Today you get a bit of a bloggage as I’ve just come back from Prague, and figure if you ever go over there then you may find some advice handy. This goes from basic survival to a bit more about some of the museums, galleries and sights. From what I saw, it’s a great place, I’m in love with it and I would like you to meet this wonderful city too.
Prague Basic Survival
There are zebra and push button crossings, which are sometimes broadly ignored by cars. Make a sauntering go for it and hope the cars stop.
Many toilets in popular tourist areas charge you, so make sure you use the loo in cafes, museums etc before you leave them!
We had very humid weather and discovered that drinks are ridiculously expensive in popular areas, carry a water bottle and refill it where you can (in Golden Lane there’s a shop that sells bottled water at about four times the going rate, but we found a tap for public use) or pop into mini marts.
Pick up a good guide book that covers plenty of facts, so when you spot an odd sign, unusual building or lonesome memorial, you can discover what it is. There's a lot around the streets, so a guide helps. Also works well if you flick through the book beforehand as you’ll then look out for things you’d otherwise ignore. (And also, entertain the kids by seeing who can spot what things first when you enter an area, or sound very knowing to your mates)
First thing you do, take a guided tour. Check out options before you go as there are a lot on offer so be sure you get the right one for you, as there are a lot of guides touting for business on the street. New Europe free tours run off a tips basis, so you don’t feel bad if you decide you want to drop out partway, you only pay what you think is right for the service you had. The guide we had gave a very good feel for the Czech mentality (the choice of national anthem makes sense now) and Prague’s pride, as well as personal advise on where to eat and what to see, which all helped a lot as we explored the city ourselves.
Prague Attendant Advice
You can’t ‘DO’ Prague in three days, a day etc. You can make a list and race around the key sites, but you won't really experience Prague. If you allow yourself time to stop and relax, you may not see as much, but you’ll better appreciate and absorb what you are seeing.
If you head to somewhere by one route, take another back, as it may be more haphazard but you’ll find yet more interesting bits and bobs, quieter cafes and different shops (and less marauding tour mobs) on the side streets.
Charles Bridge and the castle by night are amazing, when beautifully lit you get a real feel for the scale of the castle complex over the city and how the river flows through Prague. Also much easier to admire the 31 statues in mid evening without the artists, bands, jewellery stalls...
Of course we did the castle, and chose the short visit ticket, which gets entry to four areas. We chose short visit as we had a leisurely morning and explored a bit of lesser town on the way up and down. Tickets cover two days though, so you can pop back if you start to flag.
At Golden Lane explore all the doors, as not everything is signposted and we almost missed the Alchemist’s den and a full walkway of armour. I was very pleasantly surprised by this area, expecting only shops but finding great snapshots of how people lived in the area and why it grew up. I see why it's a 'must see'. The walkway is exciting but odd, all manner of weapons, armour, yet no signage, labels... I think it was all replica as some items were greek, 'viking' etc but I have no idea why or wherefore it was in the castle.
St Vitus’ Cathedral is a bit of an exercise in timing to avoid being swept along by the herds, so if the queue is well out of the door, go and do something else. Also, the rear is free to enter, so you can pop in and see how busy it is before you hand over your ticket and enter the main areas. We popped back in a second time at the end of the day, just to admire the stained glass again.
At the castle take time to drop into the stag moat, it feels a million miles from the tourists and tour groups, recharges your batteries and offers other views and insights. Despite the official website only offering two sentences on it, it's a great way to quell the rising urge to kill. Incidentally, one of the previous kings would ‘hunt’ deer by firing his crossbow from the windows.
The Jewish Quarter Museums: Main point, if you aren’t allowed to take pictures, and there are signs saying not to, and people asking you not to, then be respectful and don’t try and take pictures.
Secondary point, while in The Pinkas Synagogue, memorial to almost 80,000 murdered Jews, and the Old Jewish Cemetery, resting place for generations of the community, be there fully. Don’t be taking pictures, chatting to mates, querying where your group is going next – be in the place and take in what it represents. Or leave, so you don’t destroy the experience for others.
I recommend Pinkas, the Cemetery and then The Spanish Synagogue as that order gives you angry/disappointed, restful then hopeful. A potentially quite draining and effecting experience, but one very worth taking the time over.
As a sort of summary, Prague offers just so much, you could go there again and again and not do the same thing twice. Yet it also offers such an amazing atmosphere that some things call you back to them to see them a second time.
You can scratch an art itch and visit the many galleries owned by the state and private collections. Tour the palaces, castle, halls and feel stately and grand. Spend days in churches, monasteries, convents, cathedrals. Overload on art noveau with the Mucha museum, Municipal house, hotels, cafes, houses, statues. Hop from private garden to river bank to vineyard to public park to hillside with all of the open spaces offering drinks, food, entertainment. Then there’s the walking tours, classic car tours, ghost tours, private ‘what do you want to see?’ tours. Oh, and the opera, classical concerts, organ recitals, choirs, black theatre, puppet shows...
Prague really is a something for everyone city, large enough for the possibilities to feel endless, yet small enough to welcome you like an old friend.
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