We were so centrally located in Prague that a few steps and a turn would lead us into the city centre. So convenient it’s just so convenient. We had a bit of an issue locating this centrally located hotel at first though we walked past it a few times. Keke! The awning totally blocked off its name and the front was a cafe. We can’t be blamed for missing it a few times over….somebody should put a picture of the front in their website for easy identification, and it would make a pretty picture. Has character.
Wenceslas Square was a stone’s throw away so we went to look around the afternoon we arrived. They had a photo exhibition and from the pictures it must have been about the history of how that square came to be but I understood no Czech. Pity it wasn’t translated – would have been an interesting read. The square was also connected to pedestrianized malls so shopping for souvenirs was a breeze. We could walk everywhere from where we stayed – 12mins to the Astronomical Clock, 20 mins to the Charles’ Bridge and about 30mins to the base of Prague Castle. If you know where to turn. It takes a little map consultation to get it right but once you know, it’s a piece of cake. The hop on hop off was a nice way to get around, but on hindsight, we didn’t need it. It was just convenient. It gave the option of 3 routes, but only the historical route was truly interesting. The other would bring you to a shopping district and the brewery. And the last one is an obligatory tour of the new town where they’d show you the second ugliest building in the world that is their TV tower. There were not-to-scale round-headed metal figures climbing up that tower – an odd sight for a place known for nice architecture. The Czechs were so honest I found it absolutely comical. Which is the ugliest building I still wonder…
The buildings around Prague were old but seemingly well-maintained, and they are a sight as common as HDBs (a local acronym for public housing) in Singapore. Everybody also seemed to be living in a unit in one of these. WWII didn’t hurt them as much as it did the surroundings – 80% of the buildings in Budapest were destroyed; Those in Prague escaped unscathed, so the concentration of truly “old” was really in Prague. Speaking of old, it would be a crime to miss the Philisophical and Theological libraries in the Strahov Monastery, near the Prague Castle. They are BeAUTiFUL!!! Wished I had booked a private tour of the place so I could go in. But I purchased photo permission and listened in on others’ tours instead – such a cheapo, I know. But I don’t have a lot of time to prebook and come back! In times of yore, I’d probably find work as a librarian – if I had to be a nun to do it, so be it.
Ermm, and hobos. It seems they are as common as cobblestones in this part of Europe. I overheard a visitor telling his friend quite loudly that Wenceslas Square “is the most dangerous square…..”. Well, I think if you keep your wits about you, don’t linger late into the night longer than necessary and walk away from hobos giving you flowers picked from a poor plant growing wild off the pavement, you should be fine.
The Charles’ Bridge with the Prague Castle as the backdrop was a sight to behold. The old vibe of Prague permeates the streets and takes you back in time a little but there was also a very commercial feel to the city. There are constant reminders of the modern world – once in a short while you’d see someone messaging on their smartphone and then a hotdog stand would pop up along the way. The food was good though, locals friendly and they have a good sense of humour. We really enjoyed one of the HOHO routes with this Czech student studying political science and international relations who was part-timing as the guide – chatty and funny, he told us a lot about the places we went to.
But, I prefer Budapest. :p
[First published:14 May 2014]