Prague castle and city

Trip Start Feb 23, 2013
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13
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Trip End Apr 11, 2013


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Flag of Czech Republic  , Hlavní město Praha,
Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Today is our only full day sightseeing in Prague, we are off to Vienna tomorrow morning. We started by checking out the Fred & Ginger (or dancing) house, and then a walk along the river bank to the Prague castle steps, and up into the castle itself. There are about 10 different attractions we could have bought tickets for, but we just picked the short visit ticket which gave access to the St Vitus cathedral, the St George basilica, and the golden lane (check out some photos from each). There was also a changing of the guard ceremony (our 2nd one, with Buckingham palace still to come). There has been some interesting Czech news while we've been here-the parliament have voted to charge the outgoing president Vaclav Claus with treason due to pardoning 1000 criminals at New Years (at least that's what I've picked up). The presidents residence and offices is at the Prague castle, so there seemed to be a bit of media presence around the place, so I assume that is what it's about. I think we may have been some of the random people walking behind the reporter for one channel!
From there we headed to the KGB (soviet secret police, post WWII) museum (ironically about 50m from the American embassy) which was a real surprise find. Just a small museum, but as we were the only people there, but got a personal guided tour, including posing with weapons wearing authentic NKVD (predecessor of KGB during WWII) berets.
Then a walk along the gothic Charles bridge, a bit of crystal and jewelry shopping, and then a walk back through the streets via a couple of towers. The back streets are challenging to navigate, I think in the past they've just put buildings where they feel like, and then build the streets between them. Pocket earth (an offline mapping app I downloaded before leaving NZ has proven very very useful).
Prague probably has the most impressive built environment of the cities we've visited so far-Copenhagen maybe slightly more impressive old buildings, but quite uniform, Berlin is a more modern city (with some old buildings around still), but Prague is nearly all very old buildings, but of quite different styles.
The level of English is fairly good here, but not quite as good as Copenhagen (which was very impressive how good it was). But the nice thing here is a lot of the locals (in the tourism parts) will engage, and ask where we are from etc
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