since its being taught in schools.
Unless you absolutely love using maps and driving do not drive in Prague. It is a very old city, the streets are usually one way and it is being repaired all the time so the rules keep changing pretty much every day.
Based on a three day experience this is my perspective and aspect of Prague for you. I went on to explore Prague for three whole days and stayed at a hostel that my friend Mahesh had booked on Booking.com 5km away from the center of the city. We used public transport at most places and it was quite cheap. One night we explored the night scene of the city and I was damn sure that the city is not safe for lonely girls after 10pm at night. Compared to other European countries Czech is pretty affordable with food, stay and even travelling by Taxi if you download the Uber App. Private taxis can cost you a lot. We ate lavishly and even tried the dessert delicacies that I found a bit over-priced as they came under the gourmet category. Overall I believe only if you are planning to do a pub prowl or sky diving is one more extra day required in Prague, I had to avoid both as I was pregnant, but nevertheless, a second time in Prague will certainly not be boring on top of the hill…
Until next time with a blog on Portugal..
Rucha Sudhir Khot
Credits – I referred Wikipedia for mathematical figures and exact measurement of monuments, as well as to know the time period.
Pamphlets received at these locations also came in handy to combine historical information, the pamphlets were received in German.