Prague, The Czech Republic

Does Prague Really Rival Paris?

          In a word…Yes!  In two words…heck Yes!  Don’t get me wrong, I love Paris, which in many ways is incomparable, but if you haven’t been to Prague, then it should be near the top of your list of destinations for your next trip to Europe.  It’s easily accessible by train and I had the pleasure of visiting Prague for the third time on my recent circuit around Europe.  Considering my great appreciation for this fabulous city, it should be no surprise that I chose a shot of the Charles Bridge and the Old Town for one of the lead pictures on my website (see above).  Now you have some idea what’s in store for you when you visit Prague.

Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

Charles Bridge, Prague

Wenceslas Square, Prague

Wenceslas Square, Prague

Fun on the Train 

          The seven hour trek from Nuremberg to Prague was a pleasant reminder of why I love traveling by train.  It gave me an opportunity to view some of the most beautiful countryside of Germany and the Czech Republic from the window of the compartment which I shared with a wonderful group of fun loving Germans.  Included in my new circle of friends were two young ladies (teachers) heading out for a vacation in Prague with their bicycles who kept us laughing all the way.  There was an older German woman who regaled us with tales of her youth during the war years.  Rounding out our traveling group was a young businessman, who, along with me, was getting quite a kick out of the ladies.  When my new traveling companions found out that I spoke a little German, they insisted that we speak only German for the rest of the trip so that I could brush up on my skills.  This turned out to be a great experience for me, especially with two German teachers to tutor me…and I was surprised at how well I did.  When we had to switch trains at the border, they all wanted to keep our little group together, so we soon found ourselves in the same compartment again on the next train.  Mingling with the locals is one of my favorite things about traveling and in my opinion there is no better way to learn about other cultures and other counties.

Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic

Old Town Square, Prague

          I remember once on another trip being on a crowded train going through the beautiful Austrian countryside.  Of the six in our compartment there were two American college ‘boys’ traveling together, sitting across from one another in the window seats.  I was the only other American in our group and thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the others in the compartment.  I watched as one of the non-American passengers tried unsuccessfully several times to engage the American fellows in conversation.  They were both reading books (probably about wizards) and not paying any attention even to the beautiful landscape passing by just outside their windows.  Each time someone tried to speak to them, they removed their ear buds with a look of slight annoyance and replied, “What?” and then answered in one or two words.  What a wasted opportunity!

Astronomical Clock, Prague

Astronomical Clock, Prague

Sensory Overload

          I found a nice place to stay not far from the train station called the Hotel City Inn for $52, including breakfast.  I was soon out to conquer the city that rivals Paris on a beautiful afternoon and evening.  Prague has a decent metro system, but I found it fairly easy to see most of the sights on foot.  The city straddles the Vltava River, a tributary of the Elbe River, with the Old Town (Stare Mesto) on the east side and Prague Castle on the west side.  The picturesque Charles Bridge joins the two banks and is probably the most famous landmark, if not the symbol of Prague.  Wenceslas Square on the east side near the train station is in the New Town and comprises the commercial center of Prague.

Prague Castle

Prague Castle

          It could take forever to make the short walk cross the Charles Bridge, which is only open to pedestrians, due to the crowds of tourists taking in the stellar views and the many artisans selling their wares along the way, but most of all because you don’t want the experience to end.  Once on the other side, it is a good hike up the hill to the Prague Castle, but well worth it for the view looking back down on the bridge and the Old Town.  Back on the other bank, the Old Town Square is the main center of activity and the location of many of the important landmarks.  A visit at night under the stars and lights is a visual delight.  The Astronomical Clock draws crowds for its hourly show and the spires of the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn form an awesome backdrop.  Be sure to save some time to visit the many elegant shops and bring home a piece of Bohemian crystal for which this area is known.

Prague Castle, Czech Republic

Prague Castle Across the Charles River