Monday, December 30, 2013

Eurotrip (Chapter 2): Czech Republic - Prague

Chapter 2: Praha Sojourn

We woke-up to a bright sunny morning in our dorm in Prague (capital of Czech Republic for the uninitiated). The hostel dorm here was much larger and the breakfast had more options than Cinema Hostel of Krakow. Rohan had joined us from his bungee jumping detour and was already asking us to join him for sky diving. We decided to avoid the topic for time being and went out to see the city.

First  spot - the old town square (Staromestske namesti) of Prague. Like most other European capitals, old town plaza in Prague is the heart of the city and overflowing with tourists. Each building in the square is rich with history, full of colors and a treat for your eyes. The buildings are mostly gothic in architecture with elaborate designs on brightly painted fronts.

The Gothic architecture of Prague
The cobbled streets are overflowing with cafes, excited tourists, and street performers – the best of all European experiences. And no description of Prague town center could be complete without the Astronomical Clock. It is most recommended sightseeing spot of Prague and is bang at the centre of the square. The clock is an intricate piece of machinery with roman numerals and zodiac signs, all overlapping in an indecipherable way (at least to the untrained eye). There are four animated figures (each representing one sin or something similar) around the clock that do a periodic motion every hour when the bell rings.  This results in an amusing drama every hour as tourists rush to capture the clock figures in motion. (The most competitive clickers seemed to be Chinese/Koreans and yeah I am a bit racist)

The famous astronomical tower of Prague
After spending a leisurely morning at the central plaza, we decided to roam around and see more of the city. A small walk down one of the lanes from the old square took us to Vltava River and Charles Bridge. Charles Bridge has a series of more than 20 statues each with their own stories. One of the statues was shinier than others; the reason being that it is believed to bring luck to those who touch it and thousands of people caressing it daily will of course give it better shine than the best of polish. From the bridge we could see one of the largest castles across the river, the Prague Castle. On our way back, we came across an old war memorial, that had WWII (1938-1945) engraved, reminding us that for Czech the WWII started before most of the world.

The memorial that reminds all of us that World War II was a 7-year war for the Czech natives
Next day me and Tauseef started with a trip to the castle that had enchanted us from across the river last night. (Rohan was again missing as he had gone for sky diving, and we as usual wanted to avoid anything that could get our adrenaline pumping)
Night view of the Prague Castle
We took one of the local walking tours that starts from city square and takes you around in the castle - the guide giving you snippets of history and trivia about each building. Prague Castle is a massive structure built at the top of a hill overlooking the city. The castle is not one building but a city inside city. There are cathedrals, monastery, administrative buildings and gardens all inside the castle. You can get a brilliant view of Prague from the top – orange roof tops, the parallel bridges, a huge old network jammer (relic of communist regime), and far-away sky scrapers of modern Praha.

Panoramic view of the city
This evening we decided to do the famed pub crawl of Prague. The pub hopping concept is simple; you pay 20 Euros for entry in 5 pubs/discs and a welcome drink at each pub. Our pub crawl had unlimited free drinks for an hour in the first pub (Vodka, Absinthe and Beer), with the disclaimer that if you drink too much and can’t walk after that, you will miss all the action to come later. The best thing about the pub crawl is you get a chance to meet fellow travelers (mostly backpackers) from across the world. Our group was around 40 strong and by third pub, three of us had gotten split as we all ended up making new friends and joining different groups. The trip ended at Karlovy Lazne, the self proclaimed “largest club in Central Europe”. This is a five storey building, very near to Charles Bridge. Each floor had a distinct style and different music theme – Contemporary, Jazz, Metal, 70s, and Pop; effectively turning Karlovy Lazne into 5 clubs for price of one.
Next morning we woke up late - after effects of late-night partying. There were still places left to visit in the city like Jewish Quarter and the dancing house – but we decided to give those a ditch for another couple of hours at old town square. This time we took a different route to the old town square and did a much leisurely walk. We ended up buying some very beautiful and reasonably priced trinkets for our sisters on the way. We also enjoyed an amazing performance by one-man-band; his music as joyous and lively as the city itself.  

We ended our Prague visit at the place we started and our favorite spot in the city – the old town square
A rare photo of all three of us together - Just chilling
The evening train took us to our next destination, Budapest. More in the next chapter: 

Tale of two cities – Buda & Pest

Things to do and see
1. Take the walking tour that takes you around the city
2. Visit the Prague Castle
3. Spend a lot of time at the city center and just enjoy the atmosphere
4. Do the pub crawl - if you want to meet new people and party

Photo Gallery

To be continued….

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