None of us had ever been to Prague before so the first day of our 3 days there was spent exploring the old town area, the famous Charles Bridge and eating traditional Czech food.
We all woke up around 8am after a late night the previous night. We hadn’t yet had time to shop yet due to getting in so late, but luckily we found lots of breaky supplies left by our Airbnb hosts. The kids were impressed with fresh fruit and yoghurt. It’s obviously the simple things when you have been travelling for a few weeks!
After our tram disaster of the previous night, we decided to once again brave the public transport system, and headed via tram into the old town of Prague. In daylight we did a better job of finding the correct tram stop, correct tram, and getting off where we actually wanted. We also managed to buy tickets before getting on the tram (which you can get at the Tabak shops). Prague trams were a bit of a shock after the very efficient public transport of Berlin. They are far from smooth, stopping and starting and jerking all over the place. Prague is full of hills, we were somewhat glad we weren’t doing a bike tour here!
We jumped off our tram in old town, near Charles Bridge…….. us and about 50,000 other tourists! We hadn’t had to fight off too many crowds. Prague was the first place that was really busy. The old town area and the bridge area were a swarm of tourists – day and night. It may have been because our visit coincided with the Christmas and New Year period, or it always might be that busy. If you’ve been to Prague at a different time of year, let me know – I’m curious!
We wandered into the main square of Old Town and admired the many old buildings and churches. Then, to the kids delight we found horses! The square was full of horses doing carriage rides. We weren’t planning on doing one in Prague but we did say hello to the horses.
There were some really good and busy Christmas markets, and a huge Christmas tree in the centre of the town square and a Christmas themed ‘viewing platform’ which gave us a good view of the whole square.
We also came across some buskers playing Czech music who were interesting to listen to. We would have stayed for longer but had to head over to the astronomical clock, which was going to chime at 11am.
The Prague astronomical clock or ‘Prague orloj’, is an astronomical clock was installed in 1410 and is the third oldest astronomical clock and oldest operating astronomical clock in the world. It is located on the southern wall of the Old Town Hall in Old Town Square. Hourly it chimes, and puts on a show of moving sculptures call ‘the walk of the apostles’. We were there from about 10 minutes to 11am and the crowd was rather thick. We all stood around waiting (by ‘we all’ I mine hundreds and hundreds of people). Staring at the clock. Right on the hour, the figures came out and did their thing. I was a bit far away to get any good photos, but you could see them move around and it was interesting, for about 15 seconds. After the short period of entertainment you could hear the crowd sigh. A collective wondering of ‘is that really it? why did we stand here so long?’. It is quite impressive for something over 600 years old, and the kids liked it. It was also free! Anto and I can attest that it is better than the ‘flower clock’ in Geneva, another over-rated attraction…..
Next it was time to check out the famous Charles Bridge. First though we wandered back through the cobblestoned streets towards the bridge. This area of old town had some lovely buildings, and a lolly shop that caught the kids eyes!
The Charles Bridge is one of Prague’s most famous landmarks. It crosses the Vltava River and was constructed in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV. The bridge is made of stone, in gothic-style and is 621 metres long and nearly 10 metres wide. It has 16 large arches, guarded by ice shields. It is protected by three bridge towers, 2 on the Less Quarter side and one on the Old Town side. Until 1841, Charles Bridge was the only means of crossing the river, and connecting Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town.
The bridge is a tourist mecca and the bridge was lined with vendors selling trinkets and souvenirs, and artists offering to draw or paint your picture. The view was certainly picturesque and it was selfie-stick heaven, with people facebooking and instagramming away everywhere we turned!
After our obligatory bridge photos, we headed back through old town and into Wenceslas square, which is the main city square (located in the new town) and one of the business and cultural precincts in the city. There was another Christmas market running and to the kids delight, a small petting zoo with a sheep, goat and donkey that were quite happy for pats!
We decided to have a Christmas market lunch in Wenceslas square. In hindsight, the markets in the Old Town square were bigger and significantly cheaper, but we were already in Wenceslas square and we wanted to get back to the apartment for a rest, so Wenceslas square it was. Alan, Mikl and Anto have ‘Old Prague Pork’ with a potato/bacon/cabbage dish called Halušky, plus bread. Astrid and Soren decided they would share that. Being a rather meaty dish, I decided instead to have a Smažený sýr (a grilled cheese and garlic thing) on bread. Since we clearly needed dessert, and we hadn’t yet tried Czech crepes, we shared crepes for dessert (which were quite were quite good).
While it was tempting to rest for the rest of the day, we wanted to see a little of Prague at night, particularly Charles Bridge. At 4pm we headed back towards Old Town via the now familiar tram we caught that morning.
We got off the tram at the Bridge, and despite it being dark (and not that warm) it was still just as busy as that morning. While the bridge and river were lovely at night, what was truly amazing was the views of Prague Castle at night. If you’ve never seen Prague Castle, it is enormous – perched up on a hill looking over the river. At night it is all lit up and one of the most spectacular scenes I’ve ever seen. Definitely worth a visit!
We then walked along the river a little for views back across the river and the huge flock of birds sitting on the concrete banks along the river. There were still lots of boats going up and down the river, and people milling everywhere. We were getting pretty hungry though so after our fill of the lovely scene we headed back into Old Town for dinner.
We headed back through Old Town to find a restaurant that was recommended in the booklet in our accommodation. It was a Czech pub and when we got there it was rather smoky. We are so used to not having to deal with smokers in restaurants in Australia, it always throws me when I go overseas and you are actually allowed to smoke while eating. Luckily the restaurant had a non-smoking section down the back that was much more pleasant, as long as you didn’t walk to the bar, which was a smoked filled chamber.
The restaurant does traditional Czech food. Anto and Mikl share an ‘Old Prague Plate’ which is enormous and has duck, sausage, pork medallion and smoked ham, bread dumpling, potato dumpling, bacon dumplings…… and red and white cabbage. It was enormous (and apparently very tasty!). Alan has goulash with dumplings. I decide on a Spanish omelette and salad, which again is enormous. Despite being quite full we decide to share an apple strudel with cream for dessert. The boys decide to have a local Czech beer, which were apparently also acceptable.
All stuffed to the gills, we headed back to our accommodation via tram. Just when we think we have the Prague trams worked out, we get off one stop too early meaning more walking for the day, which wasn’t ideal with tired legs! We manage to get back by about 8pm, and get the kids off to bed, ready for a big day of exploring Prague Castle and the Lesser Quarter, the next day.
Statistics for the 28th of December, 2015 – temperature was 5 to 10 with a mean of 8 (we still hadn’t had much actual cold weather)……. The total walking for the day was 12.25km, again Astrid walked all of it! The consumption of Czech food (and beer) was high. Our ability to understand Czech was non-existant!