West to East Micronesia China Mongolia Russia Baltic Region Visegrad Region Balkan Penninsula East to West Ancient Civilizations Straddling the Straight Southern Africa Eastern Africa Ethiopia United Arab Emirates South Asia Crossing Photo Album Trip Logistics Itinerary Transport Logs Route Maps About Us
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

Czech Republic Flag CZECH REPUBLIC


September 24. PRAGUE  Our first impression of Prague hadn't been exactly glowing but by day it was a different place.  The old town area in the center of Prague was quaint and bustling.  After finding a Citibank and stocking up on funds we headed for the old town square, Staromĕstské nám, and settled into two lattes.  It was still early but the square was coming to life with tourists, beginning to queue up for the hourly show provided by massive Gothic astronomical clock (1410) when the twelve apostles paraded across its top and other figures from angels to skeletons danced along the sides to herald another hour.  We climbed the tower of the old town hall above the great clock and watched people lounging in cafes on the square and got our first view of Prague Castle, a 9th century citadel on a hill across the Vltava River with the glorious French Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral (1344) dominating its interior.

We wandered the streets of old town, taking the Art Nouveau delights of Prague's architecture.  The promenade called Wenceslas Square led to the beautiful National Museum building with a valiant looking St. Wenceslas on horseback positioned in front.  We didn't spot any "professional" women but we weren't looking for them either. The search for the National Bank met with some dead ends before we finally located right place.  The one woman in charge of collector coins was not at work the first day so we were advised to come back at 9am the next morning.  Across the street from the National Bank stood the highlight of Art Nouveau in Prague, the Obceni Dům, or Municipal House (1912) that was the venue for classical music concerts and housed a nice gift shop and lively cafe.  Touts in front tried to lure us in to buy tickets.  We initially passed on the idea but after some consideration returned to buy tickets to a performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons given by the Vivaldi Orchestra Praha in the Municipal House's Smetana Hall.  We were in Bohemian, home of Dvorak and Smetana, but Vivaldi's Four Seasons is always nice.

The weather was clear but it had taken a turn to the colder.  I had to buy a small sweater to keep from freezing.  I had the feeling of a cold coming on and wanted to stave it off so Marks and Spencer's helped.  We were nearly in October but after the hot spell that we were left with in Krakow it was an abrupt adjustment, the difference some mountains could make. 

With a date with Vivaldi confirmed we still had a few hours to kill so we took the subway out to visit Vyšehrad Citadel on the outer edge of town, overhanging the Vltava River so the south.  It provided exceptional views over Prague and across the river to Prague Castle.  The most memorable contents of the citadel were the neo-Gothic SS Peter and Paul Church (1885 - 1903) and the attached cemetery where both Dvorak and Smetana were buried.  But, we devoted most of our time to walking the length of the wall and sitting to take in the view.  As the sun started to go down we made our way back in time to stop off at our hotel and spruce up before heading back into town.  We were finding food in Prague a bit on the pricey side and lunch had consisted of kebab sandwiches and dinner was at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Across from KFC we had time to take in a large glass store, Prague was full of Bohemian glass vendors, before making our performance.

The Vivaldi performance was a great treat for us.  The interior of Smetana Hall was lovely with soft images and mirrors but I still think the exterior of the Municipal House was the more impressive.  The room was hardly full which made the performance by the small orchestra feel intimate in spite of the large room.  Taking in some of musical culture in Prague seemed very fitting - in a city with some of the most well preserved architectural beauty in Europe and rich Bohemian art history it inspired you to want to get more cultured. 

Leaving the Municipal House we walked into the old town square and saw fireworks bursting out over head.  It was a clear night and from near the river bank something was being celebrated.  We just stood and watched, debated whether to try and make it to the river before the show ended.  In the end we just stayed and watched the explosions of light illuminate the black sky while people sat in the cafes drinking coffee and chatting away.

September 25. PRAGUE  We made a valiant effort at getting to the National Bank at 9:00 and reached it at 9:30, only to find out that they were already sold out of the coin we wanted.  The cashier, however, was very helpful in getting us some crisp notes of different denominations, even one that was no longer in wide circulation.  

We didn't waste anymore time getting to the Charles Bridge since getting there earlier was the key to seeing a peaceful and not tourist packed bridge.  We didn't quite make it.  By the time we reached the bridge it was already in full swing with tourist and souvenir vendors galore.  Still the obscene mass of tourists that we had been led to expect in Prague hadn't really materialized.  But considering that is was beyond the peak tourist season there were still many people visiting the city.  At least the Octoberfest Express was dying out and the "let's visit Prague and Krakow before drinking ourselves silly in Munich" bunch had dwindled somewhat.  

The morning was clear and sunny and even with the crowds and vendors all over the Charles Bridge it is a wonderful sight.  Originally built in 1357 the statues of Christ and Saints that flank the pedestrian bridge were added in the 18th century.  The devout lined up to touch the base of one statue.  A colorful group of middle aged Taiwanese tourists were hard to miss.  They were wearing purple jackets and headbands with sunglasses.  Half way across the bridge they set a small boom box on the wall of the bridge and began dancing to Chinese music.  

We leisurely strolled across the bridge into Prague's Hradcany area with Prague Castle towering above us.  A small smoky coffee shop gave us a morning boost before we hiked the cobblestone street to the castle entrance.  The highlight of the visit to the castle was, by far, the striking St. Vitus Cathedral, whose French Gothic spires give the castle such a dramatic look from across the river.  It was started in 1344 but wasn't finished until 1929! The cavernous interior glowed with the light shining through the exquisitely detailed stained glass windows.  The tomb of Good King Wenceslas stood on the southern side, the Chech Republic's patron saint.  As the story goes, King Wenceslas spread Christianity with fervor and accepted submission to the German King Henry I.  These traits led to Wenceslas being murdered by his brother.  When miracles were reported from Wenceslas' grave his brother had his remains entombed in St. Vitus Cathedral.

The 287 steps up the Great Tower of St. Vitus cathedral are still being felt by my legs!  The narrow spiraling staircase was a healthy hike and only months of daily walking made me fit enough to keep up a stead pace to the top.  We arrived, panting, at the top and had passed a good number of people who were wedged into the sides of the staircase trying to catch their breath.  After such a hearty effort to get up there we enjoyed the views from the tower for a good long while before making the hike down again.  And, the views were worth the exercise.

The tour of the Old Royal Palace, absent of hardly any furniture, was not really all that inspiring but the balconies and cool interior gave us several opportunities to rest and read our guidebook.  On the west end of the castle's third courtyard, where the Gothic Basilica of St. Vitus dominated the center and the Old Royal Palace looked over the city along the southern wall, stood the very old Baslica of St. George (1142), Prague's finest Romanesque Church.  The orange and white exterior were in sharp contrast to the start stone interior.  A curious tomb on the south side included a entire human skeleton encased in a glass box.

At the end of the castle complex we visited the quaint little Golden Lane. A fairytale row of tiny colorful homes nestled up against each other, a 16th century quarter for tradesmen within the castle walls.  There we warmed ourselves over a good lunch of soup served in a bread bowl and then strolled the little shops that now occupy the homes.  The most historically significant of the group was the blue closet sized home (No. 22) that once belonged to Franz Kafka, where he had lived and worked from 1916 to 1917.

From the castle we wove our way back down the hillside and found a perfect place to stop for coffee at a small cafe along the river, looking up at the Charles Bridge.  Our frequent need to take breaks was being brought on by the flu bug we both seemed to be catching.  We didn't make it any farther than the Old Town Square on the other side of the bridge for plopping into our favorite cafe for some ice cream.  The rest of the day we spent what energy we had left looking through some of the glass shops in Old Town. Dinner amounted to a Polish hotdog on Wenceslas Square on our way back to the hotel.

POLAND Warsaw Sept 16-17 Krakow Sept 18 Sept 19 Sept 20 Sept 21-22

CZECH REPUBLIC Prague Sept 23 Sept 24-25 Cesky Krumlov Sept 26 Sept 27-30

AUSTRIA Vienna Oct 1 Oct 2

HUNGARY Budapest Oct 3 Oct 4 Oct 5-6