After such a gorgeous weekend weather-wise, it looks like summer has been and gone, giving way to wet and wintry days. My tan from my week in India has rapidly faded and I’ve been left longing for another getaway somewhere hot. Anywhere hot. Looking out at the grey sky isn’t helping – it reminds me of my wintry weekend in Prague earlier this year.
I’m not going to lie; before I went to the Czech Republic I’d no real desire to go there. It wasn’t a country that’d ever really appealed – and with its reputation of cheap beer and lairy stag parties, the city of Prague was definitely not on my bucket list.
But then at the beginning of the year I saw an article online about the Skywalk in Dolní Morava (pictured above) and knew immediately that I had to go and climb the Skywalk. So I impulsively booked a weekend away at the end of January, flying into Prague and staying just outside the city centre at the EA Hotel Populus.
Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting much from Prague itself. The only research I did for the trip was into how to get from my hotel to Dolní Morava, so I had no idea what to visit or where to go in the Czech capital. But with my travel buddy Solo in tow and my phone in hand, we set out into the city to explore and take pictures. It turns out that Prague is a beautiful Gothic city with oodles of charm and character. Here are some of my favourite snaps from the trip…
Views from the Old Town Hall.
Our first stop was the Old Town Hall, right in the heart of the older part of the city. The Old Town Hall has been a dominating feature of Old Town Square since construction of the Gothic building started in 1338.
It is actually one of the most-visited sights in the city, with thousands heading to the square every day to watch the remarkable Astronomical Clock chime on the hour, and to climb the tower to take in the amazing views of the historic centre of Prague. Just check out the colourful rooftops and the beautiful Tyn Church (Týnský Chrám):
Prague Astronomical Clock.
Every hour, hundreds of tourists gather in front of the Old Town Hall with their cameras at the ready, waiting to watch Prague’s Astronomical Clock chime.
When the clock hits the hour mechanical figures on the sides of the clock become animated and two windows open up, revealing 12 apostles. There’s also a skeleton ringing a bell, a Turk shaking his head, a miser with a purse full of money, and “vanity” looking in a mirror. The whole performance ends with the crowing of a golden rooster and the ringing of the huge bell at the top of the tower.
In the Middle Ages the fascinating performance was considered one of the wonders of the world, and it still amazes people today, with the procession of apostles, moving statues and unique visualisation of time. At 3pm we stood and watched the clock hit the hour – check out this video to see the clock in action.
As we continued to wander around the city, I snapped away on my Samsung Galaxy S6. Some of the buildings were so beautiful, and there were so many intricate details.
Crossing the Charles Bridge.
Next we headed over to the Charles Bridge, where we stood people watching for a while. There were hundreds of other tourists with their selfie sticks, locals hurrying through the crowds as quickly as they could, and street artists selling their beautiful sketches and paintings of Prague from the sides of the bridge.
The famous Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava, the river through the middle of the city. It was commissioned by King Charles IV and construction for it began in 1357, with Charles’ favourite architect and builder, Peter Parler, overseeing the majority of the work.
The initial idea was to build a functional construction for knight tournaments, and for many years the only decoration on the bridge was a simple crucifix. Later, the Catholic desire for ornamentation resulted in 30 statues being erected between 1600 and 1800. Today there is 75 statues on the bridge, but most of them are copies, as floods and catastrophes over the centuries have damaged the originals. Here are just a few of them:
Once we were the other side of the bridge we headed towards the Petrin Tower. On our travels we came across an interesting character out to get coffee…
Climbing the Petrin Tower.
Standing proud at the top of Petrin Hill is Petrin Observation Tower – a mini replica of Paris’ Eiffel Tower. Built in 1891 for the Jubilee Exhibition, the tower itself is only 60m tall, which doesn’t seem particularly high. But it does sit at the summit of Petrin Hill, which is 318m high and very steep (my little legs needed a rest on more than one occasion on the way up).
The views from the tower were stunning though, well worth the climb up the 299 steps to the top.
Exploring Prague Castle.
After a much-needed sit down and break for lunch (which was the tastiest goulash I’ve ever eaten), we headed off in search of the infamous Prague Castle.
The Prague Castle (Pražský Hrad) is the largest castle complex in the world, and the buildings represent virtually every architectural style of the last millennium. It includes the very Gothic St Vitus Cathedral, the Romanesque Basilica of St George, a monastery and several palaces, gardens and defense towers. Most of the castle area is open to tourists, and we had a good wander around:
If you ever get a chance to visit, don’t forget to look up – some of the details are so intricate and detailed, their beauty will take your breath away.
Sunset over Prague.
It was getting late and cold in the early evening, so after exploring the Prague Castle grounds we headed back over Charles Bridge – just in time to see the most beautiful wintry sunset I’ve ever seen:
Prague Old Town Square at sunset.
Back into the Prague Old Town Square, we headed to a wine cellar bar for a cocktail and a few beers – it was a little pricey, but it was a well-deserved reward after all the walking Solo and I had down.
Once we resurfaced back into the square, it was like stepping into Wonderland.
Throngs of people were standing around chatting animatedly against the backing track of a pianist, who had entranced a large circle of bystanders with a beautiful rendition of Gary Jules’ Mad World. At the same time a street artist was blowing large bubbles into the air, which were being chased by a handful of kids, wrapped up in layers of hats, scarves and mittens. And the whole scene was lit by the beautiful winter sunset.
After our first day exploring Prague, the second day we headed off in search of the Dolní Morava Skywalk – you can read all about that in my other post.
Prague in the mist.
The third day was our last before flying back to London, and despite only seeing a handful of Prague’s main attractions, we decided to take it easy. We’d had a long and tiring day getting to the Skywalk (plus a pretty bumpy journey home), so were in no rush to wake up and leave the hotel (especially as it looked so grey outside).
When we did eventually get our arses in gear and get into the city centre, it was like a completely different place to 48 hours previously. Just look at the haunting views looking across to the Charles Bridge – you can’t even see Prague Castle for the low mist:
Finding the John Lennon Wall.
Once back across the bridge, we headed off in search of the John Lennon Wall. I’m a massive fan of street art, and hadn’t seen so much around central Prague, so after reading on TripAdvisor about the John Lennon Wall covered in graffiti and art, I was keen to find it.
Set just around the corner from the John Lennon pub, what was once a normal wall, has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and lyrics from Beatles’ songs since the early 1980s.
The wall continuously undergoes change and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under layers of new paint. Even when the wall was repainted by the authorities, on the second day it was again full of poems and flowers. Today the wall represents a symbol of global ideals of love and peace.
Dětský Ostrov park.
After a bite to eat at a gorgeous riverside cafe, we headed back out into the January drizzle, with no plan and no place to go. We ended up in a beautiful park though, set on an island in the middle of the Vltava river. Dětský Ostrov, or Child’s Island as it’s also known, is accessible by a bridge that is arched so that larger steamboats can pass beneath it from the adjacent lock chamber.
At the northern tip of the island is a bronze allegorical statue of the Vltava River on a plinth decorated with reliefs depicting four girls representing its tributaries. The island offers sports facilities for all ages, including a children’s playground (which Solo really enjoyed, as seen in this video clip).
After this, it was time to head back to the hotel and collect our bags, before setting off to the airport. We managed to see a lot of Prague (and Dolní Morava) in a beautiful wintry weekend, but I’d love to go back and see some more.