On my last trip to Europe this summer, I got just one free weekend, unfortunately! To be able to spend that weekend well, I decided to venture out of Munich, instead of exploring the rest of Munich left over from the previous trip in winter. My options really were Zurich, Paris, Innsbruck, Prague and Budapest. I soon realised that Innsbruck would not add to my tally of countries visited ;) and hence that was out. Paris and Budapest lost out due to the distances from Munich. And I could not find quick and inexpensive travel options to Zurich. Hence, Prague was the only option left!
Prague (Praha in local language), the capital of the Czech Republic, is about 400-odd km from Munich, or about 4 hours by bus. Which meant, by noon I was already in the Czech capital, leaving behind Munich to get wet in the rains. Below are some of the many photographs I shot over the weekend I spent in Prague. I had so many photos to share that I had to club them into diptychs, triptychs and quadtychs.
Above pic anti-clockwise from bottom right: Praha Central Railway Station’s historic main entrance; new terminus of the railway station that lies below the old entrance – modern looks and number of fast food joints all over; one of the most prominent art works at Praha station; the DB Bahn double decker bus that I took to Praha.
Though multicultural and very cosmopolitan, Praha has retained its history very well. The city may seem similar to other European cities, but is actually very different! The buildings, the people, the food and the air itself is quite strikingly different in Praha. Of the many touristy locations, the Wenceslas Square with the National Museum is perhaps the city’s melting pot. Here you get to see the perfect blend of the old and the new, the rich and the poor, the good and the bad…
Pic above shows anti-clockwise from bottom right: Tramcars converted to restaurants in the middle of the Wenceslas Square, with the National Museum in the background; looking towards the Wenceslas Square at night; an old man looking out of the window of a building whose colours, fonts and structure reflect the Soviet Era; a modern indoor restaurant near the Square.
Praha is generally considered to be a very walkable city for tourists. I love walkable cities. I can just pull my camera to the shoulder and walk, walk and walk, and click, click and click. I guess I would have walked close to 15 km in all over the entire weekend in Praha. Honestly, I did not have any difficulties with directions since I had my awesome phone, which had two things preloaded. 1. Google Map of the entire city, cached on the phone, 2. Prague Minos Guide App (more about this App later).
Pic above shows: crowded Wenceslas Square and National Museum (left); statue of St Wenceslas I and the boulevard (right).
The Old Town area of the city is the most crowded, and houses the maximum number of attractions you would want to visit.
Clockwise from the clock: The famous Astronomical Clock; old Soviet style trams; runners at the Prague Marathon – luckily and unluckily, it coincided with my trip; the famous Charles Bridge seen from the Prague Castle.
So the Prague Marathon was cool, just like any other marathon, but 43km long! Can you imagine? Ok, lucky because I got to click some cool shots, hear some nice music watching runners crossing the bridges over the Vltava river. Unlucky, well almost, as I did not know they would shut down the trams during the marathon! With barely two hours for my bus to depart, I was almost 8 km away from the station, whiling my time clicking pictures of the runners, and… waiting patiently for the tram to take me back to the hostel! By the time I realised that trams were closed, I did not have enough time left to walk and click, or do any one! I had to force myself to pack the camera in the bag, and sprint towards the hostel, not stopping anywhere in between and not clicking any more photos! I managed to reach the station just in time for a quick bite at Burger King and to board the bus!
Coming back to the photowalk, the Prague Minos Guide, took me through the best lanes showing me the best sites and architectures of the city. Prague is well known for its potpourri of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles of architecture, and then some more.
In the pic above, you see the Gothic styled Powder Tower (left) – which is one of the old city gates and also one of the symbols of the city of Prague and the House of the Black Madonna (right) – a cubist building built about a 100 years ago.
The two most prominent features of the Prague skyline are the two Gothic structures constructed almost 800-1000 years ago. The pic above shows the Prague Castle (left) – the largest castle in the world, and the Church of Our Lady before Týn (right).
The Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors, and Presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic have had their offices in the Prague Castle. The above pic shows the St Vitus Cathedral (left) and the spires of the Cathedral close-up from the top of the tower.
The Castle district has a lot more to see beyond the Castle itself. The Golden Lane, Old Royal Palace, and St George’s Basilica are few of the best sights.
In the pic above from bottom right, anticlockwise: Street musicians at the lane going up the castle; castle seen from the Charles Bridge; inside St George’s Basilica; Charles Bridge on the way back from the castle.
You will never run out of interesting sights when you are in Prague.
Fortunately, I found someone with the same camera as I have (Canon 60D), and was able to take a semi-decent pic of me! I really did not want to get back from Praha without a picture of me! In fact I got a few more photos clicked by some other guys at different locations, but they turned out to be badly framed or badly exposed. Sometimes I really wonder how DSLR-carrying-guys at a tourist location fail to click decent images on request – is it intentional? Should I start doing the same? Sorry!
This particular lane caught my eye! This I believe is the world’s smallest lane, and it does go somewhere. It leads to a pretty restaurant by the river side. One of the Prague guides I had read on the internet had mentioned about this lane, but it did not give any hints about its location – the readers were supposed to stumble upon it, and I did :) Do you see the tiny traffic light in the left pic above on the right wall?
So yes, lots of photographs taken – almost more than 1200 over a period of two days. However, I cannot end this blog without mentioning the beautiful place I stayed at. So I stayed at the ArtHarmony Hostel in Prague. It is perhaps the most gracefully designed hostel / hotel I have ever stayed at. There was nothing fancy other than a very neat and clean room, extremely clean and private bathrooms, and free wifi! All this for just $12 for the night. I was really impressed. The last time I had stayed at a hostel on a trip was in NY. I had stayed at some BnB paying $40 for a shitty bed and horrible bathrooms. ArtHarmony is a pleasant experience, it is beautifully designed and very well decorated. Visit their website of FB page and check out photos of some of the other beautifully done rooms. It left me impressed.
Overall, it was an excellent trip. The only sad part of the trip was the fact that Euros are not accepted in Czech Republic and you must change to the Czech Koruna for almost all transactions. That is not bad, but almost all money changers (including banks!!) charge anything between 10% and 20% commission! That was appalling, and I must admit that I lost almost $30 that way.
Now I am not able to decide if Istanbul is my favorite city, or Praha :) I think for the beauty it has to be Praha, well almost… but for the food, I still miss Istanbul!
PS: Food options in Praha are much better than those in Munich ;)