Prague Travel Guide
Prague won’t let you go. The little mother has claws Franz Kafka
The words of Prague’s most famous son are as true today as they were a hundred years ago. Kafka spent his entire life here. It is easy to tell why. One of the most beautiful and well preserved medieval cities in Europe it has an almost supernatural air. As you wander the cobbled streets amid some of the most striking building you could ever wish to gaze upon it is quite easy to believe that time travel is a bona fide possibility. There is a pleasant naivety about the city. Encroaching tourism hasn’t yet sullied its ambience and the people remain predominantly friendly and obliging. Mystery lurks around every corner and romance is all pervading, the atmosphere is as unique as it is familiar from a thousand classic novels. It is no wonder that Prague is a magnate for the literary minded. Sources of inspiration are ubiquitous.
Simply wander around the City centre and you can witness 900 years of history. A patchwork of architecture throughout the ages there are magnificent examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque along with 19th century revivalist and Art Nouveau. Time has not so much stood still as had it’s passing permanently marked. You must cross Charles Bridge with its strangely melancholy statues overlooking street performers and artists. Sit on the steps of the Hus’ Monument and observe the throngs of international tourists who congregate on the Old Town Square to marvel at the incredible surroundings. Almost hidden from view is the fascinating Gothic Tyn Cathedral, which contains the tomb of 16th century Danish astronomer Tycho Brake, who served in the court of King Rudolph. The Imposing structure with its twin steeples, Adam and Eve, was built in 1365 and now plays host to the occasional concert.
Prague’s eeriness is probably best appreciated at dusk, especially around the Old Jewish cemetery where you’ll see 1200 tombstones, the oldest dating back at 1439. By the late 18th century it was so full that coffins were being interred twelve deep and the final burial was held there in 1787. On a truly sombre note the walls to the Pinkas Synagogue have inscriptions of 77,297 Jews murdered in Nazi concentration camps. Amongst them are the names of Franz Kafka’s three sisters. At Wenceslas Square you can admire Prague’s most famous landmark the statue of the 10th century Good King himself (St. Wenceslas) astride his steed. Below is a simple memorial to those who gave their lives resisting Communism, including Jan Palach.
Of course a tour of Prague wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its most popular structure Prazsky hrad (Prague Castle). Officially the largest castle in the world it occupies 7.28 hectares and is 570m long, averaging 128m in width. The surrounding complex of churches and religious buildings covers a further 38 hectares. Within the grounds there are three main courtyards, the Cathedral of St. Vitus, the Old Royal Palace, Museum of Military History, several chapels, the National Gallery and many more historical buildings. A full day is needed (at least) to do the place justice. Fortunately the complex has three places to dine, a post office, Bureau de change and even it’s own police station.
One of the biggest tourist attractions that Prague has to offer is neither a building nor a landmark; it is Beer. Believed by many to be brewers of some of the finest beers in the world, this is where Budweiser was born, although it has to be said that the Czech equivalent is far superior to its US cousin (just ask the experts). Beer drinking is so ingrained in Czech culture that it is considered part of the national heritage and even today it is still often referred to as ‘liquid bread’. The 1995 statistics state that the average citizen drank 161 litres of beer a year that’s a bottle each for every man woman and child in the entire Czech republic every day! As you would therefore expect there are hundreds of pubs and bars scattered all over the City. The bonus is that they are incredibly cheap. You can buy a pint of excellent beer for around 40p and if you want a late night drink the cover prices in the clubs are virtually negligible. There are even one or two places that stay open until 5.00 to 6.00am.
If you like dining out Prague is definitely for you. Again the prices are incredibly low. You can get a fantastic meal in plush surroundings for less that five pounds and that’s in the expensive restaurants. There are pubs and restaurants on every corner offering delicious cuisine, much of it based on traditional Czech cooking. Dumplings are a staple and cost only a couple of pounds at the most it’s then a challenge to eat everything you’re given. Venison and Pork are also highly popular usually served with traditional vegetables. For vegetarians there are numerous excellent restaurants serving very tasty and often unusual dishes.
Prague is an undisputable, romantic destination. It makes and ideal and inexpensive alternative to Paris for honeymooners and an inspiring place for young travellers wishing to broaden their horizons. From the wonderful Astronomical Clock with its mechanical figures of the twelve Apostles and animated figurines of Vanity, Greed, Death and The Turk to the striking and dramatic Jan Hus Monument, the City is never less that magnificent. There is nowhere else on earth more suited to listening to classical music. The frequent concerts are uniformly superb and awe inspiring, performed in venues that invoke a feeling of authenticity and respect for the great composers and the music they created. Where else can you dine out in style for the same price as a family meal in a UK burger joint or drink yourself giddy on the finest beer in the world for the price of an average round of beers in a British pub. Above all Prague has a wonderful atmosphere. I guarantee you will leave feeling that you have experienced something very special and you will not rest until you have returned.
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