Looking for a country with a glitzy and medieval aura while in Europe? You could head to the Czech Republic.
We took a flight from Paris. It was almost midnight when we reached Prague, aka Praha, the capital city of the Czech Republic. We had booked a taxi well in advance so as to be chauffeured to our hotel. The hotel room was like a holiday home. It had a neat kitchenette and a lovely garden overlooked it. A healthy European breakfast used to be door-delivered every morning.
The next morning we walked to the Wenceslas Square, also known as the New Town City. It was a lovely boulevard with huge flowering plants taking centre stage, quite literally. The National Museum was also located in this area. We then went on a stroll to the famed Prague Astronomical Clock on Old Town Square. Installed in the year 1410, it is apparently the world’s oldest astronomical clock in working condition. We also visited the ornamental St Nicholas Church.
We walked uphill to the popular Prague Castle – supposed to be the biggest castle in the world; it reflected the Bohemian Baroque architecture. We went to the St Vitus Cathedral within the castle. We marvelled at its excellent Gothic architecture. As we stepped out, we could see the security guards from the Castle marching forward to the tunes of a brass band. Later, we took a break and had cappuccino at a cafe. From a distance, we could see the Charles Bridge as also river Vltava flowing by. We then walked on this Bridge and got a glimpse of the beauty around. Large medieval buildings and cathedrals dotted the city. There were cartoonists, caricaturists, musicians, etc making brisk business on this long stretch of the Bridge. We could also see innovative beggars – some with their dogs – drawing the attention of the public.
One of the days, we spent almost eight hours in the Prague Zoo. It was nice to see some endangered animals and birds being offered protection and taken care of. But at the same time we were sure they missed their naturally wide and wild habitat!
We visited a souvenir shop where we bought some miniature Clock Towers, mugs, etc. Prague is famous for its crystals and gems; there are exclusive showrooms making roaring business. Yours truly was attracted to them and splurged out on a few delicate ornaments.
We walked into a local restaurant along with a group of friends for dinner one night. We placed an order for soft drinks, salads, veg pastas, etc. Soon after, we were each given a packet of salted peanuts; they came to us without our asking. The waiter chirpily implored us to enjoy the nuts. It seemed like a genuine act of generosity towards hungry customers like us. But given the fleecing nature of the city, we felt it was too good to believe. Well, our speculation soon ended: we were charged some nutty prices for those nuts! The next day, at another restaurant, the waiter had a bill for us with a stamp “Tips extra” on it. We were told by the locals that those stamps were meant specifically for tourists. No wonder Prague thrives on tourist business. Btw, we managed to watch the finals of the UEFA Champions League sitting in one of the cafes.
While in Norway the first time in 2009, I had witnessed a cultural evening by a bunch of international students from the Czech Republic. I had found the country interesting and had dreamt of visiting it one fine day. A dream not unfounded, would you say? 🙂