At this point we’ve been away from Dubai for about 24 hours and it’s been a surprisingly easy (actually not so surprising) trip to Prague so far. I give most of Europe a bad wrap especially central and north as boring and stale compared to more exotic locations in Asia and Africa. But a break here is needed; full of ease, familiar things, beautiful weather, cleanliness and order. It’s been pleasant and the food range better than we thought (food was always a worry for me coming this part of Europe). Walking around the old town yesterday we saw a lot of handicraft and trinkets and wanted to buy many things we weren’t expecting or didn’t know we wanted. The hotel apartment we got is great overall but with minor disappointments, mainly no elevator and the flight of stairs is three floors. This isn’t ideal, especially with a stroller, and the stairs seem to be extra steep and high.
Our home away from home
Son and wife got over their bedroom fears on the mezzanine level of the apartment (more steep stairs inside the loft take you to the bedroom) and once the AC was blasted the climate was good – cold at night even. We walked a lot on the first day to get acquainted with the city – or the touristy part of it anyway – and saw a few landmarks on the way. The powder tower, municipal hall, old town hall and astronomical tower in the old square were all very close to where we stayed. We also did basic grocery shopping for water, tea and toiletries – missing those things was another disappointment with the apartment, but can’t have it all. My boy has been stellar and in a great mood overall for a long day; he’s been such a good kid even on the plane, very proud of him.
Sites of beautiful Prague
Sampled the local Goulaj and beer which was tasty and my wife got the pasta salmon option which was equally great, even had room for apple strudel dessert. Hoping today (the second day) to walk to the other side of the town across the river through the Jewish quarter and back on Charles bridge through to the shopping thorough fare. Taking it easy, enjoying the sites, sounds and weather and savouring a nice relaxing low key trip. No hustle to see many things or go inside castles and museums (although there are plenty of opportunities) but not that interested at the moment and enjoying the liveliness of the city more than any interior of an old building – I am planning at some point to go up a tower for a good view and panoramic pictures of Prague’s infamous red roofs – but other than that I’m satisfied to keep on the main street thoroughfares in this trip. The only challenge is keeping all the electronics charged with one wire and adaptor! Who knew! (U Kapra Apartments, Prague, 7:45 a.m. local time, Saturday)**
A very productive and easy going day – started off with an impressive breakfast basket and ended off with a solo night stroll around a very lively city. The basket which had some beautiful sandwiches, milk glass bottles and jams all in a cool old school wicker basket dropped off at our door – was such a cool treat. In between got some souvenirs from the square market, saw briefly (and to be honest not all that impressive) astronomical clock on the hour display of the disciples, went up the tower on the Charles bridge with some great rooftop views, and had a nice Goulaj soup in a bread bowl.
Markets, tiled roofs, modern and traditional – so much to see all around
It was a great day all around, with most of the sites I had intended to visit on this trip already seen, I’m planning on going to the castle at night tomorrow. It’ll be a slight challenge planning a route tomorrow during the day with the family – might do the park on the other side of the river for a nice easy going stroll. (U Kapra Apartments, Prague, 11:25 p.m. local time, Saturday).
What was meant to be a very easy going day ended up being more productive than planned; as always. Started off with our regular breakfast and off to the park (Perin Hill) we went. After a long and confusing wait to get tickets and then a chaotic process going into the cable car up the hill (which was hot and crowded) we finally had a nice breath of fresh air with the Rose Garden being the first site we see. I had wanted to take a photo of the city from the top of the hill but inadvertently went down and up to the Palace (which was intended for later this evening).
We had a nice lunch at a terrace restaurant with nice views of the city from the hill (which I thought I would miss). It was another hot day in Prague but we stuck to the shade and made our way down the new palace stairs (after witnessing the palace changing of the guards from the restaurant to eh amusement of my son) and avoided the cable car altogether going down – a wise decision. After a stroll back to the city, we were able to pick up last minute souvenirs on the way to the park; then we headed to the apartment. I took a much needed nap before heading out for an early dinner at Il Palazzo and Ebel Café both of which are highly recommended on trip adviser (both of which were close by), and the latter was even noted in our guide book as the best place to get a cup of coffee; thankfully that was true. I had a nice Jamaican blue bean coffee while the misses opted for a grapefruit honey herbal tea and he little guy was content with his hazelnut chocolate cake. For dinner I had an amazing chicken and spinach risotto (which usually I wouldn’t even consider ordering but on the wise advice of trip adviser recommendation I’m glad I did). After taking another rest I headed solo to what seemed as the only museum open and what would give me a great art/cultural fix with three exhibitions of Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol (which I was surprised to know has Czech origins) and Alfonsi Mucha who I loved, and his Art Noveau work but never knew his name.
Dali, Warhol and Mucha
After making a speedy but still thorough look through tour of the three exhibitions for a good hour and 15 minutes, I wasn’t ready to head back just yet. Wanted to savour my last night in Prague and watched the sunset over the Old Town Square having a cappuccino and tiramisu at the nearby café. Made my way back not before seeing the Astronomical clock ring again and resting home now after a very productive day. Got a nice magnet and Mucha post card of his famous four seasons ladies (spring brings back many memories of this mirror my parents had in our house when I was a kid with that print).
What a really lovely trip this was. I think I got out of it more than I ever expected (the misses…um… maybe less so) – better food than I thought, friendlier and approachable people than I anticipated, culture and art, nature and architecture unrivalled. A little hotter than I thought, would have liked a cool autumn cloudy day in the photogenic city, but the pictures I got were still great and I can’t complain about bright sunny days really. The apartment was great despite the steep climb to our unit and our beds, the city did not disappoint and I can actually go for another full day (making it a full museum day). Regardless, no regrets, and will not have any should-have-gone-there thoughts, except maybe could have combined it with a trip to Budapest. Tomorrow morning might do a sunrise stroll around town for a last hurrah before breakfast, and a ride back to the airport.
A more dramatic Prague at night
Praha, I was more mesmerized than I thought I would be. The cleanliness and worldly feel to the city was amazing, a youthful electric vibe at night but still with a family feel. Truly a pleasure to have seen you! (U Kapra Apartments, Prague, 11:17 p.m. local time, Sunday)**
Couldn’t resist doing the final morning stroll before we head out. Woke up way early and read the “Happiness Project” book which seems to be the book of the trip (mainly to pass the time on the plane). Finally got to finally use my jumper; the air was cool and fresh. Walking through the empty back roads and alleys is slightly surreal when only last night I could barely make an inch through them. Slight sidebar – on the way to the Charles’ Bridge to catch the sunrise, a polish guy stopped me to tell me he loves his girlfriend or woman…not sure if he was all that sober or not, didn’t seem too wasted, and eventually after an attempt to tell me something and making heart gestures and mentioning women he let me go.
Made my way to the bridge and was a lovely crisp morning, still had a good number of tourists and photographers but was a great moment to savour the City in its early hours. The City was just waking up to a slight buzz on my last day; before we head out to the hot bustle of Dubai. Then through the old town square for more great photo moments as the sunlight just catches the buildings in the quietness of the square. Finally went towards the powder tower for a real look (instead of the rushed half-assed one I did in the first day) and the amazing Art Noveau architecture all around it. Not least impressive was the Municipal Hall which is an Art Noveau treasure trove, would have loved to go inside and see some of the interior but it was too early to be open.
Art Noveau heaven
A serene morning in the city
After passing a woman who almost coughed her way to death, made my way back to the apartment and now getting ready for the breakfast guy with his basket to come (it is nice having that anticipation every morning even though we know what will be in it). Then off to the airport for the end of our mini adventure – must say was an amazing trip for me, a city with much more my style than I would have ever thought! (U Kapra Apartments, Prague, 9:45 a.m. local time, Monday)***
What other parts of central Europe are usually overlooked other than Prague, Vienna, and Budapest?