While my parents were visiting, we took a trip to Prague to get a chance to experience the land of castles, cheap beer, and cheap food for ourselves.
Going to Prague definitely felt like going to another world, the city felt the most foreign to me compared to the others I have visited.
My favorite part of the trip was the scenery, everywhere we walked there were Gothic buildings and at night the entire castle was lit up high on the hill. Plus the hills were covered in foliage which made the whole view very serene despite being in a huge city. I had originally thought Prague was a small city and I did not realize that Prague actually has a much higher population than Amsterdam.
We started off our first day with lunch at a restaurant along the river Vltava, our first meal coupled with beautiful weather did not disappoint. After lunch we met up with a tour guide who gave us a tour of the city, half of it was a bus ride (which I slept through after waking up for our early flight), and the other half was a walking tour of the castle and surrounding area. Besides the beautiful architecture of the castle, which really is like a showcase of all different architectural styles, what I found most surprising was that the President lives and works in the Castle and visitors can walk right through it. I asked the tour guide about this seemingly surprising fact to which he simply replied “Our president is not like the president of the United States.” Partially he meant that their president does not have the same job function as ours, but also that their President is a respected person and people simply want to visit the castle for pleasure. Exiting the castle we walked into a vineyard which has spectacular views of the city, river, and surrounding hills. We winded down the vineyard into Valdštejnská Zahrada which is a garden where several peacocks live. The all just mosey about the garden all day, along with all the people! From here we walked to the Charles Bridge which was the first bridge built connecting the two sides of the river. It is decorated with statues of saints and Jesus Christ. At the other side of the bridge is Old Town Square where we were lucky to get to be among the last few people to see the oldest working Astronomical Clock Cuckoo show which sadly closed for construction a few days after we left the city. One girl we met made a joke that it is one of the most disappointing tourist attractions in Europe, which many be true regarding the cuckoo clock show which lasted less than a minute, but the clock itself is highly impressive. Our town ended here and we set off in search of a typical Czech dinner. We quickly found a pub with a stone facade that served our first of many meals of with potatoes and beer.
While in Prague, we discovered that Prague has its own mini Eiffel Tower called the Petřín Lookout Tower. We planned to take the tram that goes up the hill to the observation tower but when we got there we realized the tram was closed, undiscouraged we trekked up the hill to the tower and allowed ourselves to ride the elevator up the tower to the top. The views from the top were spectacular and we were able to look down into the castle where we had been the day before. As I said, my favorite part of the trip was the scenery. We could see far and wide across the Czech Republic’s many hills and rivers all adorned with foliage. After our descent down the steps of the tower this time and back down the hill we ended up on a narrow cobblestone road. We immediately noticed the number of security cameras lining the street and were a little nervous questioning where we had ended up. As we continued down the street in search of the John Lennon wall, we realized why there was so much security… the U.S. Embassy was on that street. After we jokingly took many pictures with the door and insane amount of security cameras, we saw a huge sign that said “No Photography.” Whoops! While in Amsterdam, to ease my mom’s mind, I showed her where the U.S. Embassy was, the building also has much higher gates and security than any of the other surrounding embassies.
Eventually we ended up at the John Lennon Wall. The John Lennon wall was a place where after John Lennon’s murder, a mural was painted of him. Being a world-wide symbol of peace, many people turned to this wall for peaceful and political messaging during the days of communism in the country. Since then people continue to leave messages (mostly of peace) along the wall and it adds a lot of color to an otherwise quiet street. After visiting the wall and paying respects, we visited a modern art museum that has various statues along the river. To fuel our tourist adventures we headed to Bohemia Bagels to get some lunch and coffee. We ventured back over the Charles Bridge taking our time to chat with street vendors and admire the statues. Ending back up in Old Town Square we explored all the tiny, winding, cobblestone streets that speak to the age of the city. One of the interesting topics we discussed in my Medieval history course was the fact that many of the streets we walk today in Europe have been there since Medieval times, few streets and buildings in the cities have changed since they are literally set in stone. We even grabbed dinner, again complete with potatoes, in a stone cellar below Old Town Square where there was live, traditional Czech music.
On our last full day in the city we ventured over to the Jewish Quarter of the city and visited the Old New Synagogue which is the oldest active Synagogue in Europe. It was really something to see the inside of a Synagogue when in most other cities I have visited Cathedrals. After walking down their fancy shopping street we visited the Gallery of Art Prague which had a Dali exhibit and Warhol exhibit. I had seen Dali at the Moco Museum in Amsterdam but the collection here was expansive and even impressed my dad who says he is now a fan of Dali. The exhibit of Warhol was impressive as well and talked a lot about his family’s Czech history and his experiences as an artist in America. By the third day we were tired of potatoes, and decided to go to an Italian Restaurant for lunch. I ordered a calamari salad, guess what came on top… potatoes. Continuing onto the next museum, we visited the Museum of Communism. Not knowing too much about this period of history, it was great to walk through with my parents who knew a little more. After walking the streets of Prague for a few days, there was no denying our craving for a “chimney” or “trdelník.” Around every corner there are little shops and stands selling Trdelníks which are a round pastry, mimicking a chimney made from dough coated in sugar and cinnamon and cooked on a stick over a fire, the pastry is then filled with whatever you desire! They were delicious and the perfect treat on the chilly afternoon. We also caved and gave into the foot massages that were advertised everywhere after spending the last week walking all day. However, the lady who gave me mine was super rough and kept poking my feet with this stick, I had to ask her several times to be more gentle, she did not stop and even sat on my legs… I thought my knees were going to break!
Again in our pursuit to find a meal without potatoes we went to an Italian Restaurant. It was probably one of the nicest places I’ve ever been to. It was on a boat docked on the river and was all windows on the top deck. We had a perfect view of the castle which we enjoyed over salad, soup, pizza, and wine and thankfully no potatoes. It was a bittersweet ending to our trip together. I wish my parents and I could have continued exploring Europe together but I am beyond thankful that they came over here and took me on a trip with them.