The 15th largest city in the European Union laid before me as I stood high on the north bank of the Vltava River. Observing the city through my sunglasses, I could smell the faint wisps of Easter eddying in the tumbling winds that rose from the vibrant capital of the Czech Republic below.
It was a sunny day and it was also a holy day for today was Easter Sunday.
After taking a quick selfie, it was time to explore the city well known for its tumultuous history. This excited me. Prague used to be capital of the kingdom of Bohemia and the main residence of a few Holy Roman Emperors, one of them the legendary Charles IV (1346-1378). A seat of the drama queen family of the Habsburgs and its Austro-Hungarian Empire, Prague took centre stage in the Bohemian and Protestant Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War and became the capital of Czechoslovakia, both world wars and the Communist era.
Also, I hear it’s so beautiful that a handsome guy like me should ought to check it out. Hence the many selfies on my Instagram profile.
So, here I was for six days in Prague during the Easter period (four full and two travelling) I wasn’t sure what to expect as it was unintentionally planned for me to come here. You see, now that I’m full time at work, it was so easy to forget that you have annual leave to take. Before I knew it, I was hauled up by my managers to take some holiday before it ran out by the end of the financial year.
I couldn’t say no.
So along with a trip to Copenhagen, I decided to check out Prague too.
From Copenhagen, I had to fly back into London briefly for a wedding in Chelmsford in Essex on Good Friday, but it was well placed as Stansted Airport, one of London’s airports was close by. This set the scene the next day on Easter Saturday for a journey to Prague.
Journey to Prague: The Flight and Hotel
Actually, my flight wasn’t until later in the day at 7.30pm in the evening so I had the day to kill in Chelmsford where I stayed overnight the night before at a Travelodge. After grabbing a late Wetherspoons breakfast and seeing the torrential rain come down, I couldn’t see any point in sticking around and headed to Stansted Airport on the bus.
So, what to do?
After checking in with my pre-printed boarding pass (eye roll) with Ryanair (yes, I flew with them, I had to get over it), I found myself airside early in the afternoon. So what to do?
Simply chilled out in the Stansted Airport Escape Lounge.
Although, it cost £21 to get in, it was well worth it to get free food, free drinks and free wifi for the hours I could while away. I even watched Captain America: Winter Soldier while I waited! Imagine a man giggling in a plush armchair with a laptop open in front of him whilst holding a glass of wine and a plate of crackers and cheese in the other.
But before I knew it, it was time to catch my flight and spend roughly two hours in the air.
I actually landed at 10:30pm as Prague had one hour’s time difference from us. But luckily, that wasn’t enough to induce jet lag within me. Although, I was a bit hesitant when booking this flight as I hate to arrive at an unknown destination in the dark.
Luckily, with the help of Google Maps, I was able to get a VERY cheap bus ticket from Prague airport to a random stop on the highway towards the city from the airport and change buses onto another one that dropped me on the road where my hotel was based.
My hotel was called Hotel Belvedere.
It was a little pricey to my liking but it’s Easter, every cost goes up during special occasions. Also, hostels were full up too.
However, it was a lovely hotel. Greeted courteously by very helpful staff, I was able to check in with ease and get directed to my room. Although the room was within their conference centre past their massage clinic (usually attended by expectant Thai staff), the room was an utter delight for me.
I was expecting a very small single room that had few facilities. However, to my utter surprise, (probably showed too much in the video above!) I got a double bed, bath, facilities and lots more. Totally worth the money!
Finally, it was midnight, my journey was over and it was time to sleep, ready to be refreshed for the day ahead.
Prague Day One: The Easter Rush
Waking up after brekkie, it was time to start exploring Prague. But as it was Easter Sunday, I simply wanted to enjoy the festivities up close first hand. Let’s see what I did.
Completely marvelling at Czech technology
I knew I needed to get to the centre of Prague, so off I toddled down past castles through the eerily quiet streets. But I was utterly captivated by the traffic light system. I know, I know, I’m being a massive geek. But ‘czech’ this out!
But as a disgruntled old lady threatened to hit me with her handbag unless I get crossing the road, I soon myself on a bridge where I finally took my first selfie of Prague!
First off, I didn’t follow the throngs of people making their way to the Old Square. I had an appointment to keep. You see, when I first tweeted that I was in Prague, unbeknownst to me, my very good German travel buddy, Bente, (who I travelled with in New Zealand and Germany) was also in the city too! So quickly, we made arrangements, as it was her last day here, at the swanky looking Hotel Imperial Cafe.
Find out more about my previous adventures with Bente here:
Ordering an iced cappuccino while we caught up, I was intrigued to see a shot glass that came with it. Sniffing it precariously at ten in the morning, I thought it was be vodka, but to my
relief dismay, it was actually water. Although, it was rather a lovely shot glass!
Bente immediately caught me up about her amazing blog – a resource for people travelling with diabetes. It’s rather interesting, I urge you to check it out here: http://reisen-mit-typ1.de
It was rather a classy start to my six day trip in Prague, set in a Bohemian setting that I, too, can relax with the locals drinking coffee while bemused waiters swung by checking out my outrageous enthusiasm how I felt arriving in Prague. Luckily, for them, we left shortly.
As we left, I asked Bente where was the best places to go in Prague. She’s been here for a few days. What’s her tips and revelations?
She told me something that I will never ever forget. No, it’s not to check out Wenceslas Square, the scene of the Prague Spring. It’s not to find out where the best beer was. It was totally something else.
Pointing at a massive contraption that moved lazily by, led by service men in bright fluorescent hi-vis jackets, I just assumed they were garbage disposal. I was close. Bente told me what it was.
It’s a whole piece of machinery to suck up something that’s plighting the streets of Prague.
I’m not kidding.
Laughing rather hard, I couldn’t believe that Prague actually employed heavy machinery for this. But hey, it works! Throughout the course of my stay, I actively hunted for dog poo (perverse, I know) but I didn’t see any blemish on the pavements of Prague. I tip my hat to them.
After a spell of shoe shopping (do girls do anything else?!), it was time to wave goodbye to Bente and I could go and start exploring the city’s sights.
Easter Carnage at the Old Town Square
Easter is in Prague and you would be holed up in a dark soundproof room if you didn’t know it. Entering the Old Town Square, it was PACKED!
Packed full of tourists. Even my mouth dropped open when I realised that it would take me a long while to get from one end to another. That was ok. People were happy. Swilling beer and scoffing pretzels into their mouths, everyone was tapping their feet away to delightful music that thronged the atmosphere within the square.
Looking up, everything was in vibrant colours, Easter eggs hanging lazily on trees. But I soon grew to notice the rods made of hollow wood that men carried. Asking one of them as he sampled the local beer, he explained it was a tradition to lightly whip the buttocks of the ladies as they pass by in order to increase their fertility. Traditionally, they would be whipped until they got home where they would present the men a ‘thank you’ gift in the form of Easter eggs.
Oh, Prague, how do you bring tears to my eyes with laughter!
I simply spent the rest of the morning wandering around the Old Square, checking out the wares, food and drink in the Easter fair that sprang up. Also, a visit to the Visit Czech Republic tourism office is needed too.
Sandman New Prague Tour
As you know, I cannot stay in a destination without undertaking a walking tour first. So, it was to my delight that I found out Sandeman New Europe tours also operated here. The guides would show you around the city without any upfront payment and you then give them tips at the end, only giving them as much as you think the tour was of value to you. I’ve visited London, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Berlin, Hamburg and Brussels with them and I’ve had no complaints. Plus, the tour guides are something to look at. (wink, wink).
Meeting at the corner of the Old Square, identified by their big bright red umbrellas, I parked myself up waiting to be processed when I realised that the rest of Europe wanted to go on the tour with us. I counted at least 150 people. Oh dear, we soon separated ourselves into groups led by hoarse guides (they’ve had a really busy Easter weekend!) and proceeded to go on our merry way discovering the history and culture of Prague from medieval times to present.
All in all, it was a rather great tour, particularly as the guide explained how the Astronomical Clock came to being. She showed us the world’s only cubist cafe and surely gave us a huge appreciation for the architecture in splendid beauty.
But alas, disaster struck.
As we headed down a street to a cafe where we could have our break in this three hour walking tour in Prague, I became distracted by a stall that had a pig on a spit. It had ears and the face still on it. So, as I was taking the picture below, I became acutely aware that the crowds that packed the old town of Prague pressed against me. I looked up to ensure I was still with my tour, and lo, and behold.
They were gone!
I rushed around trying to find the familiar faces that was on my tour. I pushed through scores of families in the direction we were heading and they were no-where to be seen.
After half and hour of futile searching, I had to accept that I would never find them again.
I had to reconcile with myself that I wouldn’t be satisfied as I usually do by the end of a walking feeling like a ‘pig in mud’.
The Head of Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka is usually synomous with Prague, although I confess I didn’t know anything about him.
While I decided to get myself lost in the streets of Prague, I came to a rather unusual sculpture of him in the middle of a yard of the shopping centre Quadrio. This 11 metre high bust of Franz Kafka was formed of 42 moving stainless steel layers and was pretty entrancing to look at. Every now and again, the bust would transform, dissolving itself of its face before reassembling.
But I soon noticed all the hipster style people prostrate themselves in front of the bust to get their picture taken with it, their eyes gleaming that they have achieved their dream. As I grew nearer to them, I heard one of them exclaim that they couldn’t believe they’ve seen his face.
I still had no clue so I called up good old wikipedia to find out more just exactly why Franz Kafka is famous.
Franz Kafka is regarded as one of the major figures of 20th century literature that focuses on realism and the fantastic. Featuring isolated protagonists faced by surreal predicaments and socio-bureactic powers, it has been interpreted as exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety and guilt. The best works to read are Das Schloss (The Castle) and Der Process (The Trial). (oh yeah, he’s a German writer).
So, why is he famous in Prague? He was born here! That’s all to there is.
I glanced up with a rubbish look on my face and swore that his style of writing is not usually what I would read. But I could have some fun.
I walked closer to the hipsters still taking pictures and exclaimed with a fake long sigh. They smiled at me and said,
‘Isn’t Franz so good to look at?! I love his work so much!’
I nodded rather vigorously and replied,
‘I know! I loved his book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!’
Thankfully, I ran away before they could realise I was taking the mickey out of them!
Lost in Prague
I walked further and further away from Prague’s Old Town Square. I began to love the city now that I was away from tourists. Although, I couldn’t help chortling to myself after I passed a group of guys led by an architectural geek in front of a grandiose building when one of the guys said,
‘This isn’t Hooters bar! Why have you taken me to this big building?!’
The evening sun started to set and I knew I had to loop back to the square. My stomach grumbled and it was time to search for some good old fashioned Czech fare. But not before I passed the Prague Central Station with its tracks slicing through the winding streets of the city, the Pension Museum at the head of Wenceslas Square and the statue of good old King Wenceslas himself. Humming the Christmas song, I became enraptured by the beauty of Wenceslas Square itself as I walked the entire length.
Czech Goulash Soup
Before I knew it, I was in Old Square, the sun still struggling to stay above the horizon. The crowds had died away and I was able to park myself in one of the restaurants’ terraces to order a good old fashioned Czech Goulash soup while still listening to the music of Prague that still celebrated into the night.
But the Czech Goulash? Despite it coming into a small bowl, I was amazed to discover I was immediately full. Licking my lips, happy as Larry, it was the great end to my first full day in Prague.
Tiredness over took me, and with all the travelling from Copenhagen to London then to Prague, I could retire early to bed in Hotel Belvedere so I can continue with my discovery of all the unexpected things to do in Prague.
Not before I cheekily grabbed an Easter whip off the floor on my way back until I was glared upon by a straight-faced middle aged lady that made me drop it.
Prague Day Two: Communism and Castles
Ah, what a nice relaxing sleep I had at the Belvedere Hotel!
First off, I really wanted to get to grips about the Communist history Prague had that lasted from 1948 to 1989. So, the best place to go to is the Communism Museum in Prague!
The Communism Museum
Although it was a little difficult to find but I soon found the entrance to the Communism Museum, much to my bemusement, between a casino and a MacDonalds! I couldn’t stop laughing how this really conveyed capitalism’s triumph over communism!
After spending the morning there, I really did feel I came away with an in-depth knowledge of Czech Republic’s 20th century history. The Communism Museum provides a comprehensive and detail account of Communism in general in the Czech Republic but what fascinated me was the events that took place in Prague. Detailing areas of life including sport, economics, education and propaganda, I really do recommend that you watch the cinematic film inside that in turn is emotional and pretty graphic in parts, stirring up your emotions.
Roughly £6, it’s definitely a must see on your things to do in Prague.
Tasting the Trdelnik – Prague’s delicious delicacy!
Finding myself at a limbo for lunch but not feeling too hungry, I moseyed on over to the Old Town Square to take on the Easter experience again on this Easter Monday day. But I had a mission.
It was to taste the Trdelnik!
Trdelnik is a cake and sweet pastry delicacy made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick before being grilled and topped with sugar and a topping of your choice. I’d recommend going for the walnut mix.
Okay, if that doesn’t get your mouth watering then there must be something wrong with you.
With my eyes bigger than my stomach, I opted to take a hefty large portion. Licking my lips, I thought about how popular Trdelnik are. Found in a few central european countries, particularly in Austria and Czech Republic, it’s extremely popular with tourists (I can’t think why?!) and many of them prefer to have it with ice cream. Now that’s an option!
Sandeman New Prague Castle Tour
Suitably refreshed from my sweet pastry goodness, I met my next tour group outside of the Prague Opera House where I did some twirling while I waited! It’s a pretty stunning building and one to demonstrate just how posh the experience was going to be.
Yes, I joined the New Sandeman Prague Tours company again. This time I made sure my eyes were firmly rooted to the guide this time round. Anyway, there didn’t seem to be as much people as there was the day before.
Still on theme of finding more of Prague’s history, the Prague Tour would be the best way to find out more about its medieval and European history. And anyway, the Prague Castle can be seen for miles around, its imposing towering medieval castle overlooking the city of Prague since the 9th century.
And guess what it’s not really a castle. It’s more like a palace! This is where the President of the Czech Republic is based, although I hear he’s not too popular with the people. But it’s a palace full of wonders, secrets and hold dozens of surprises.
Here’s a couple of highlights for me:
- St Vitus Cathedral – One of the impressive structures at Prague Castle, St Vitus Cathedral has the 40th most highest nave in the world, the rest you’ll find in France. Impressive!
- Changing of the Guard – You can watch the changing of the guard, a rather lavish affair that many people crowd to see. They aren’t allowed to move at all but they might give you the odd flirty wink if you linger far back enough when you pass them. Sadly, this didn’t happen to me.
- The Golden Lane – The last reminder of the small-scale architecture of Prague Castle, this offers a snapshot of what Prague was like occupied until World War II. Even No. 22 was inhabited by Franz Kafka between 1916-17. Luckily, the students weren’t around this time. Now, some of this buildings sell medieval style items.
As we neared to the end of the tour, the rain literally chucked it down and we had to hide in the doorways of the Golden Lane. But little did I know that a momentous occasion for me would be just round the corner.
I touched a golden willy
Apparently it brings you luck if you rub in golden. Let’s see if it did…
The view from Prague Castle
Now the rain held off to give the tour guide a fanfare of a finish, he took us to the view point from the castle to pretend as if we were the Kings of Bohemia to view the realms around us. It was pretty epic.
And that my friends, was the end of day two.
Prague Day Three: Beers and Culture
Now, today I loved forward to immensely.
It was beer day.
But who in their right minds would drink beer first thing in the morning? Er… don’t answer that question.
Prague is pretty known for its beers. Heck, even their monasteries brewed beer to soothe any tired passing travellers that walked or on horseback passing through in the Middle Ages. Still, to this day, that tradition continues.
But first, I took a detour to the Prague City Museum to find out how the city came to being.
Prague City Museum
From prehistoric times to present day, the Prague City Museum offers any visitors a walkthrough of how the city of Prague became the place it is today. With rare artefacts on display, a 3D immersive experience, some Czech leg (see video) and an education in history, my favourite piece definitely has to be Langweil’s three-dimensional model of Prague from the first half of the 19th Century. Made out of paper and wood, this 20 square metre model is really impressive and offers the viewer a chance to observe of what the city used to look like from all angles as you walk around the display.
It’s not the best museum I’ve visited but it’s well worth the visit if you want to know more about Prague for an hour or so.
Prague Beer Museum
Now, let’s get the party started.
And where better than the Prague Beer Museum?
This is the first pub in Prague to have 30 Czech beers on tap. Now. there’s a challenge! Obviously, I couldn’t try all of them at once, otherwise I’ll transform into a big pool of beer mess. But having the menu in front of me, with daily recommendations, it was pretty tough to find out which ones to go for.
Enter the barman.
Listening to my umming and ahhing, he set about finding about my personality and matched the beers to suit certain traits. I kept asking him why he chose that beer but he simply tapped his nose and said that it was the barman’s decision. Hmm, interesting.
While he chose the beers for me, he told me about why the Prague Beer Museum started. It was tough to bring together all the Czech Craft beers under one roof. Even one of the beers they could only get when a friend of the brewer was visiting his girlfriend in Prague, as long as they didn’t break up, the beer was in good supply. Let’s hope they are married and have a full brood of kids!
So, he finally lined up the beer in front of me. I opted to go for the five beer offer as you don’t get full pints but rather short pints to help with your beer tasting. Here are the options I went for:
- Two Tales – from the Two Tales Brewery, this is a bittersweet Bohemian Pale Ale
- Konrad – 2013 World Beer Awards Best Czech Lager – Notes of hay, malt and some sweetness.
- Velen – Golden amber English beer with a medium sized creamy head, bouquet of malt, hops and grass and a full caramel taste
- Uneticke – unfiltered lager with simple and fresh flavours that its hops linger on your tongue for a minute of two.
- Pilsner Urquell – top selling lager in the country
Can anyone guess which one was my favourite?
Feeling satisfied after trying out some of the best Czech beer, I decided to grab some lunch at the Easter market… with a beer… oh dear.
Charles Bridge (Karluv Most)
Charles Bridge is the most famous bridge in Prague and in the Czech Republic. You would believe it by the amount of tourists that packs this 520 metre stretch of masonry that dominates over the River Vltava. Also know as ‘Karluv Most’ as the Czechs call it, it was the only way to cross the river from 1402 for 460 years. I hope someone made a killing on tolling people!
It’s one of the best activities to do as you can meander from the Old Town on the East bank to the Little Quarter on the West Bank. It’s a pretty stunning sight to see as you observe down the bridge over the heads of the tourists.
But why is it so popular? Charles Bridge offers a glimpse of an older Europe. Luckily, it wasn’t damaged at all in the Second World War as it fell to both the Germans and Russians with hardly a bullet being shot. But it’s not without its bloody history. In 1621, after a Bohemian uprising, the Hapsburg family, the rulers at that time, the uprising’s 27 leaders had their severed heads displayed on the tower on the Old Town side. Ouch, that must have been a pain in the neck…
Finally, why is it called the Charles Bridge? It’s really not. For ages, it was called the Stone Bridge until 1870 when the locals decided to give its new name to honour Charles IV who actually hailed from Prague. He became the King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor in the 14th Century.
However, the downsides is that it’s full of pickpockets and tourists. Luckily, I had my pockets zipped up and my valuables stored away and I never saw a pickpocket in action. But I absolutely despised the hordes of tourists. I would really recommend coming to the bridge first thing in the morning to get the best use of your photography.
So, why was I crossing the Bridge to the Little Quarter? Well, I needed to pay my respects to the monks that brewed beer at the Strahov Monastery.
Climbing up hill for half an hour, I soon found myself at the serene Strahov Monastery which sleepily overlooked Prague. Walking through its grounds in the late afternoon, I became struck how much in contrast the quietness of this place was in comparison to the touristy streets of the Old Town. It was pretty brilliant.
So, taking a ‘pew’ outside the restaurant where the brewery is (see what I did there), I promptly ordered on the beers on offer – Sv.Nor very special amber beer.
It was a great time to kind of sit back and reflect on my experience in Prague. You have the views of the city in front of you, the sun was shining (although a little chilly) and you have a beer in hand to take a sip.
That for me, was a great end to a beer-fuelled day!
Now, time to go to bed to get up early for another Prague experience in the morning.
Prague Day Four: Eating Prague Tour
Today is my last full day in Prague!
I couldn’t believe how fast my time here had been and I was determined to make the most of today. But it was a special day today as I would be undertaking a food tour of Prague! Cue myself jumping up and down on my hotel bed with jubilant excitement!
This food tour is organised by Eating Europe Tours and they want to put Prague on the Europe food map. After all, not many people back home in the UK would associated Prague with food. Beer, yes but not food.
I had loads of questions as I strolled up to our first meeting point of the day. What do Czech people eat? What’s their food culture like? Why do people think Czech food is boring?
Eating Europe Tours attempt to dispel myths and take you around the local neighbourhoods in Prague’s old town and new town whilst revealing to your the mysteries and local treasures found in side streets and alleys on this four hour walking food tour.
If you would like to read more about my Eating Prague Tour, check out my blow-by-blow guide here: Review: Eating Prague Tours
Knowing I had a super duper early morning flight the next day, I couldn’t have asked for a better end to my Prague Easter Experience.
Thanks Prague. You’ll been a blast.
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