"Sometimes in life, a sudden situation, a moment in time, alters your whole life, forever changes the road ahead”.
When the first cases of coronavirus were reported back in December,’19 in Wuhan, China, I like most people thought to myself “Well thank God I am safe back home”. When the cases started increasing and found a way inside Europe in February, I thought to myself “I’m sure scientists will find a to stop it like they always do”. When the pandemic reached my country in late February, I thought, ” These are one off cases. We will deal with it”. I was wrong ! Our world, with all it’s wisdom and technology was collectively defeated by an invisible virus with flu like symptoms, forcing us humans into the biggest lockdown, shutting economies, disrupting life as we know it and forcing us to take a long, hard look at what we have achieved!
The road has changed now . The lockdown has given me the time to look back at all the travel memories, the time to indulge in books and cooking, time to work out and most importantly, time to prioritize my goals. I have the time to pen down my travel memories and thankfully, I don’t have to delve deep into my memory lane to recount the latest trip.
It was perhaps one of the most adventurous trips. A short 4 day solo trip to Prague was planned in the 1st week of March, all the bookings were made, the itinerary was set and all I had to do was to get on that plane. Due to COVID19 scare, I was apprehensive and until the day of my flight and half heartedly hoped that the flight would be cancelled. But it wasn’t. After lots of indeciveness (and checking status of COVID 19 in the host country, Czech Republic) I trusted my guts and gave into my wanderlust. I put on a N95 mask, some sanitiser & gloves and boarded the Emirates flight straight to Prague. Looking back I was extremely lucky to be back safe and just in time before India cancelled all the visas for foreign countries. So, let me take you through my memory lane to the beautiful and historic city of Prague.
Prague or Praha, is the capital of Czech Republic ( erstwhile Bohemia) and is known as “The city of a thousand spires” due to its historic Gothic style architecture and buildings, many of which are remarkably preserved. It is a city where modern meets traditional. Prague is also known as the “Beer Capital” and is famous for its lively pubs and electronic music. Alternatively, if you’re a culture afficianado, Prague had many operas and a thriving classical music scene with annual music festivals !
When the plane touched down, I looked out of the window and I could see streches of green patches intersperced with pretty stone colored buildings. It was drizzling when we arrived. After checking out of the airport, we assembled for our group introduction and were greeted by our tour managers from Fountainhead. I met my fellow group travellers which were ultimately reduced to 20 as lots of people had cancelled the tour due to COVID scare.
We were provided a beautiful coach by the tour company, Fountainhead and the arrangements were superb. The choice of hotel, coach, restaurants , night cruise, even snacks on board were well taken care of. Even though I prefer to backpack, I am glad I went for a group tour especially during the pandemic times as hygiene was their utmost priority at all points.
We checked into our beautiful hotel, Don Giovanni , a 4 star hotel in Pragues residential area of Vinohrady with close proximity to the city centre. The rooms are large and warm complete with a study and bathtub. Just a 5 minute walk away from Prague’s biggest shopping mall, Atrium Flora.
After freshening up and getting some much needed rest, we went out to explore the sights and sounds of this beautiful and historic city. Even though ours was a short trip, we still managed to tick off most of the must see places off the list and soak in some of the local flavours. Let me take you through the the places, activities and monuments we covered during the brief tour.
1. Charles bridge: The most famous bridge in Prague. It is the oldest bridge still standing over Vlatva river in Prague and connects the Old town to the new town. This Gothic style stone bridge is beautiful and one can see the beauty of the city from a good vantage point on the bridge.
2. Old town square: It is a historical square founded in the 12th century and it features buildings belonging to various architectural styles, including the the Baroque style architecture.
3. Astronomical clock: Prague Orloj is a mediaeval astronomical clock installed in 1410 in the old town hall making it the third oldest clock in the world.
4. Night cruise on Vlatava river: Our wonderful tour operator, Fountainhead had arranged for a gala dinner abroad a night cruise on Vlatava river. Replete with wine & dine and a gorgeous open air deck, the cruise offered a panaromic view of the city dazzled in moonlight!
5. Prague Castle: The biggest tourist attraction in Prague, Prague castle( a baroque style castle) was built in the 9th century and it is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was a seat of power for Roman Emperors and erstwhile kings of Bohemia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world,occupying an area of almost 70,000 square metre! Definitely worth a visit.
6. Golden lane & Kafka’s house: Right next to Prague castle is a historical lane filled with picturesque and colourful houses. Built in the 16th century this lane houses numerous little stores selling everything from books, to pottery and woodwork. The most famous house in the lane is House no. 22 of Prague native Franz Kafka, one of most renowned literatary figure of the century !
7. AK 47 shooting and tank ride: The most memorable activity of the trip was a chance to shoot 10 rounds of blank shells on an actual AK 47 and take a ride on an ex Soviet millitary tank ! Just an hour’s drive from Prague is a ground where the Soviet Army had abandoned it’s tanks and ammunition used in World War 2 and it has now been converted into a tourist attraction. An ex millitary official guided us on the use of the automatic gun and the tank ride lasting for half an hour was mind blowing. Highly recommended!
8. St. Barbara’s Church: On the east of Prague lies the town of Kutna Hora which houses the famous St. Barbara’s church, another Gothic church which a UNESCO heritage site and one of the most famous churches of Central Europe complete with tasteful frescoes and ornate decorations.
9. Sedlec Osuary:The Gothic church looks pretty ordinary from the outside, but once we reached the basement, we discovered something chilling: Bones of thousands of humans were bleached then ornately carved, and now artfully cover everything in sight! It is literally a church made of human bones and skulls. Not for the faint hearted !
10. Other places of interest : Lastly, any article on Prague is incomplete without mentioning it’s vibrant party life and BEER! Beer is cheaper than mineral water in Prague. The most famous pubs and lounges are concentrated in one of the 3 areas, Zone 1,2 & 3. The best pubs are located near Old town square and Náměstí Republiky square and they are thriving from day to night. Another great district is Wenceslas Square replete with high end stores and pubs.
The sights and sounds of this beautiful city are still fresh as dew. I know the world will never be the same again but I do hope to visit it again someday soon. Until then, I will stay at home and wait patiently for the COVID 19 storm to subside!