Prague

Trip Start Sep 07, 2013
1
16
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Trip End Oct 24, 2013


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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Thursday, October 3, 2013

Our journey to Prague saw us taking private cars from Krakow to a train station about 2 hours from Krakow then boarding a train for the remainder of the journey to Prague. We arrived in Prague around 1 in the afternoon in time for lunch before our walking tour.

Lunch....Dinko says when in Prague pork knuckle is the tradition. So, as you know I will give most things a go! What he failed to mention was the size of the meal....massive! Served with what I think is sauerkraut and a small garnish of lettuce and a cherry tomato. Believe me no room for the cherry tomato! Washed down with a local beer costing the equivalent of $5 for a pint sized glass, one couldn't really complain!

Our walking tour took us through the main square up to the Charles Bridge which with the castle high on the hill behind is just a beautiful sight. Dinko left us here and we meandered up the the castle. 208 steps to climb which doesn't include the various cobble stone hills. Good for working of lunch!

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest coherent castle complex in the world and also it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Castle consists of a large scale composition of palaces and ecclesiastical buildings of various architecture styles from the 10th century till the present time.

Prague Castle is also the place where the Crown Jewels of Czech kings are kept together with precious Christian relics, art treasure and historical documents and where Czech kings and patron saints are buried.

As it was late in the day entry to the cathedral and surrounding buildings wasn't an option. We meandered back down to the Charles Bridge, enjoying the expansive views over the city. Dating from the 14th century, Charles Bridge links Prague Castle to Stare Mesto. For most of its 600 years the 1,700 foot long span has been a pedestrian promenade, though for centuries walkers had to share the concourse with horse drawn vehicles and trolleys. Today, the bridge is filled with mostly tourists walking amongst artists and busking musicians.

I last visited Prague in 1999 and it was one place I always wanted to return too. Having said that I was blown away with the number of tourists now visiting the city. My memories of wandering the streets pretty much deserted no longer the case.

Thursday an early start as our last day here and so much to see. Stop off for a great coffee and croissant at a local patisserie before hitting the pavement. I made my way up to Prague Castle again as I wanted to go into the cathedral and palace.

The Short Tour ticket allows entry into St Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St George's Basilica and Golden Lane.

St Vitus Cathedral: Roman Catholic Cathedral with just 287 steps that you can climb up to the spire to enjoy the views. Unfortunately I didn't find the stairs!!

Golden Lane was lovely to visit. This street of old buildings, originally house blacksmiths. Some of the old buildings have been set up with displays showing life back in the earlier days. The folk must have been short back then as you have to duck to enter the buildings!

As I had missed the start of the free walking tour, I spent extra time wandering around the palace gardens named Gardens on the Ramparts. A lovely place to wander, check out the view and sit for some peace and quiet.

On my way back to the Old Town I picked up the walking tour as they were heading off to the Jewish Quarter, Josefov. Excellent timing! Josefov, formerly the jewish ghetto is completely surrounded by the Old Town. The interesting part of the Jewish Quarter is the old Jewish Cemetery. The oldest of its 12,000 graves date from 1439. Use of the cemetery ceased in 1787 as it was becoming so crowded that burials were up to 12 layers deep.

The tour finished by the river with Karel our guide telling us the about the story of Sir Nicholas Winton. Sir Nicholas is a British humanitarian who organised the rescue of 669 mostly Jewish children from German occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of the second world war in an operation later known as Czech Kindertransport. Winton found homes for them and arranged for their safe transport to Britain. The UK press dubbed him the 'British Schindler'.

Whilst we are in the zone of the second world war, next stop was the Museum of Communism. The museum presents a vivid account of Communism focusing on Czechoslovakia and on Prague in particular. The exhibition is fascinating through its use of everyday objects which really highlights the restrictions of life under communism.

The Velvet Revolution or Gentle Revolution was a non-violent transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia. The period of upheaval and transition took place from November 17 to December 29, 1989. In large, popular demonstrations against the single-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, were dominated by students and by older, established dissidents. The effect of these events was the end of 41 years of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, and the subsequent conversion to a parliamentary republic. An interesting place to visit.

Prague sightseeing over it was time to reconvene with the rest of the Intrepid group and catch up over a few beers and dinner. No photos of culinary delights tonight as believe it or not we ate at the Irish Bar. Once we had defrosted all agreed easy to stay in the warmth in lieu of braving the cold again.

It has been cold with another biting wind, the layers are increasing with thermals becoming a permanent fixture!
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