Czech this out: Prague

Prague is worth the Crowds

Yes, true, over 2 million tourists waddle aimlessly and slowly over the magnificent Charles Bridge in Prague each year in Summer.

But it is such a spacious city that Prague can handle the crowds.  AND it has great and readily available public toilets which any tourist knows is a great feature of any city.

SMOKING

How quickly we have become accustomed to not being assaulted by other people’s cigarette smoke. In Prague no such limits exist yet.
After an “international” meal of pork, cabbage and potatos in one caf full of male smokers, we paid the bill with our mouths full whilst walking out the door. NO wonder they all smoke and eat. They probably need the smoke to be able to consume the cuisine….

The Czech Republic is still adapting to Western advances in eating in public and so most restaurant will still offer  “smoking spaces”. Many of the 5 star hotels have clocked that Americans and Aussies will not tolerate this happening and have banned cigarette smoking in their restaurants.
So it should only be another 20 years before the rest of the country tags along

Those cheeky Czechs also insist that one has a stick-on doover on your windscreen called a VIGNETTE when travelling on their autoroutes.
For future reference you have to buy one of these from petrol stations before you get onto  a freeway and the camera zaps you. They are for 10 days and don’t cost much. Most European countries require one: check out this handy website to see which have pay as you go and which have: http://www.dalnicni-znamky.com then click the little English version link top right to read it!

Also remember that the Czech republic is in the EU but has its own currency, so you will have to do that annoying math thing with their currency the Koruna.
Nearly died of shock the first restaurant bill I got for our “international cuisine” meal. It was about 685 euros till I divided it by 30 which took me much fiddling with my iPhone calculator I can tell you. Then I didn’t have any kroner/korunas did I?

And now for some interesting facts:

  • the population of Prague is 1.2 million and over 2 million tourists waddle aimlessly and slowly over the Charles Bridge and back again every month in Summer.
  • The river is called the Vltova (pron: Voltavaaa)
  • There is a small “beach” in central Prague that is covered in swan poo because people feed the swans there I was told by a young man who spoke English like Borat: “the swans are very kind and let you eat them”
  • Prague Old Town is like Paris on steroids. It is crammed with lovely architectural follies, whimsies, onion domes, copper roofs and peaked towers. Delightful on the eye. Everywhere is tumescent with tourists but as there is just so much of it all and it is spacious so you can cope with the crowds easily.
  • And I saw no gypsies, beggars or pickpockets whilst I was there. I’m sure there are some but certainly Prague feels very safe.
  • Another great bonus is that with almost every corner one turns there is a WC sign pointing to its location. Some public loos are even designated as Deluxe WC’s. So there is none of that distinctive uric smell assaulting one’s senses on the streets. Nice of them to realise that hordes of tourists have bladders that need emptying regularly. Efficient and civic of them too.
  • The guide books tell you that Prague was “relatively unscathed”  by WW2 damage. That’s true if you choose to ignore the 40,000 civilians who were killed by British bombers who mistook Prague for Dresden and dropped 3 bombs on the city in 1943. Far more were killed and damage done by the allies than buy the Germans who bombed out one small part of the Old Square behind the great clock
  • The clock is beautiful. Go see it. Much of the architecture dates from the 14th century when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (of the Bridge) made Prague his Holy City.
    Towers and turrets everywhere.
  • After the Medieval Golden age there was a long spell under the Austrian Hapsburgs before they were deposed in the 1600’s and the Proddy’s had a stab at Prague with King Fred of Bohemia. The Jesuits fought back by building showy magnifico Baroque churches which are littered throughout Prague from this period in the 17th and 18th centuries. Baroque-mania is present throughout Prague.
  • The Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau period in the late 1890’s in Paris took hold in Prague and so lots of buildings are from this era too. Very Gatsby. Lots of “sgraffiti” houses with wonderful ornate carvings on the walls and corbels.
  • Those poor Czechs had no sooner gained their independence in 1918 than the Nazis invaded. Reinhard Heydrich was made leader and then happily, he was assassinated by Czech resistance fighters in 1942. There are bulletholes where the Nazis found them. The fighters all committed suicide in the St Cyril Church crypt rather than cede to the Nazis
  • Then as if THAT was not enough the Soviets occupy and control Prague in 1945 until 1989 and the Velvet Revolution
  • By the time of the Velvet or Bloodless Revolution in 1989 the Old City with its wonderful architecture was in a dreadful state. Roofs leaked, floors caved in. Gypsies squatted in the area as the place was largely uninhabitable. Congratulations go to the Czechs for renovating it all so beautifully in less than 15 years so that tourism can enjoy its historic marvels. Stay in the Old Town if you can as it is delightful to stroll around. We stayed at the Three Ostriches which is at the end of the Charles Bridge. Fab location but noisy when those Irish lads get going……
  • The trams mostly look like they were stolen from Russia or the Stasi but they are efficient and regular. Buy tickets at the yellow stands near tram stops or in most newsagent shop-things around and about. You can just get all day tram tickets for 110 korunas (divide that yourself) Prague is small-ish and easy to get around on foot but better on one’s feet if you use the trams
  • Do not miss the Prague Castle up on the top of the hill. That whole district is lovely and they call it Hradcany (pronounced H-Rad-Charny sort of…)
    Great views of the city. Just meander. Have a coffee at Bellavista restaurant (good loos) and it’s in the old monastery
  • The Little Quarter of Prague is the Biggest – work that out!
  • Wenceslas Square is too touristy for me but if you have come to Prague to shop for clothes then head there
  • There is a giant red Metronome ticking away on the hill above Prague. It replaces a truly hideous cement sculpture of Stalin that was the biggest sculpture in the world. Imagine looking up at that for years. It was blown up upon Stalin’s death in 1961 it was so oppressive. It was called The Food Queue because behind Stalin are his followers in a long line looking miserable. The last depiction is the sculptor himself who is facing the other way.
    He was not proud of what he was made to create. Apparently he committed suicide afterwards.

Cesky Krumlov is about 2 hours drive SW of Prague. Dear little town it’s worth an overnight stay. It appears to be an Asian Vortex. I have never seen so many Chinese tourists in one place in my life. The Sales and Marketing team have done a brilliant job of informing the Chinese that they must see Czesky Krumlov on their way to wherever else they are heading.
Hotel Dvorak is a nice place to stay in Cesky  with excellent views. Wear sensible shoes as it is hilly and all wobbly-cobbled

A warning: beware the exhortations to try the “traditional Bohemian Feast” – which will be pickles, suet, potato and a boiled Pigs’ knee if you’re not very careful.

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