Monday, 15 August 2011

Days 16-18: Prague

We arrived in Prague super-early off our sleeper train, and headed straight for the hostel. Surprisingly, the hostel was open, and even more surprisingly they had a room available for us to check in. We dropped our bags off and headed pretty much straight back out. The city hall has a pretty impressive astronomical clock on the front, with various decorations that animate on the hour (the skeleton ringing a bell was particularly cool).

We walked along the river and headed into town to the old town square. There was a pretty nice patisserie which we grabbed breakfast from. The town square was fairly typical - some fairly nice and fairly old buildings around the outside, and a statue in the centre.

From there we moved to the fairly impressive Charles Bridge, with large towers at either end and various statues places along it. The bridge is pretty wide, but it's extremely congested to get across on account of the various street artists, tat-sellers and buskers. We stopped on the other side for a cheeky Starbucks (because it was fairly cold and the idea of a coffee and a sit-down was greatly appealing) before making the surprisingly monstrous climb up to St George's Basilica at the top of the hill. It wasn't particularly far, but the gradient on the road going up was mental - I swear it was one-in-five in places at least!

We got to the castle (apparently the largest ancient castle in the world) just in time for the changing of the guard, of which we didn't see a great deal on account of getting there just in time, amongst crowds of people who had clearly made a point of being there a good five or ten minutes early.

Inside the grounds there sits St Vitus' Cathedral which is an absolutely humongous cathedral. The architecture on the outside is fantastic, and walking round it constantly provides something different.

You also get a pretty cracking view of Prague from the top of the hill as well

We walked back down the hill and got lunch at the bottom, before making our way back up the other adjacent hill to the viewing tower on the top. The other guys took the funicular up, but I figured I'd save some money (it turned out to be not very much) and take the short (and knackering) walk up the hill. For what it's worth, I did get to the top first, but it was bloody hard work.

Aside from an observation tower, there's also an observatory and various gardens at the top of the hill, which we had a wander around before heading back down. We didn't bother with the tower itself, because it was fairly pricey, and to be honest the views from the top of the hill were pretty much the same as the ones from the cathedral.

Wandering back through the city to the hostel, we stumbled upon a massive Tesco on the basement floor of a department store, so we stocked up on pizzas for the evening and bread and cheeze for lunch the next day. And obviously the essential beer, crisps and chocolate.

Our second day in Prague was something of a unique day. We've spent the trip so far seeing the standard churches, castles, museums, galleries and various important buildings in the cities, but for the second day in Prague we went to the Zoo. A fairly cheap metro train and bus ride away from where we were staying, the Zoo is both huge and only €4 entry.

Other than "the zoo was really good" there's not a huge amount to write, and there's not a huge amount in pictures either. I figured that if I was to start taking photos then I'd almost certianly just keep going and exhaust the camera battery easily, so I didn't bother. Gerry managed to forget the battery for his camera, so I actually have pretty much nothing in the form of photographic evidence to say we went. I'll take the assumption that most of the people reading this already have a decent idea of what tigers, monkeys, etc and zoos in general look like.

It was reasonably late when we got back from the zoo, and the other guys chilled out in the park next to the hostel. I was a bit restless, so I wandered to a place marked on the tourist map as "Vysehrad", with a picture of quite a large church. It turns out that this church is actually up a fairly large hill to the south, something I only found out when I got to the bottom of said hill and had to start climbing. The church (actually a castle) was quite nice, and gave some pretty good views of Vienna from the opposite side of the river to the hills we'd climbed the day before.

On the way back I found a cheap restaurant next to the hostel that looked pretty good, so we went there to eat. We stocked up on booze at a supermarket (though not Tesco this time), and had a fair amount of drinking in the hostel.

The next day Nick and Gerry were fairly hungover, courtesy of having gone out to find a club after our drinking in the hostel, so we had a reasonably slow day. There was also an element of having mostly ticked off all the main things we wanted to see in the city (except the Muzeum, but it was closed).

Deciding that we should do something extremely cool and manly, we rented pedalos on the river. Unfortunately we weren't quite manly enough to get a swan-shaped one, but it was still decent fun for an hour or so.

From there we wandered around the city a bit, stumbling across some art gallery on the opposite side of the river. We didn't go in, but we wandered around the exhibitions and sculptures outside, which were pretty cool. In particular there were a set of creepy bronze baby statues that looked vaguely familiar.

I couldn't really figure where I'd seen them before, until Gerry mentioned he remembered some picture of them crawling up the side of a building, at which point I suddenly remembered where I'd seen them from: the TV tower. We'd seen the TV tower from the Basilica, and I'd commented at the time at what a really weird building it was, and I could vaguely picture them being all over the side of it from a picture on some weird architecture-art blog that Peter had showed me ages ago.

We had lunch in a McDonalds to exploit the wifi and verify whether they were on the tower or not, and it turned out I was right. There wasn't a particular plan for the afternoon, so while the other guys decided to go to the Kafka museum and wander around the old town again, I decided to venture off to see the TV tower.

It was a fricking long walk across most of the city, but the weather was pleasant and I had music to listen to, so it was fairly nice. The TV tower was both as cool and as extremely weird as I'd expected it would be.

I also stumbled across a pretty cool church along the way, apparently called the "Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus", and designed by Jože Plečnik.

We met up back at the hostel, went to the same restaurant we'd gone to the night before, and then had a fairly quiet, early night to prepare for getting up pretty early the next morning to catch our train to Berlin.

1 comment:

  1. Prague looks great but the people in the foreground of the first pic look a bit scary. Hope they weren't all like that.