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Exploring Prague

   

There's a train line that goes from Cesky Krumlov to Prague but it is a slow local service that stops at every small town along the way, so Tom drove us to Ceske Budejovice where we could catch an express train. After our good-byes to Tom, we boarded our train and spent a relaxing 2 1/2 hour ride to Prague.

Tom, our driver and guide

We say goodbye to Tom, our driver, guide and guardian angel.

The train stopped in Prague's main rail station in the center of town. From there, Nora figured out how to access the local subway system which deposited us about 1/4 mile from our hotel. Then Duncan led us thru the twisting maze of small streets and back alleys to our hotel, the Cloister Inn Hotel. That was our home base for the next day and a half as we explored the city of Prague. That first evening we just walked around the old town shopping district and over to the main square (Staromestske namesti) where we all had supper together at an expensive open air café. Food in Prague was a lot more expensive than the small towns in the countryside. We were experiencing sticker shock.

Panorama of Prague's main square

Here's a panoramic view of Prague's main square, the Staromestke namesti.
You can click on the photo for a larger sized version that opens in a new browser window (123k in size).

The next day each couple went off exploring the town by themselves. Diane and I hit as many highlights as we could in our short 12 hour time limit. The main sights we saw, in approximate chronological order:

1) the old Jewish quarters, which Hitler himself preserved rather than demolish so that he could turn it into a museum.

2) the main town square (Staromestske namesti) with all its shopping and the oft touted astronomical clock. The clock goes thru an animated sequence every hour. A large crowd gathers to watch and videotape the action. I wasn't very impressed with the clock. In fact I was very disappointed in the whole thing. I remember watching a much better clock in a main square of Munich many years ago.

> The astronomical clock in the main square of Prague. It goes thru an animated sequence every hour and then chimes the hour. On the hour a great assemblage of humanity gathers at the foot of the clock to watch and photograph the show.


I wasn't too impressed with the animation. Most of the action happened behind the two windows just above the upper dial. The skeleton figure, just to the right of the upper dial, would also shake and rattle a little.

The astronomical clock

3) the Charles Bridge, the main connection from the city to the Mala Strana district and the Prague Castle. It only handles pedestrian traffic. It is like an open air shopping district with all the sidewalk vendors along its length. The bridge towers at either end are open for sightseeing. You can climb the steep circular stone steps inside the towers to the top where you can look down and watch the throngs of humanity pass over the bridge.

The Charles Bridge is a major tourist sight. It is the main pedestrian connection between the two sides of the Vltava River. It leads all the tourists over to the Prague Castle on the other side of the river. You can see it behind Diane, along withbthe castle which is just above her head. You can climb the towers at either end of the bridge for a great view of the bridge, river, and castle.

Vltava River and Charles Bridge
View from Charles Bridge

4) the Prague Castle and its gardens, a humongous structure that dominates the hillside it's built on. While it is still the seat of the Czech government and houses the offices of the president, the public is free to roam thru its many courtyards and alleys. It is like a small town within its walls. Adjacent to the north is an equally large garden area. Not a whole lot of flowers in the garden area, mostly large expanses of lawns and bushes.

Main entrance to Prague castle

This is the main or front entrance to the Prague Castle. There is a "changing of the guard" ceremony every hour. At noon the ceremony is more elaborate with a parade and brass ensemble. We missed it all.

St Vitus cathedral exterior

The exterior of St. Vitus cathedral in the center of the castle. Its foundation stone was laid way back in 1344 but it wasn't fully finished till 1929. That's right, about 600 years in the making.! It's the country's largest cathedral.

Prague castle gardens

Part of the castle gardens.

St. Vitus cathedral interior

An interior view of St. Vitus cathedral.

5) the Petrinska rozhledna, a viewing tower (built for the 1891 Prague Exhibition) which is similar to, but much shorter than, the Eiffel tower. It is located on Petrin hill across the river from the main city of Prague and affords one great views of downtown Prague, the Vltava River, and the Prague castle. To get back down the hill we took the funicular railway, a cable car that ran along the hillside.

The Petrinska rozhledna

< The Petrinska rozhledna at the top of Petrin Hill across the river from the city. You can climb to the top observation deck and get a great panoramic view of Prague.

 

> To get back down Petrin Hill, you can take the funicular and save the stress on your legs and knees.

The funicular

Pano view from viewing tower

This is the panoramic view from the top of the tower.
You can click on the photo for a larger sized version that opens in a new browser window (143k in size).

All in all we did a whole lot of walking visiting all the sights we saw. It was the easiest way to get around. We also took a trolley car or two to cover some longer distances faster. The town's public transportation system was great. The only problem was reading the signs and figuring out how things worked. For instance, the first time the trolley stopped in front of us we stood there and waited for the door to open. We would have waited a long time. In fact, the trolley would have taken off without us had a local not been there and pushed the button on the outside of the trolley to open the door. We had no idea. There was probably a sign there but we couldn't read it!

The next day a taxi took us to Prague Airport for our flights back home.

   
 
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last revised : February 12, 2006