The Prague Castle towers above the city and draws throngs of tourists as Prague’s most popular attraction. It was built in the 9th century and is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. Interesting tidbit: In 1995, the Rolling Stones funded an overhaul of lighting system for the castle, so it could be better seen from the the city at night. The Rolling Stones own lighting designer headed up the project.
On the south facade of the castle is a gold mosaic “The Last Judgement”. It can be seen in the following picture, above the three archways. To give you a sense of the castle’s grandiose design, the mosaic alone is over 900 square feet in size.
A local Czech that we met our first day in Prague had encouraged us to visit the “Lennon Wall”. He said it represented peace and freedom. He was old enough to have lived through the oppression of the communist regime, so that explained his enthusiasm about what it represented. The wall is located near the French embassy and it continually changes as people write over it. When we saw it, there wasn’t much legible on it, although there were a couple images of John Lennon’s face.
During our time in Prague, we stayed in a nice little Airbnb in the heart of the Mala Strana district (http://abnb.me/EVmg/9ca6Kny4AG). It was a nice modern flat in a great central location, I’d recommend it.
Just behind where we stayed was Petrin Park, an expansive green space. I thought this would be a nice place for an easy morning run, until I discovered that it sits on a steep hillside, with winding paths made of cobblestone. I ran less than a mile running at Petrin Park, before deciding this was not a smart choice for an easy run while tapering for the Berlin Marathon. When we decided to head up Petrin Hill one afternoon to see the sites, we opted to take the funicular to the top.
At the top of Petrin Hill is the Petrin Lookout Tower. It was built in 1891, and is more or less a small replica of the Eiffel Tower (one-fifth the size). It’s 299 steps to the top. Like the Eiffel Tower, there is also an elevator. And, like when we visited the Eiffel Tower, we chose to take the stairs instead. Really nice views from the top.
A short walk from the Petrin Lookout Tower is the picturesque Strahov Monastery. Interestingly, the building contains the Strahov Monastic Brewery. Further evidence that there is no shortage of places to find beer in Prague.
Throughout Prague, the vast majority of buildings have been beautifully restored. We happened upon a fixer upper, and I couldn’t help but think that this is the type of property we would buy if living here.
Throughout the city center, there is an extensive tram (streetcar) network. You buy tickets based on the amount of time you will travel (e.g. 30 minutes, 90 minutes, one day). The first time we hopped on the tram, I noticed several people bringing their dogs on board (lots of dog lovers here). Just so different from the U.S. where you can only bring your dog on public transport if it is a service animal.
The nice thing about traveling is that it affords time to pause and reflect. Or, if you’re Jay, sketch out your next creative idea…
Our last day in Prague, we decided to visit some things a little off the beaten path from the main tourist attractions. We were tired of the crowds. I was surprised to find that the density of tourists here is comparable to Rome or Washington D.C. – the only other places in the world where I’ve experienced this many tourists packed into one place. The masses of tourists was what I liked least about this place.
We visited Vrtba Garden, a baroque garden situated on the slopes of Petrin hill. It’s built into the hillside, a beautiful terrace garden with multiple levels. It was a calm oasis from the noise and crowds of the city.
We strolled through Vojanovy Sady Park (a hidden park not far from Charles Bridge). It was quiet and peaceful. Almost hard to believe that just steps away from this serene park the sidewalks are so crowded you can barely move.
We went to the Prague Municipal Library and checked out the book tower. It’s a spiraling tower of books designed by a local artist. Such a cool idea, and the perfect piece of art for a library!
We decided to visit the Apple Museum. It’s a museum in the center of Prague that displays over 40 years of Apple products. Apparently, it’s the largest private exhibition of Apple products in the world. Why this is in Prague, I have no idea. Regardless, it is worthwhile. The museum is well organized, and not surprisingly, utilizes your iPhone as your tour guide.
Jay is the one who converted me to Apple. Not long after we started dating 10 years ago, I replaced my Blackberry with an iPhone. And just after we got married, we replaced my PC with a MacBook. It was interesting to look back at all the different models of computers, iPods, iPhones, etc. When each product was introduced, it seemed so revolutionary. Yet, knowing what exists now, the older products seem so archaic. Makes you wonder what we’ll think of the current products we are using 10 years from now.
We walked through Kampa Park, which had an exhibition of the flood that ravaged Prague 15 years ago. Floods leave behind a unique form of devastation and the images on display triggered at my heart. On a lighter note, on the other end of the park, we encountered the bizarre statues of crawling babies. Seriously strange and couldn’t help but laugh at the oddity of it.
Our last evening in Prague, we opted for traditional Czech food for dinner. We ordered goulash which came with bread-roll dumplings and potato pancakes. And we also ordered a sampler platter which came with roast duck, moravian sparrows (roast pork), smoked meat, smoked beer sausage, white and red cabbage, bread dumplings, potato dumplings, fat dumplings. Yes, it was a lot of food. Not going hungry here.
Tomorrow, we’re off to Berlin!