Czech it out…Prague

Out of all the places that I have been and all the wonderful sights I’ve seen, Prague is up there in my top 3 most beautiful cities that Europe has to offer. The first 2 being Venice and Rome of course.

Prague is the largest city in the Czech Republic and is the fourteenth largest city in the European Union. As well as all this it is the most historical capital of the Bohemia Proper with an estimated 1.3 million people living there.

As usual we had stepped off a 5 hour bus journey from Munich, Germany and we couldn’t wait to see what Prague had to offer. By the time we had got our bearings and where heading for the street it was pitch black outside but we were very lucky to be staying in St Christopher’s Inn. This was no ordinary hostel with its slightly weird clientele; sit down restaurant and Belushi’s Bar it felt more like a very modern hotel. Based in Mosaic house in the new town, it was very central to all there is to see including Wenceslas Square. Named after Saint Wenceslas the patron saint of Bohemia this is one of the main squares and is the centre of the business and cultural community.

We were staying in a 6 bedded dorm which was perfect and very clean (again with quilts ). The only down side was the bunk beds were so high that I couldn’t actually get into them so after a bit of swapping and changing we managed to get sorted with bottom bunks. Our roomies were a mixed bunch, from a very hot semi-naked Aussie to a captain sparrow look alike who just so happened to be in my top bunk. Trying to sneak into bed, half drunk whilst being quiet is very hard to do especially when your bunk buddy is wearing nothing but his boots and cowboy hat. Needless to say I slept with one eye open that particular night.

As this was our 12th city to be visiting and with only 2 days to spare we decided to make the most of the breakfast in the morning and the free walking tour that was run by the hostel. It wasn’t long into our walk that you begin to recognise why Prague is in fact the 6th most visited city in Europe. Since around 1992, the extensive historical centre of Prague has been included in The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) list of world heritage sites.

Some of the most charming and breath-takingly beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen were in the ‘Old Town’. Old town was a medieval settlement in Prague and is now home to some the most ancient and historical buildings in Europe. It is located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge. It is lined with shops, restaurants and museums…my favourite being ‘Choco Story’. A chocolate museum with a shop attached where you can buy or sample the nicest hot chocolate known to man whilst watching the chocolatier’s and fellow sweet makers at work.

For me, and I’m sure plenty of other travellers…the most striking thing about Prague was its old streets, bending and twirling but all bringing us back to the one centre point…The Astronomical Clock. It is by far one of the loveliest things I’ve ever seen. It is proudly mounted on the Old Town City Hall and is thought to represent the position of the sun and the moon. Built in 1410 it is the 3rd oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest still working.

Known locally as Prague Orloj, it has to be seen to be believed. The ‘Walk of the Apostles’ is a clockwork hourly show where figurines appear at windows above the clock face as well as other moving sculptures and every hour on the hour the figures at the clock face move, all representing a different notion…a different time. There is also a fan-fair at mid-day every day and we were lucky enough to encounter this at the exact same time that a wedding party left the church hall below. All we could do was stand and clap at how fantastic it as. Timed perfectly.

Prague is one of the very few places where you could literally walk around all day and take in the sights that surround you. The Old New Synagogue situated in Josefou is Prague’s oldest active synagogue and was initially one
of the first buildings built here, dating as far back as 1270.

Saint James Church in a little street behind Ungelt Courtyard and was founded in the late 13th Century. The building itself isn’t overly remarkable but what stood out for me is the mummified human hand that takes pride of place in the church itself. According to local legend a thief entered the church one night and tried to steal the Jewells of the Virgin Mary. The statue supposedly came to life and grabbed the thief’s arm before turning again to cold hard stone. The next day it is thought that the arm was cut off the culprit who was obviously caught in the act of theft and still remains inside the church to this very day.

The Charles Bridge that crosses the Vltava river is the most famous bridge in the Czech Republic. It was built in 1357 and is for pedestrian use only. It is lined with over 30 statues of famous men and women of the past and is one of the connections to Prague Castle. Apparently the Old Town Bridge Tower is considered the most astonishing gothic style building in the world.

Prague castle, where the Kings of Bohemia, Holy Emperors and the president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic have their offices. The Bohemia crown Jewels are kept in the castle within a hidden room and to the naked eye it’s clear that Prague castle is the most ancient castle in the world.

For anybody who has ever been to this part of the world then you might agree with me that ’The Church of Our Lady before Tyn is the most unique building I’ve ever seen. Its gothic at its best. Situated in Old Town the Church can be seen from all over Prague with its 4 gothic style spears and majestic colouring. A true gem of dominance to the square.

If rarity, beauty and uniqueness is your thing then Prague should definitely be on your list of places to go. The only pieces of advice I can give is try the crepes and mulled wine sold from the on street vendors…wrap up warm and charge your batteries because nothing prepares you for the sites you are about to behold.

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