Prague has been on my wish list for many years now. Always the allure of seeing elsewhere ,would push the desire to visit Prague in to the corners of mind to be retrieved at a later date. This has been going on for a while, until we visited Rouen and the Gros Horloge of Rouen. Gros Horloge at Rouen piqued my interest in another astronomical clock. It is this impulse of seeing and admiring another astronomical clock, that made me plan a trip to Prague.
We landed in the Vaclav Havel Airport, Prague, bought the three days Prague Card. We decided to take the public transport to get into the city. Mostly we prefer to use public transport, wherever possible, and is also the reason we end up buying the city cards, which gives access to most monuments and museums and also gives the abiltiy to take local public transport. We boarded a bus from the airport ,then changed over to the Metro, to reach our hotel. Travelling by public transport in a new city as soon as you arrive may not be best way to begin a holiday , but I enjoy doing that as it is a chance to get a first glimpse of the city , a chance to observe and experience the city in its dynamic form, to feel the pulse of it and get excited of being somewhere new. Arguably, perhaps I believe the city looks equally exciting , from the window of a taxi. I just want to be a narrator here, a story teller , taking you along with my journey.
We stayed in a hotel located in Nevo Mesto, not far from the historic old Town, called the Grandoir Hotel. We dropped our bags at hotel and went out to explore the city. And the best way I enjoy to explore a city is on foot. We walked towards the historic old town. The Bohemian capital is filled with oodles of charm and romanticism , especially the old town, with beautiful buildings in pastel shades, striking baroque architecture ,charming streets adorned with vintage gas lamps and cobbled paths. I found it hard not to fall in love with this old part of the town.
Prague is often referred as city of Spires, yet I was more mesmerised and intrigued by the magnificent archways. The majestic archways appear to be standing tall with their open wide arms , welcoming the visitors, leading them on to beautiful alleyways , on to lively parts of town , winding pathways weaving on to another charming part of the city, nudging you on to keep discovering. We walked towards the old town hall to view the astronomical clock, to find it covered in scaffolding and all wrapped up in covers. The clock was meant to be ready and open for public after the renovation works, by this time. Unfortunately the work got extended and it was not yet ready to be open to public. I felt a wave of disappointment. I remember coming back to London and voicing my disappointment to a colleague, who very nicely pointed out to me set backs are part of travel , and most importantly the monuments need to be closed from time to time for up keep so that the generations to come may continue to enjoy its glories and stories. He also pointed out that ‘ Big Ben’ is closed for renovation now and is covered in scaffolding and disappoints so many tourists who come to London. As a Londoner, I do wait for the day when Big Ben would have the scaffolding down , I have never experienced the feeling of not being able to see a monument from a tourists point of view and the feeling was not same.
The disappointment coupled with my hunger, was making me grumpy. At this point I was not wholly sure as to should I attribute my grumpiness to travel burnout or that we were just simply famished. Suddenly a strong desire to eat Dal and fragrant Basmati rice took over me. I voiced my opinion to my husband,who was equally famished but not as grumpy as me. He knew just exactly the place to go , in Prague. We walked in to an Indian Restaurant called K the two brothers. When I looked at the menu, it had pulao rice, and I was still looking quizzically at menu, and feeling a bit more disappointed. The waiter who was taking the order, perhaps gathered my predicament or my grumpiness, said in a cheerful tone that they could make the rice the way I would prefer and any other dish that I woul like. We ordered creamy dal makhani , Jeera Rice, some bread and yoghurt dip. And at the end of the meal, I was offered a Masala chai, and it tasted just like the ones made back in India or at home , with comforting aroma of cardamom rising from the cup along with the steam was enough to lift my spirits. I walked out of the restaurant with my tummy full and heart content, feeling a bit blithesome. We walked around a bit more , and went back to our room for a bit of snooze or catnap.
Prague is well known for its fairytale architecture, spires, and for its beer. Little did I know that Prague is a musical city, in fact Lonely planet calls music being the ‘lifeline of Prague’. Jazz has a very special place in this city s heart, along with rock and roll music, and of course the classical musical concerts in the evening, in churches, in town halls are very popular.The Prague Spring in May and Prague Autumn with classical Music concerts held at Rudolfinum is sought after. There are pamphlets dotted around the old town , listing out the programme/ concert. While enjoying a cup of coffee in the cafe of the Municipal house , we saw a pamphlet of a concert in the evening, to be held in Smetana Hall of the Municipal house,-The Best of Mozart and Strauss. We bought the tickets for the same day evening show and wandered around streets of Prague, until the gates of the hall opened for the show. The interior of hall is beautiful, Grand stairs leading on to the splendid concert hall, which is very airy with a glass dome ceiling with beautiful murals on the walls, by the Czech artist ,Karel Špillar. The acoustics along with the soul stirring music brings the place alive, the murals dance in the light and the audience sway with joy to the rapturous music. The municipal house building itself , has been restored to its original glory in 1989 and there are tours available of the Municipal house during the day at regular intervals, and in the evening the concerts are held. We choose to attend the concert instead of taking the tour in the day, and it was a pleasure to listen to the music and being swept away by the music.
The next day we visited Klementium, a historic complex of buildings, known for its Astronomical tower, views of the city from the tower and its beautiful Baroque Library. I heard a lot about the library on social media and this is what inspired me to visit the Klementium. In order to view the Baroque Library, you have to take the tour of the complex, which comprises of the library, Meridian hall and astronomical tower. The library was finished in 1722 and has since remain untouched in its appearance, hence it has a very original and authentic architecture untouched by time. There are no photography allowed of the library, for conservation reason. Seeing an old library survive the test of time and standing there surrounded by books from the 1600s to the recent times , is an experience indescribable, especially for a book enthusiast, like me. All I did was stand in there and breathe in the effervescent smell of the old books, and I remembered the quote.
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges
As we moved along with the tour, we passed many telescopes and many other astronomical objects used to study the sky , stars, distance between the stars and meteorological measurements. Though originated as a look out, the tower started being used as a astronomical tower by Jesuit mathematicians and physicists. JosephStepling , Jan Klien being the ones who gradually equipped the tower and filled it with their drawing and observations . Klementium bells were used to determine the high noon based on the movement of Sun in the Meridian Hall. The Merdiain hall situated in the second floor of the tower, is where the high noon( which is different to the noon on the clock) is determined everyday, based on the sun ray coming through a small aperture in the wall. The sub beam coming through the hole would fall on a white string stretched on the floor , the exact time it fell on the white string , determined the high noon. The whole room is turned in to an Camera abscura, I found this room particularly very interesting.
The final part of the tour is view of the town from the top the tower. You get beautiful views of the spires , the River and entire city. It’s a perfect spot for a selfie, and instagrammers paradise. You have to keep dodging the selfie sticks , and avoid photobombing someone’s special selfie accidentally. I did manage to get some wonderful shots of the city from there, which made up for not having a photo of the beautiful Baroque library.
Another spot for getting wonderful photos and possibly the most beautiful views of the city, is from the top of Old Town hall, where the Astronomical clock is situated. Many of the interior rooms were closed for renovation, like the chapel on the first floor ,which gives you a view of the twelve apostles which adorn the clock, the historical and ceremonial hall. The structure of the old town hall is of gothic and is a very fetching architecture. The gothic tower was tallest in the city when it was established in 14th century and it also includes a watch tower and a living space for the watchman , who would warn the towns people in case of any danger. Currently there is a lift which takes you up to the viewing platform or you could take the stairs up, which we did. The views from the viewing platform are breathtaking, you can admire the Tyn Cathedral and St Nicholas s church. We saw a bride and bridegroom walk out from the St Nicholas church, while standing on the viewing platform. You could also see the Prague Castle in a distant and many more beautiful buildings consisting of spires, which is why city is often referred as City of spires.
We went inside the Tyn Cathedral, the most famous and perhaps most photographed building of Prague, with its beautiful tall spires. There is no photography allowed inside the church and is not open to public during masses. The interior of the church is very beautiful and displays are a combination of gothic, Renaissance and baroque style.
Another church which we visited, is the nearby St Nicholas s Church, which is a baroque style and the interiors impressed me massively . I was moved by the beautiful frescoes inside and the dome, which are an additional beauty to its Baroque architecture.
Another place I enjoyed eating, was a place called Lehka Hlava, when translated from Czech to English simply means Clear Head. It is a restaurant and can be referred as tea room too , housed in a renovated old gothic house dating from 15th century. It serves vegetarian food, has a relaxed atmosphere, with beautiful ceilings and decorations, and the food served is bursting with flavours. The place is very popular, although we reached there late in the afternoon, we had to wait 20 minutes to get a table and they could not let us know when the next table would be free as they do not rush people or have time limits. We waited in the lounge, which perhaps was the passage of the house, and ordered some drinks. When we moved to our table , I noticed the ceiling of the room was deep purple which gradually then blended in to the wall merging in a dark green. The table had a lamp shaped like Mushroom and light coming out from the mushroom. The food was flavoursome , the atmosphere very uplifting, and the whole experience is very relaxing and unique.
We were in Prague for three days, we walked on the famous Charles Bridge, did a River cruise on River Vltava, walked in the Jewish quarters , saw the beautiful Spanish Synagogue , were moved by the photo of a couple taken together smiling blissfully at wedding, who later perished in the concentration camps, tasted the famous Tredlink or chimney cake, admired the beautiful architectures and the lovely hand made curious which are manufactured and made in Prague, walked through the Golden lane where the alchemists lived and also Franz Kafka supposedly lived there for a while. We did not go to famous Prague Castle or Vitus Church or dancing building not because we did not want to , but we were getting tired and sitting down more for rest or spent a lot of time in the hotel cat napping and snoozing, making us wonder were we unwell. We were under the weather, tired and perhaps a bit what is termed as travel burnt out. We managed to beat it by eating food that reminded us of home, all the three days we had relaxing massages and reflexology treatments at the end of the day. We were lucky to have a Spa in our hotel, we could have the treatments and take a lift back in our rooms and drift in to wonderful sleep. It’s worth mentioning, I did not realise until the therapist at the Spa informed me that Prague/ Czech Republic is also well known for Czech Beer Spa and Beer cosmetic products.
This trip to Prague made me understand travel burnout and that it is real. I would have attributed my tiredness and my husbands lethargy to either age or to general tiredness. It made me alter my plans for the sight seeing, cross out some on list move it for another trip, seek out something to remind me of home, letting our body relax and unwind at its own pace. I have always understood and known that travel is never about the destination, yet this trip to Prague made me realise something else, which is better summed by this quote I read on the internet a few days ago.
“It is not the destination where you end up but the mishaps and memories you create along the way.”