Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague's Old Town Square.

From Friday, September 5th to Tuesday, September 30th, 2008, I traveled to Eastern and Central Europe, visiting the countries of Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Austria, with a one day stay in Paris on my way home. This trip report will be broken down into several sections: Prague, Krakow, Eger, Budapest, Ljubljana, Slovenia, Southern Austria, Vienna, Cesky Krumlov, and last but not least, Paris.

Day 1-Day 2 (Friday, September 5th and Saturday, September 6th, 2008)

After flying for over 20 hours on three different flights, I finally arrived at Prague's airport. From here, I had arranged for a driver to take me to the apartment in Prague I had rented. The drive from the airport to the historical center of town took about 20 minutes.

As I approached the center of town, the paved roads turned to cobblestone and that’s when I really began to feel excited. The city was absolutely stunning with many brightly colored different types of architectural styles including Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and Art Nouveau; they were a complete mismatch of buildings that when combined together, turned into something beautiful. Another thing that I noticed almost immediately was the mass hordes of tourists. It was actually quite surprising as I had not expected the sheer number of people that I saw.

When I arrived at Konza Apartments I was greeted by the friendly owner, Pasquale Gusmano. He walked me up the two flights of stairs to my apartment, which was huge and spacious! There were four rooms total: the bathroom, hallway, kitchen/dining room, and the large bedroom with a few seating areas. The best part of the apartment, though, was its amazing location, literally a two minute walk to the Old Town Square. I could not have found a more central or atmospheric location! I discovered that he had even included a few items in the fridge for me including a large bottle of water, a container of orange juice, and some milk. I was quite impressed with his level of thoughtfulness as I had never encountered anything quite like that before at any of my hotel or bed and breakfast stays. It’s the little things that can truly make a huge difference.
Konza Apartments in Prague.
Konza Apartments in Prague.
Konza Apartments in Prague.

Afterward, Pasquale took me on a quick introductory walk of the Old Town Square, pointing out important places like the nearby bank and Italian restaurant.

After Pasquale left, I walked back to the apartment, freshened up, and headed back onto the hot streets of Prague to fight my quickly looming jet lag. I was surprised at how warm it was; it was close to 90 degrees that day!

I first walked around the gorgeous Old Town Square, which was filled to the brim with tourists and way too many tour groups. I stopped in at two churches (Tyn Church and Church of St. Nicolas). From Tyn Church, I walked around the corner to Ungelt Courtyard, which seemed a peaceful world away from nearby madness of Old Town Square.
Church of St. Nicholas in Prague's Old Town Square.
Church of St. Nicholas in Prague's Old Town Square.
Interior of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague's Old Town Square.
Interior of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague's Old Town Square.
Door nob on the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague's Old Town Square.
Church of St. Nicholas in Prague's Old Town Square.
Tyn Church in Prague's Old Town Square.
The clock tower on Old Town Square in Prague.
Old Town Square in Prague.
The clock tower on Old Town Square in Prague.
The clock tower on Old Town Square in Prague.
Tyn Church in Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Ungelt Courtyard in Prague.
Beautiful building in Prague.
Beautiful building in Prague.

I continued walking until I reached the Church of St. James, which I had planned to tour the interior of, but was unable to as it was closed for the day.
Church of St. James in Prague.


I walked back to the main square and managed to take quite a few pictures of the stunning architecture. As mentioned previously, I was truly blown away with the variety of colorful styles that seemed to somehow mesh together so perfectly. From every vantage point in that square, all you could see was immaculately preserved buildings and churches. It was definitely one of the most beautiful settings I had ever seen (so far!) in my life.
Architecture in Prague's Old Town Square.
Architecture in Prague's Old Town Square.
Architecture in Prague's Old Town Square.
Architecture in Prague's Old Town Square.
Architecture in Prague's Old Town Square.
Architecture in Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.

After I finished touring Old Town Square, I decided to stop for lunch at the Italian place located next to my apartment called Giovanni’s Italian Restaurant. I ordered a margarita pizza with ham. The pizza was delicious and definitely authentically Italian! I guess I should have eaten some Czech food instead but it is very difficult for me to pass up real Italian pizza!

As the temperature continued to steadily increase, I decided to stop back at the apartment again so I could change clothes. The jet lag had completely set in at this point, but I wasn’t ready to give in yet as it was only around 13:00. Next, I set out for Charles Bridge, which was about a 15 minute walk from my apartment. The 500 year old bridge is probably Prague’s most defining landmark, and for that reason, is inundated with tourists. I was blown away with the number of people I saw on that bridge. Part of the crowd problem was due to the fact that the bridge was undergoing a massive restoration, and on some portions, there was only a small and narrow walkway available which created a very claustrophobic space. I decided I would revisit the bridge either early in the morning or later in the evening when I would probably encounter less people.
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague
Underneath the overpass at Charles Bridge in Prague.
Charles Bridge in Prague.
Charles Bridge in Prague.

At the far end of the bridge, I eventually reached the Little Quarter, which is a small but charming neighborhood perched below the Prague Castle. I took a detour from here, heading left towards Kampa Island, which is an island that features a large park and lots of beautifully preserved homes and businesses. As I was walking through the Kampa neighborhood, I happened upon a large mural that was covered in many different forms of colorful graffiti. Most of it was peace related, or “I was here” type stuff. I later read that the mural is called the Lennon Wall and was started the day after John Lennon was killed in 1980. Apparently, in the first few weeks of the mural, the police repainted the wall every night in an attempt to curb the graffiti, but their efforts became fruitless as more and more messages were painted on each day.
Little Quarter in Prague.
Little Quarter in Prague.
Little Quarter in Prague.
Little Quarter in Prague.
Little Quarter in Prague.
Little Quarter in Prague.
Little Quarter in Prague.
Little Quarter in Prague.
John Lennon Wall in Prague.
John Lennon Wall in Prague.
John Lennon Wall in Prague.

Kampa Island in Prague.
Kampa Island in Prague.
Kampa Island in Prague.
Kampa Island in Prague.
Kampa Island in Prague.
Kampa Island in Prague.

After walking through Kampa Island, I walked back over the crowded Charles Bridge. Instead of following the route I had walked from my apartment, I detoured to the right and took the quiet way back. Many of the small side streets I walked on were empty, which was quite strange from the deranged scene I had just come from. At this point, I began to experience the side effects of severe jet lag. I was stumbling as I walked, and everything began to feel surreal to me, so I knew that my attempt to battle the jet lag was over and needed to sleep immediately. Right before I arrived at my apartment, I walked down Havelska Street, which houses an open air market every day. There were many stalls filled with interesting items that I would have liked to view more closely, but I was too tired to do so!
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague

When I arrived back at the apartment I crashed immediately. I don’t think I have ever felt that tired in my entire life; no exaggeration! I slept from 16:00 until 22:00, when I finally awoke to take a shower. I ended up going back to bed around 00:15.

Day 3 (Sunday, September 7th, 2008)

I awoke on my second day in Prague around 7:30. Breakfast arrived at 8:00 from Pasquale and his mother. With them, they brought a massive amount of food including eggs, bread, ham, salami, cheese, cereal, yogurt, grapes, pastries, pistachios, coffee, orange juice, and a few other items! There was enough food to feed at least four people, so I was quite full at the end of the meal.
The amazing and huge breakfast at Konza Apartments in Prague.

I left the apartment around 8:45 to begin my day of sightseeing. I wanted to make sure to arrive prior to all of the tour groups in order to see the sights in the Jewish Quarter. I walked through Old Town Square on my way to the Jewish Quarter and was pleasantly surprised to see a small number of people in comparison to the craziness of my first day.
Prague's Old Town Square.
The clock tower in Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Standing in Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Beautiful architecture in Prague.

Once I arrived in the Jewish Quarter, my first stop was the Pinkas Synagogue, where I bought a 300 CZK ticket that allowed entry into six of the seven main sights in the Jewish Quarter. The Pinkas Synagogue was turned into a memorial after the end of World War II for the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia that were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The interior walls of the Synagogue are inscribed with the names of each one of the victims (77,297) and also includes their community name, date of birth, and date of death (or last known date alive). As I walked through the somber but moving memorial, I heard a soft voice overhead reading the names of each of the victims. At times, I was the only visitor inside the building during my visit, so it was sad to imagine how drastically the atmosphere might change once the hundreds of tourists began filing through only one hour later.
Pinkas Synagogue in Prague.

From the Synagogue, I walked through the gates of the property to the Old Jewish Cemetery. I find myself having difficulty finding the proper words to accurately describe the scene but these three come to mind; solemn, peaceful, and evocative. The cemetery contains the graves of over 12,000 people from 1439 to 1787 and was the only location in Prague that allowed Jewish burial. As the small cemetery simply did not physically have enough room for the thousands of graves, the tombs were piled on top of one another, eventually creating small mounds. As the ground settled, most of the tombstones began to fall over one another, creating the dramatic effect that can be seen today.
Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague.
Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague.
Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague.
Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague.
Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague.
Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague.
Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague.
Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague.

The path within the cemetery winded its way around the thousands of headstones until I arrived at the Jewish Ceremonial Hall. This was a mortuary house that was built in 1911 and now houses a small museum dedicated to describing the Jewish traditions involving medicine, death, and burial traditions.
Ceremonial Hall in Prague.

Across the street from the Ceremonial Hall was the Klaus Synagogue, which was built in the 1600s and has exhibits on the Jewish religion. I found the displays on the second level to be of the most interest to me; the rituals of Jewish life including circumcision, marriage/weddings, birth, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, and food preparation were explained and presented in a well thought-out manner.

Next, I walked down the street to the Old-New Synagogue, which I had to pay a separate 200 CZK ticket to gain entrance into. The building was built in 1270 and is the oldest synagogue still standing in Eastern Europe. While architecturally speaking, the building was interesting, I did not find that the steep 200 CZK (approximately $12 USD) entrance fee was worth the cost. I thought that most of the other sites within the Jewish Quarter were much more fascinating than this one.
Old-New Synagogue in Prague.
Old-New Synagogue in Prague.
Old-New Synagogue in Prague.

Afterward, I walked to the Spanish Synagogue, which I found to be the most beautiful of all the sights in the Jewish Quarter. The Synagogue was built in 1868 in the colorful Moorish style, anchored by many shades of gold. Unfortunately, much to my disappointment, I was unable to take photos of the ornate interior. Upstairs, there were exhibits on Jewish life in the 19th and 20th centuries, including stories of life in the Terezin Concentration Camp.
Spanish Synagogue in Prague.

My last visit in the Jewish Quarter was to the Maisel Synagogue. At this point, I had museum overload, so I didn’t spend much time viewing the exhibits on the history of the Jewish people in Bohemia and Moravia. The building itself was originally built as a private place of worship for the Maisel family during 1590-1592.
Maisel Synagogue in Prague.

From the Jewish Quarter, I took the metro to Wenceslas Square, beginning my walk near the top of the street, at the National Museum. The square is actually more or less a boulevard, and encompasses a long stretch filled with a variety of architecture and buildings. Wenceslas Square is most famous for its involvement in the many protests, demonstrations, and celebrations that took place during the 20th century including the Velvet Revolution of 1989 when Czechoslovakia regained its freedom from the Communist government.
Wenceslas Square in Prague.
Wenceslas Square in Prague.
Wenceslas Square in Prague.
Wenceslas Square in Prague.

Next, I walked through some of the streets located Northwest of Wenceslas Square, stopping along the way for some gelato and photo ops.

My next museum stop was the Museum of Communism, which explained the history of communism in Prague. I saw lots of propaganda posters, statues and busts of the famous communists (Stalin, Lenin, Marx), and lots of interesting tidbits and artifacts from those crazy days. I also watched a 20 minute video on the uprising of the Czech people from the 1950s up until the Velvet Revolution, which I found quite fascinating.

After touring the museum, I walked to another museum (apparently it was museum overload day?!), this one called the Mucha Museum. The art of Alfons Mucha is housed in this small but manageable museum that includes many of his famous posters, some sketches, and a few family photographs. It is said that Mucha can be considered the “founding father” of the Art Nouveau movement in the early 20th century, which had a tremendous impact worldwide on the arts and architecture, especially in Europe.

After touring the museum, I continued walking my way through the streets of Prague, enjoying the beautiful architecture until I reached the Municipal House.
Puppets for sale in Prague.
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague
Prague

The Municipal House, which was built from 1905 to 1911 has been called the “pearl of Czech Art Nouveau.” It contains the largest concert hall in Prague and a few restaurants. The only way to view the interior of the hall is via a guided tour. Unfortunately, no guided tours were offered during my four day stay in Prague, so I was only able to view the exterior and a small portion of the interior.
Municipal House in Prague.
Municipal House in Prague.
Municipal House in Prague.

On the way back to the apartment, I stopped in at the ticket office just off of the Old Town Square in order to purchase a ticket to a black light theatre show. Based on recommendations from the guidebooks, I selected the 20:00 show from Image Black Light Theatre. The ticket cost 480 CZK (approximately $28).

I walked back to the apartment through a light misty rain. Once back, I realized that I was quite tired, so I decided to take a short nap as I had a few hours before the show began.

I set the alarm to go off at 18:30, but when that time arrived, I decided to change it to 19:10 as I was very tired. When the alarm went off 40 minutes later, I had the most difficult time getting up. I was so completely exhausted that it was almost impossible for me to think clearly.

I finally left for the show at 19:30. The theatre was only a five minute walk from my apartment, which was convenient. There were no assigned seats for the show; it’s on a first come, first served basis. However, it’s recommended not to sit in front as the illusions look best further away instead of close up. Black Light Theater is a combination of mime and modern dance, with no language barrier. The only thing I can compare it to is Cirque du Soleil shows, but at a much lower budget and scale (i.e. stages, costumes, etc). I thought the show was only okay and was annoyed with the fact that each of the acts were preceded by a quick mime show that I did not find to be all that entertaining. As with most shows, I was unable to take photos during the performance.
Beautiful view I saw as I walked through Old Town Square to reach the black light theater show.
Beautiful view I saw as I walked through Old Town Square to reach the black light theater show.
Black light theater show in Prague.
Black light theater show in Prague.

Day 4 (Monday, September 8th, 2008)

My plan for today was to take a day trip out of Prague into a nearby Czech town called Kutna Hora. On my way to the train station, I snapped several more photos of the beautiful Old Town Square.
The clock tower in Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Church of St. Nicholas on Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
The clock tower in Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Church of St. Nicholas in Prague's Old Town Square.
Church of St. Nicholas in Prague's Old Town Square.

Prior to leaving for my trip, I had completed extensive research for all aspects of the trip, including train transportation. I had printed copies of the train schedules departing from Prague to Kutna Hora, and decided to take the 9:47, which would put me in the city at 11:10. I took a few metro rides in order to get to Prague’s main train station. Once at the train station, I stood in bewilderment trying to figure out what in the heck to do. Almost nothing was listed in English (only Czech) and the first item I needed to complete was very important: buying my train ticket. Luckily, one of the informational attendants led me in the right direction. While waiting at the ticket counter, I reviewed the departures screen but did not see a 9:47 departure to Kutna Hora. In fact, I did not see any departures for Kutna Hora. Feeling slightly perplexed and very confused, I walked up to the ticket agent and using hand gestures (as she spoke no English and I spoke no Czech) ordered one round trip ticket from Prague to Kutna Hora. After I received my ticket, I attempted to review it in hopes of understanding a few items including what time I was leaving, from which platform the train would depart, and what stations the train would be stopping in. Unfortunately, the ticket did not provide any of the above listed information and only confused me more as the time listed on the ticket was one hour later than the time I had originally researched. Eventually, I walked up to the train tracks in hopes of clearing my confusion. I looked very closely at the train departure boards, but still did not see Kutna Hora listed anywhere. I walked up to a different booth, and was finally told what platform the train was leaving from. What I had failed to realize was that the cities listed on the departure board were the final stops of the train, where the train would terminate. Therefore, when ordering tickets, it is helpful to know either the terminus information or the number of the actual train.

The train ride from Prague to Kutna Hora took about one hour. Once off the train, I had researched that I would have to take one of the smaller local trains that would take me to the center of Kutna Hora. Otherwise, I would either have to hire a taxi or walk 20 minutes. As I was standing around on the platform, trying to determine where the small train was taking off from, I noticed a very small train take off a few platforms away…oops, there went my train…that only came once each hour.

Not wanting to have to wait another hour to get into town, I decided the next best option was to hire a taxi cab. I ended up meeting six other people who were also going to Kutna Hora but had absolutely no idea how to get to town. We were fortunately able to split two taxis together. The taxi driver dropped us off at the top of the town near St. Barbara’s Cathedral.

St Barbara's Cathedral was completed in 1388 by miners of the town. For a smaller sized town, the size of the cathedral is impressive, but as far as interiors go, it wasn’t that interesting or memorable.
St. Barbara's Cathedral in Kutna Hora.
St. Barbara's Cathedral in Kutna Hora.
St. Barbara's Cathedral in Kutna Hora.
St. Barbara's Cathedral in Kutna Hora.
St. Barbara's Cathedral in Kutna Hora.
St. Barbara's Cathedral in Kutna Hora.

After visiting the church, I walked through the streets of Kutna Hora, eventually making my way into the center of town. Along the way, I saw lots of gorgeous and well maintained building. Of course, as usual, I took too many photos of the beautiful and unique architecture.
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora

I eventually stopped for lunch at a place called Pivnice Dacicky, which came highly recommended by Rick Steves. The restaurant was filled with more locals than tourists, so it looked promising. The menu I was handed was quite extensive and must have been the largest one I have ever seen. It took me nearly ten minutes to finally make a decision, but I eventually decided upon the Chateaubriand and a side order of potatoes with bacon. I was slightly hesitant and reluctant to order the Chateaubriand, but I had read several good reviews of the restaurant, including one person who said the dish was utterly delicious. I soon realized his description was entirely accurate once I placed a bite of the meat into my mouth; it was mouthwatering good and seemed to melt in my mouth! I thoroughly enjoyed every ounce of this meal, savoring every last bite.
Pivnice Dacicky in Kutna Hora.
Pivnice Dacicky in Kutna Hora.
Pivnice Dacicky in Kutna Hora.
Pivnice Dacicky in Kutna Hora.
Potato dish from Pivnice Dacicky in Kutna Hora.
Chateaubriand from Pivnice Dacicky in Kutna Hora.


From the restaurant, I took a taxi to the Sedlec Bone Church, located a mile from the center of town. The interior of the church contains the bones of 40,000 people decorated in a surprisingly beautiful and creative way. There is even a chandelier in the center of the church that contains every bone in the human body. I figured that they had begun to fill the church’s interior with the bones as a result of overcrowding in the cemetery, but I was never able to verify for certain.
Sedlec Bone Church in Kutna Hora.
Sedlec Bone Church in Kutna Hora.
Sedlec Bone Church in Kutna Hora.
Sedlec Bone Church in Kutna Hora.
Sedlec Bone Church in Kutna Hora.
Sedlec Bone Church in Kutna Hora.
Sedlec Bone Church in Kutna Hora.
Sedlec Bone Church in Kutna Hora.

From the Sedlec Bone Church, I walked back to the train station, which only took about 15 minutes.

I knew for certain the time my train was leaving Kutna Hora, but it was not clearly indicated which platform the train would be leaving from. As this was such a small train station, there was no reader board as you would normally find in the larger train stations, so without being able to speak Czech to the woman at the counter, it was sort of a guessing game. I figured the train would depart from the opposite track I arrived on, so I waited in front of that for awhile; in the meantime, a huge train pulled up on the opposite track. It sat there waiting for awhile, which I thought was strange as I figured it was going somewhere else and I didn’t understand what was taking it so long to leave. Ten minutes later, (and about one minute before my train was supposed to arrive/leave) the two English women I had met earlier in the day came running up in a panic to the tracks along with two other girls. The two girls attempt to speak with the train conductor, and then I heard them say that the train is going to Prague! HUH? I hurry and get on, just as the train departs. If I hadn’t gotten on that train, it would have been more than an hour until the next one arrived!

I arrived back in Prague around 18:00. From here, I decided to walk back across Charles Bridge as I had wanted to attempt to take some sunset pictures over the bridge. Although it was later in the evening, the bridge was still quite crowded, so I was unable to get exactly the type of pictures I had wanted. That, along with all of the construction mess on the bridge did not make for the most appealing photo opportunities, but I did manage to get a few good shots!
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague
Prague
Charles Bridge in Prague.
Charles Bridge in Prague.
Charles Bridge in Prague.
View from Charles Bridge in Prague.
View from Charles Bridge in Prague.
Prague

Since the light was so beautiful out that evening, I decided to make another stop back in Old Town Square to photograph the buildings as the sky was lit-up dramatically.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.
Prague's Old Town Square.

Later that night, I grabbed the tripod for my camera and walked to Old Town Square. The square is lit up beautifully at night and I was able to get a few good shots of the buildings. During my short stay in Prague, I found that the atmosphere in the city during the late evening hours was completely different than compared to the daytime. Although there were always lots of people in the city, the numbers diminished significantly once the sun went down and the tour groups headed out of town. Prague was much more enjoyable during the evening hours compared to the daytime and Old Town Square was the best place to enjoy its unique atmosphere.
Prague's Old Town Square at night.
Prague's Old Town Square at night.
Prague's Old Town Square at night.


Day 5 (Tuesday, September 9th, 2008)

Today was my last day in Prague. After eating breakfast, I quickly packed my bags as the owner of the apartment, Pasquale, was going to keep them for me during the day as I toured the city.

All of the sights I had planned to visit today were going to be in the Little Quarter and the Castle Quarter. To reach that area, I walked over the Manesuv Most Bridge (with views of Charles Bridge across the way) into the Little Quarter, first stopping in at the Wallenstein Gardens, which I happened to run into. It was free, so I figured I might as well stop by to take a look. The gardens were beautifully manicured and set against a gorgeous backdrop of architecture. The grounds also featured a few resident peacocks, which I took photos of.
Wallenstein Gardens in Prague.
Wallenstein Gardens in Prague.
Wallenstein Gardens in Prague.
Wallenstein Gardens in Prague.
Wallenstein Gardens in Prague.
Wallenstein Gardens in Prague.
Wallenstein Gardens in Prague.

From the gardens, I walked to Malostrankse Namesti (Mala Strana), which is a square filled with pretty buildings. Unfortunately, the square was also filled with five million cars and lots of cable lines from the trams, so it wasn’t as picturesque as I had hoped it would be.
Prague
Prague
Prague
A backstreet in Prague.
Malostranske Namesti in Prague.
Malostranske Namesti in Prague.
Malostranske Namesti in Prague.
Malostranske Namesti in Prague.
Malostranske Namesti in Prague.

Within the square was the Church of St. Nicholas, a baroque church built in the early 18th century. As soon as I walked into the church, I was blown away by the immense beauty that was laid before my eyes. The church walls, floors, and ceilings were covered with gorgeous white and pink hued marble and accented with lots of gold. It was truly one of the most beautiful churches I had ever seen; I rank it alongside St. Paul’s in London and Sainte Chapelle in Paris as my favorite churches in Europe.
Detail on the door to the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
Interior of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
Interior of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
Interior of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
Interior of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
Interior of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
Interior of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
Interior of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
Interior of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.

After visiting the church, I walked next door to the bell tower and climbed 215 steps to the top. From here, I had an amazing view of the red roofs of Prague.
Bell tower of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
View from the bell tower of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
View from the bell tower of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
View from the bell tower of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
View from the bell tower of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
View from the bell tower of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.
View from the bell tower of the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague.

Next, I walked up Nerudova Street, which was a charming cobble lined street filled with lots of restaurants, shops, and beautifully preserved architecture.
Nerudova Street in Prague.
Nerudova Street in Prague.
Nerudova Street in Prague.
Nerudova Street in Prague.
Nerudova Street in Prague.
Detail from a door on Nerudova Street in Prague.
Nerudova Street in Prague.
Art for sale on Nerudova Street in Prague.
Nerudova Street in Prague.
Nerudova Street in Prague.
Nerudova Street in Prague.
Nerudova Street in Prague.
Nerudova Street in Prague.
Nerudova Street in Prague.

Nerudova was quite a long uphill climb, and at the top, I turned right to visit the Strahov Monastery and Library. The library houses the oldest collection of books in the Czech Republic. I arrived right before lunch closing, so I rushed in for a quick peek. The library was filled with probably some of the oldest books I had ever seen. Unfortunately, I was unable to take any pictures as there was a 50 CZK fee, which I refused to pay as the entrance itself cost 70 CZK.
View of Prague near Strahov Monastery.
Strahov Monastery in Prague.
Strahov Monastery in Prague.
Strahov Monastery in Prague.
Strahov Monastery in Prague.
Strahov Monastery in Prague.

Afterwards, I walked about five minutes downhill to Loreta Church, which was built in the 17th century in the baroque style. I only took exterior shots of the church as I had already visited one too many churches (a.k.a. “churched out”) and they were all starting to look the same (with the exception of the Church of St. Nicholas).
Loreta Church in Prague.
Loreta Church in Prague.
Loreta Church in Prague.
Loreta Church in Prague.

From Loreta, I continued walking downhill until I reached Prague Castle. I had specifically planned my day so that I would visit the castle complex later in the day as I had read that the number of tourists dwindled down significantly. Unfortunately, as I arrived at the main gates, the throngs of tourists surrounded me everywhere; there did not seem to be a shortage of people anywhere in Prague! I bought the “Prague Castle - Short Tour” ticket which cost 250 CZK and allowed entry into St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, Basilica and Convent of St. George, and the Golden Lane.
Prague Castle
Prague Castle
Prague Castle

I was going to tour the Cathedral first, but the line for people waiting to get in was wrapped around the church, so I decided to visit the interior of the palace instead. The tour didn’t encompass much of the actual castle, but I found Vladislav Hall to be quite impressive. Next to the massive hall was a large balcony that featured a panoramic view of the Prague cityscape.
St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
Vladislav Hall at Prague Castle.
View from Prague Castle.
Interior of Prague Castle.
Interior of Prague Castle.
Interior of Prague Castle.
Interior of Prague Castle.

Next, I walked over to the Basilica and Convent of St. George, which had a beautiful and unforgettable bright red Baroque exterior. The interior, however, looked quite different as it had been preserved back to its beginning as a simple Romanesque church.
Basilica and Convent of St. George in Prague.
Basilica and Convent of St. George in Prague.

About an hour later, I decided to pop into St. Vitus Cathedral as there was no longer a line wrapped around the church. The interior of St. Vitus was huge and filled with a ton of beautiful stained glass and once again, much to my disdain, five million tour groups and visitors, which really distracted me from its beauty and my ability to enjoy it.
St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.

My last stop in the Prague Castle complex was Golden Lane, which was a small street lined with amazingly preserved buildings and were originally the homes of goldsmiths. Unfortunately, it was also filled to its capacity with people (big surprise) so I was unable to take as many photos as I would have liked. I’ve read that the very best time to enjoy this small street is in the evening, when nearly all of the tourists have left the castle complex.
Prague Castle.
Golden Lane at Prague Castle.
Golden Lane at Prague Castle.
Golden Lane at Prague Castle.
Inside one of the shops on Golden Lane at Prague Castle.
View of Prague from Prague Castle.
Prague

Afterwards, I walked back towards Old Town, trying to find a place to eat. Initially, I stopped at Ceska Kuchyne, which is a cafeteria that serves traditional Czech food to the local population at astoundingly cheap prices. The menus listed inside of the restaurant are all in Czech, so I first viewed the tiny English menu posted outside on the window. I made note of the numbers that corresponded with the dishes I was interested in purchasing and then walked inside to order. However, once inside the restaurant, I noticed that they only had a small sampling from the menu available to purchase. Unfortunately, none of the items I wanted to eat were listed on the menu, so I decided to leave.

Instead, I ended up eating at a restaurant called Restaurace Mlejnice (The Mill) that was located just down the street from the apartment I had rented. I ordered quite a bit of food: onion rings for appetizers, goulash in a bread bowl, and a pork wiener schnitzel. Everything was good, but I did not particularly enjoy the pork wiener schnitzel as it was dripping in grease and a tad too chewy for my taste.

After eating my early dinner, I walked over to the check-out office and met up with the owner, Pasquale. I hung out in the office watching television for a bit and eventually made my way to a laundry facility. Aside from the fact that the laundromat was actually a nice place to be (unlike so many other places) they also offered free internet to use while you waited for your clothes to wash and dry: what a concept!

Once my laundry was finished, I made my way over to the Prague train station, where I waited for several hours for my overnight train to Krakow. When I finally made it onto the train, I discovered that I was going to be sharing my compartment with a young couple. At first I wasn’t happy as I had secretly been hoping I would have the compartment to myself, but I quickly learned that the two people were very friendly and talkative. We shared lots of travel stories together, before finally heading to sleep around 23:00. I had hoped to get a decent sleep that night, but alas, the rocking of the train and frequent stops prevented me from sleeping much at all.

Up next: Krakow and Auschwitz, Poland

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