Europe 2012: Day 73, Prague


View of Prague from the St. Charles Bridge at sunset (Czech Republic).

Saturday, August 18, 2012             

Woke at 7:30am.   It is sunny and they tell me it will be warm today, in the low 90’s.  Yeah, I heard that before….

The Pig’s Knee yesterday was good but boy — do we need to detox!    We have a city tour scheduled this morning but we leave the hotel early to find a fruit stand.   The guy at the hotel assures us that we can find a fruit stand just to our right and a quick left down the street.  We find it.  A friendly fellow by the name of George greets us at the door.  Since he speak perfect English we figure he must be an American.  We find out that he’s from Boston!   Happy to find someone other than ourselves to converse with, we find out that George is a  Linguistics major!  He came to Prague to visit his family a year ago, loved it here, and decided to stay.   Aside from selling fruit, he also makes juices from fruits and vegetables.  I ordered a tall and cool concoction made from green apples, celery, ginger, and lime.    My DH bought nectarines.  Both were refreshing and healthy!   We must go back!   We must, we must, we must!

Today we are going on a free tour of the city of Prague.   We are to meet our tour guide in the main square at 10:30am.  We arrived a little early so we decided to view the church across the street, St. Nicholas — its just standing there, why not?   What a lovely church!  But we could not stay for long — a group of people are there preparing for a wedding and politely asked us to leave.   Here are some pictures.

St. Nicholas Church, Prague, Czech Republic.

The altar of St. Nicholas Church. Someone is getting ready for a wedding.

The chandelier is impressive!

So is the dome!

Our tour guide was a young Czech man named Filip  – a Journalism student at the Prague University.   The guy was funny, engaging, and passionate about Prague!   He also knew a lot about the history of the Czech Republic.  After 4 hours, my DH and I were convinced that he was the best tour guide we have experienced in our 73 days in Europe!   We gave him a generous tip.  Here are some pictures:

Our “free” tour group in Prague.

Our tour guide, Filip.

The Old Town Square of Prague. This statue is of Jan Hus, a key predecessor to the Protestant movement of the sixteenth century. He is famed for having been burned at the stake on this very spot for heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic Church.

Old Town Square in Prague — City Hall.

Wenceslas Square in Prague. Many historical events occurred there, and it is a traditional setting for demonstrations, celebrations, and other public gatherings.

Wenceslas Square is surrounded by many modern buildings. Art Deco is very prominent in the architecture of Prague.

There are also many old buildings around Wenceslas Square.  Most of them fell into disrepair during the Soviet rule but they are slowly coming back. Many of the older buildings have these charming archways over the street.

The modern Bank of Prague with its art deco exterior.

Municipal House – Art Nouveau Hall in Prague is the premier Art Nouveau building in Prague. We walked by it.

The dome of a mall in Prague (close to Wenceslas Square).

Walking through the Jewish Quarter of Prague.

There was a time when Jews and Muslims got along and shared a place to worship in Prague. Amazing, but true…

I love pink buildings!

We are walking, we are standing, we are listening to our guide…

This building has two clocks — one displays the time as you would expect it to, the other is in Hebrew based on the Jewish calendar. Interesting, eh?

For hundreds of years, the Jews were limited to how and where they could sell their goods in Prague (these are the stalls of one of the main market streets in the Jewish Quarter). Jews were also limited to where they could bury their dead. When the cemetery filled up, they just pluck out all the head stones, laid six feet of soil on top of the existing cemetery, replanted the tomb stones, and started to bury their dead in the new soil layer.  Of course, Jews do not have these restrictions today but I think they were pretty clever!

I had to hold the camera up over my head and stand on my tippy-toes to get this picture of the Jewish cemetery.

The Jewish Museum in Prague. It is a little after noon and these horses are already dragging!

The Rudolfinum Concert Hall in Prague.  It is the second most significant Neo-Renaissance structure in Prague, after the National Theatre — where we did not go on this tour.   Our guide took us here because this building was featured in the movie “XXX” with Vin Diesel.  Well, we all have our priorities, don’t we?

After a rest by the river, we consult the guide book and decide to walk to the  Lesser Town district of Prague.  But we need to cross the river first.

This is the bridge we need to cross to get to Lesser Town…

…we made it!

The guidebooks describe the Lesser Town district of Prague as “almost too picturesque for its own good.”   And it is!    It has Baroque churches and palaces that give it its 17th and 18th century charm.   Here are some pictures:

Which way do we go?

Oh, a cafe! One glass of chilled white wine, please!

Into the maddening crowd! The guide book says that the Lesser Town is a favorite setting for movies and commercials.  Sure is pretty…

While walking to the main square of Lesser Town, we take advantage of the covered walkways. It is nice to be out of the sun!

Lesser Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic.  The church is the other St. Nicholas.

Another view of the Lesser Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic.

A quiet street in Lesser Town (Prague, Czech Republic)

What an interesting street! This street gets cozy with the Prague Castle. The climb up the hill doesn’t look so bad.

Lots of old charming buildings!

The gray building is part of the Prague Castle.

Is that real brick work? No, its not — it’s painted!

Whenever you climb a hill, you need to remember to look behind you. Sometimes you see the best views that way!

Around 5pm, we are hungry.  We find a WiFi hot spot and consult TripAdvisor.   We settle on a restaurant just down the street called Leone and Anna that was highly rated for its Goulash.

We consult our trusty GPS — the restaurant is around here somewhere…

We arrive and are setting immediately in their “beer garden” – a cool setting area in the middle of a courtyard away from the noise in the street.   We order a beer (to share).   My DH orders the Beef Goulash with Bread Dumplings.  I order the Roast Pork with Cabbage and Bread Dumplings.   Both dishes were yummy and just the perfect size for an early dinner.

Found it — away from the maddening crowd!

Around 6pm, we decide to walk off some of our dinner by following a walking tour of the Lesser Town that my DH found off the web.

Do we go right, left, or straight? Lets go right…

Hmmm, are we going the right way?

This street looks nice!

Look — there is the “lovely and peaceful” canal!

Hi, John!  Have you seen the canal yet?

On our walk, we stumble upon a memorial of the 2002 flood that ravished many neighborhoods in Prague.   The pictures were interesting to see in that many of the streets we just walked down had been covered in 4-6 feet of water ten years ago.   Considering the streets, buildings, and parks now, I would say that the people of Prague did a very good job of rebuilding their city.  Here are some pictures from our walk by the river:

In memory of the 2002 Prague flood.

Modern art. I’m not sure what these sculpture are trying to say but I am sure it is profound!

View of Prague from a park in the Lesser Town District of Prague (Czech Republic).

The Lesser Town tower of the St. Charles Bridge. Time to head back to the hotel.

We bid good-bye to Lesser Town! View of the a small Lesser Town square from the St. Charles Bridge.

Into yet another maddening crowd on the St. Charles Bridge (Prague, Czech Republic).

It is the “magic hour” — that time of day when the light is so right that it is impossible to take a bad picture!

What the heck is that? Its a balloon! People pay to be lifted in the air in this balloon to get the best view of Prague.

The lamps just turned on to welcome another warm evening in Prague!

One of the many statues on the St. Charles Bridge (Prague, Czech Republic).

Around 7pm, we decide to head back to the hotel.  We had a late lunch so we are skipping dinner tonight.   We stop at a bar for a drink and to do some people watching.  It was nice to sit in the cool shadow of an old building sipping a Campari and soda!   Around 9pm, we are back in our hotel room – my DH watches TV as I work on my blog.

The day was good!  The tour really added to our enjoyment and understanding of Prague.   We managed to still stay out the afternoon heat and enjoy the cooler temperatures of the evening — we were very smart!  Prague is a surprising city and one of the prettiest we have seen so far on our trip!

Quote of the day:  “Did we see that? I don’t remember seeing that!” – DH to Anna 

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