Prague, Czech Republic: A Weekend In Prague

June 13, 2017
A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.


Life lately in the British Isles feels like being caught between a rock and a hard Brexit. With a coalition of chaos* looking less likely than a deal with the hard-lining devil, I'm becoming increasingly disillusioned about my life in the UK. On especially dark days the home I've made in London seems like it's been reduced to a mere gateway to city breaks in Europe. Speaking of long weekends in the EU and the Dark Ages**, recently my mum popped over to see the medieval monuments of Prague. Mummy dearest had never been to Czech Republic, or Czechia as it's now supposed to be called, so naturally I wanted to show her around. It was the very least I could do, given that my parents cultivated my love for travel from a young ageMummy had to fly a long way (13 hours from Kuala Lumpur to London, then 2 hours to Prague) for a short trip, so I crammed the highlights into a showreel of sightseeing and Michelin star restaurants. Just as well that Prague is one of Europe's more compact and walkable cities, but don't just take my word for it - Czech it out!

*I like my men how I like my parliament: hung. ­čśĆ
**I mean, I'm conservative but geez, these lot make me look like a SJW. ­čÖä




OLD TOWN SQUARE

One thing that Prague does especially well is architecture. The city is a maze of cobblestones and pastel-coloured buildings that look like frosted cakes. Every turn reveals architectural gems from the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque era that survived the rebuilding craze that swept most European capital cities during the 18th -19th centuries plus the bombs of WWII. Prague is the largest urban historical center listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List - an immaculately preserved area of 900 hectares with at least 4,000 monuments, or more poetically: “a museum of architecture under the open sky.” The effect is romantic, spellbinding, and magical, transporting you back to the days of the Kingdom of Bohemia.



Must-see sights in the Old Town Square include the Old Town Hall and its iconic Astronomical Clock , the gothic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, and the National Gallery in Prague housed in Kinsky Palace. Even so, every single building (I'm not exaggerating!) is just begging to be studied in all of its symmetry and detail. Naturally, the Old Town gets crowded fast: heaving with tourists doing upside down yoga poses against lamp posts, stag dos, and the rest with their selfie sticks - but on an early morning on a sunny day the ambience is practically festive with the merry music of buskers and the enticing smells of street food: trdelnik, ham, and sausages, anyone?


A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.
NATIONAL GALLERY IN PRAGUE, KINSKY PALACE
A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.
"JUST" YOUR TYPICAL, EVERYDAY PRAGUE BUILDING FACADE...
A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.
BEAUTIFUL BUREAUCRACY: A GOVERNMENT OFFICE BUILDING
A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.
THE FAMOUS CLOCK AND MY SOURCE OF SHAME (MORE ABOUT THAT LATER).
A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.


A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.


CHARLES BRIDGE

With 30-odd Baroque statues of saints spanning its entire length, Charles Bridge is like the 'Who's Who' of holy peoples including St John Of Nepomuk, the patron saint of the Czech Republic. Granted, the statues are replicas - the originals can be seen in the nearby Czech National Museum  but that in no way diminishes the mystical aura of Charles BridgeThere's a distinct feeling of magic in the air; be it from the sight of Prague Castle rising from the hills and yonder of Left Bank, the couples in wedding dresses posing against the statues for their engagement photos (talk about romancing the stones), or the divine mathematics behind the construction of the bridge. As with Old Town Square, Charles Bridge gets claustrophobic very quickly - I woke up early and headed down there first thing in the morning to enjoy the sights at my own undisturbed pace.



A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.
STATUE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.
STATUES OF MADONNA, SAINT DOMINIC, AND THOMAS AQUINAS
A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.

A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.

A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.



MICHELIN STAR MEALS 

Czech cuisine, if the stereotypes are to be believed, is a big starch party of beer, starch, and beer-battered deep fried-starch. I certainly recalled decade-old memories of wolfing down deep-fried cheese with gusto, but that was in Winter - mummy and I craved something more refined. So in a bid to dodge the stodge we dined only at Michelin Star restaurants.

The establishments that stood out were La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise (an upscale restaurant with a modern menu inspired by dishes from 19th-century Czech cuisine) which I'll review in its own post, V Zatisi (global fine-dining with an exceptional and authentic Indian menu), and Divinis.

The cozy atmosphere of Divinis (above and left) belies the glamour of the place - indeed, the restaurant is frequented by Hollywood's finest. Divinis boasts the best ham in the world - carefully and lovingly prepared Joselito ham of Iberico pork - among its Italian menu. The goat cheese & truffle honey mousse with marinated beetroot and pine nuts was a divine starter to the chef's signature dish: veal cheeks braised with Marsala wine and roasted spinach with raisins and pine nuts, with a side of seasonal white asparagus. Mummy and I ended our meal on a sweet note - the chocolate fondant with cinnamon and blood orange ice cream.






A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.

A charming way to see the city is a driving tour in one of the vintage cars parked just off the Old Town Square...


A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.

...drive up to Prague Castle via the Jewish Quarter and Czech Bridge (above) for a view of Charles Bridge and its arches...

A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.

A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.

...you'll also get a good look at the Rudolfinum, home of the Czech Philharmonic.

A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.


PRAGUE CASTLE

The 9th century castle complex, now the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic, was the seat of power for kings of Bohemia and Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, with equally vast crowds to match - on any given day the complex is full of visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the Bohemian Crown Jewels. Everyone else was there for St Vitus Cathedral, but personally my favourite sight was a hidden gem behind the art gallery of Schwarzenbersk├Ż Palace - a small, quiet outdoor terrace with a hot dog cart and a sweeping vista of the city.


A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.


A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.

The walk back to the Old Town Square (don't worry, it's downhill) reveals the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn basking in the golden glow of sunset.


A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.

PRAGUE ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK (ORLOJ)

So, that anecdote I promised earlier. Let's rewind the clock (hehe) back a decade. It was 2007 and the St Martins Graphic Design class of '09 were on a school trip in the historic city of Prague. Imagine a group of second year art school kidz, their inherent obnoxiousness further fuelled by the endless Pilsner that flowed from the land of beer and Becherovka. We stood front and center of the crowd gathered in Old Town Square waiting for the astronomical clock's famous hourly display. Now, I can't speak for the group but I was probably expecting a Czech version of "It's A Small World". Then the clock chimed, the gears moved, and The Walk Of The Apostles began: a song and dance about virtues and evils, the former depicted by the figures of Death, vanity, and what used to be a Jew and a Turk (xenophobia and anti-Semitism - how very 1410).

We were not impressed.

And so, the entire class ruined - or vastly improved, depending on who you ask - dozens of tourist souvenir videos by collectively pointing, jeering, and BOO-ing at the clock.

WE BOO-ED A 13th CENTURY CLOCK.

The beloved 600 year old icon of the city, a medieval masterpiece that survived the German siege during the Prague Uprising in World War II. Boo-ed by a group of students.Yeah, it's a wonder I was allowed back into the country. Czechia-self before ya wreck yaself!

A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.


...and finally, a brisk walk back to Charles Bridge to see it transform under the cover of dusk.

A Weekend In Prague, Czech Republic.

Mummy and I covered all these sights - and then some - by foot over the course of a weekend because we fancied a languid pace, but all the places in this post can be done in 24 hours. Such is the compact and pedestrian-friendly nature of Prague. Easily accessible from London, plus with so much history neatly packed into such a walkable distance, Prague is the perfect European 'city break' destination, and how - we were there during Mother's Day weekend for a mother and daughter holiday, which culminated in a hilarious Mother's Day dinner...stay tuned for that post! 

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