My childhood hobby of collecting stamps is the perpetrator which led to my present infatuation – my love affair with this beautiful universe, leading to my travelling passion. Way back in the year 2000 when I first set my feet on European soil – Holland, mesmerized by its architecture my thirst for Europe grew by the year. Unaware of this little fairy land – Prague, it invariably failed to gain entry into my itinerary until this year when I received a writing assignment to travel to the Czech Republic; this picturesque country found a grand spot in my bucket list.
In May 2017 accompanied by my daughter, we landed in the city of hundred Spires – Prague or Praha, one of the most beautiful cities of the world, UNESCO Monument, the capital of Czech Republic – a small landlocked country in Central Europe.
As we checked into our Airbnb, our young host quickly familiarized us to our new abode. A cute apartment with a stacked fridge – all we would need for breakfast. After unpacking, we were all set to experience a fairy land rich in history and cultures.
We took the metro to Praha old town. Getting out of the station, looking up, down, left and right the city of Prague was glowing and my senses were overloaded. Gazing at palettes of saturated pastels on Baroque façades to breathing in the scents of freshly baked delectable, or hearing the whispers of a language just as unique as its history – Prague surpassed all my expectations.
We headed towards the old town to join the ‘Sandeman’s Free tour’ – a three hour walking tour of the historical city of the old town square. Interestingly our guide was Bob, a Brit professor spending his retired days in Praha as a tour guide.
Bob took us to the 600 year old blue and gold starred astronomical clock. It still amazes people with its procession of Apostles, moving statues and visualization of time like no other instrument in the world. When the hour strikes its doors open and there’s a parade of mechanical figures.
Officially established in 1091, Old Town Prague made us feel like we have stepped back into time as we walked past the Gothic church of Our Lady Before Týn, the Stone Bell House with its Gothic Tower and the Old Town Hall. Over the centuries Old Town has overgrown its former walls, but has masterfully retained its medieval charm thanks to being largely untouched in WW2 compared to other European capitals. Hitting up all of the stops on our walking tour made it easy for us to fall in love with the Old Town Square (or Staroměstské náměstí) which is the quintessential Prague.
Coming out onto the huge square after negotiating the dim mazes of the Old Town’s lanes, we had to pinch ourselves – as it was hard to believe that the airy pastels and incredible profusion of stunning architecture along with the horse drawn carriages, all of this didn’t belong to a film set.
Next day we headed to the Charles Bridge from where the Prague skyline along the Vltava River was simply stunning. We enjoyed walking along the river crossing the Charles Bridge and later the night boat-ride along the Vltava.
This bridge connects the old city with the new and has an old world charm about it. Ancient lamp posts and statues gave it a romantic feel. I walked alongside my daughter through jigsaws of light and shadow and greenish-gold stone; I gawped at each statue — really, at times I was embarrassed at being unable to calmly and lucidly take my place in the scenery.
As we strolled along the streets I felt the architectural landscape of Prague rivals that of the streets of Paris. With every step there was something to be in awe over. Rococo architecture rubs shoulders with the gothic and avant-garde, aquiline stone figurines smile peaceably at steel-clad waves of glass.
On the third day losing ourselves in the streets of Prague wasn’t difficult as it was impossible to read a map at the same time as we were being assaulted by beauty. We had to meet Eva, our new Czech friend who was introduced to us through my bro-in-law, which was indeed a boon.
Eva was taking us to watch a Puppetry show Mr.Gundersen’s kerffufe Trubky And Egg at Divadlo Inspirace. A non verbal puppetry piece told through physical Story telling with vivid imagination and humour. It was quite a varied experience.
A quick supper and we were ready for our next sojourn – The National Theatre or the Národní Divadlo. Eva too decided to join us. In Prague this Theatre is a very famous building which has been very important for more than 150 years for the culture of Czech history.
Thus a visit to Czech Republic could not be complete without a taste of its rich musical ensemble. We managed to get the tickets for the Opera “The Jacobin” in the third row (Orchestra). ’ Jacobin’, we were told was one of the most popular and most frequently performed Czech operas. It was a truly mesmerizing experience.
In the late eighteenth century the Praguers exhibited a special appreciation for the music of Mozart. Paradoxically the pieces which were admired least in other countries including the country of his birth Austria were perfectly appreciated by the Bohemians on the very first evening. The most important legacy of Mozart’s association with the city of Prague was the composition of the opera Don Giovanni. I couldn’t resist buying a VCD. Back home enjoyed viewing it with family and friends.
Next day walking through a cobbled pathway we went up to the oldest monument in the Czech Republic – The Prague castle. We stood completely captivated by its impressive architecture, intricate carvings and sculptures. The castle sits at an altitude higher than the rest of the city.
Outside the castle were street performers performing acts and stunts in costumes creating scenes from a bygone era.
Today was our last day so we roamed around aimlessly soaking in the opulence of Prague and made our way to Wenceslas Square. This place is one of the main city squares named after Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia – now it was the centre of the business and cultural communities in the New Town of Prague, a historic centre and a World Heritage Site.
Our Prague trip came to an end with a plush Czech Dinner with Eva.