Friday, August 4, 2017

Favorite places-Prague part 1

Prague, Czech Republic is one of my favorite places to visit.  I lived in the Czech Republic for 2 years and it still has a very dear place in my heart.  Prague is beautiful.

Just look at the city!

This is a big reason I love the city.

 Don't Miss
Prague Castle
My favorite place in Prague.  Seat of the Czech government since 800 AD, it is the largest castle in the world.  The president of the Czech Republic still lives at the castle.  Inside is the Cathedral of St. Vitus.  Yes, there is a full-sized gothic cathedral inside the castle, that's how big it is.  The cathedral is one of the best examples of the Czech Gothic.  The architect, Peter Parler, created special vaulting on the ceiling that looks like spider webs.  The tomb of St. John of Nepomuk is a beautiful work of silver.  John was a priest and confessor to the queen.  The king believed shew as unfaithful and demanded that he break the seal of the confessional, which John refused.  The king had him wrapped in chains and thrown from Charles Bridge.  

The chapel of St. Wenceslas is important as well.  The remains of St. Wenceslas, the good king of the Christmas carol fame is inside the chapel.  Wenceslas was believed to be the founder of Prague Castle and ruling duke of Bohemia.  Wenceslas was a Christian, and was murdered by his brother.  Inside the chapel, there is a door to an upper room locked with 7 locks (keys held by
President of the Czech Republic, Chair of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament, Chair of the Senate of the Parliament, the Prime Minister, Mayor of Prague, Archbishop of Prague and the Dean of Metropolitan Capitule in Prague) that is where the kings of Bohemia used to be crowned.  The crown itself is also in this room, locked in a chest with 7 locks.  The crown is publicly displayed about every 5 years on special occasions.  There is a replica of the crown in the exhibit area in Vladislav Hall in the castle.  

The Romanesque convent of St. George is interesting, but a little more spartan in furnishing from the cathedral.  Vladislav Hall has served many purposes, it was the throne room, banquet hall, and even had a ramp to bring in horses for jousting.  

Further down, there is the golden lane.  It's called that because it used to house goldsmiths.  At one time, the author Franz Kafka lived here.  There is a toy museum here, I didn't visit it, but it's there.  

The view from the castle is also amazing. 

 Old Town Square
source wikipedia

I love the facade of the Old Tyne Church (the one with the spires in the picture.  Also the statue of Jan Hus, a Czech national hero and religious reformer who was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415, kicking off what became known as the Hussite Wars that consumed the Czech lands for the next 100 years or so.  Also the Old Town Hall with the Astronomical Clock.  
Source Wikipedia
 The clock chimes every hour, and it's kind of fun to watch.  Just watch your wallet, pickpockets go through the crowd looking for distracted tourists.  Old Town Square is a great place for people watching.  Some of the shops also have some of the best prices for tourist items in the city.  

Charles Bridge

The oldest bridge in Prague.  It's usually crowded with tourists, but one of my favorite things in Prague is to walk the bridge as the sun is coming up.  I absolutely love it.  The view of the Castle from the bridge is also great.

How can you go wrong with this? At the end of the bridge, about a block down is the Klementium, the oldest building that was part of Charles University in Prague, the oldest university in continental Europe north of the Alps.  The library is beautiful as well as the hall of mirrors.  They often do concerts in the evenings.

The Jewish Quarter

This is always an interesting visit.  Not far from the Old Town Square, the Jewish Quarter has some beautiful buildings and memorials to the Czech Jews murdered during the Holocaust.  The Jewish Cemetery is interesting too.  The story of the Golem of Prague is one that's fun to tell while in the Old New Synagogue, where it's supposed to have been kept.  The golem was a monster made of clay that the rabbi (believed to have been the famous Judah ben Lowe, a famous Torah scholar).  Also in the Jewish Quarter is the King Solomon restaurant, one of the oldest restaurants in Prague and about the only Kosher restaurant

Wenceslas Square

source Wikipedia

The biggest square in the Czech Republic.  The Vaclavak, as it's called locally, is the heart of New Town.  In 1989, during the Velvet Revolution, it was the scene of the giant protests that brought an end to communist rule.  The square has all the international chain restaurants like McDonald's and Duncan Doughnuts.  Crowning the square is the monumental equestrian statue of St. Wenceslas and the National Museum.  Some of the best street food vendors are on the square.  I really like the smazeny syr, a breaded and deep fried cheese patty (usually eidam) usually served on a bun with their version of tartar sauce (much creamier and way less tart that what is in the US) or any of the sausages.  A favorite is a parek v rohilku, which is a hotdog served inside a rohlik, which is a sort of breadstick that they hollow out and toast inside, then served with their awesome mustard.  I love the mustard so much, I bring back a jar every time I go.  

 Other Cool Sights

Mala Strana
Located below Prague Castle on the opposite bank of the Vltava, this is a beautiful part of town.  There are a lot of palaces here,  the church of St. Nicholas is beautiful, in the baroque style.  The American embassy is also here, if you need to visit it.   

The monastery here has one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.  Also, the giant Strahov stadium, which is one of the biggest stadiums in the world, but now days not used for much.  Dating to before communism, and used during, the stadium was built for giant group gymnastics displays that are no longer held.  

Narodni Trida
National Street.  This is sort of the more modern part of Prague.  This is one of the main commercial streets, where average Czechs shop.  Tesco, formerly K-Mart, has has not only a department store, but also a large grocery store.  This store also has a lot of American products, like peanut butter and brown sugar.  Narodni Trida also has a lot of affordable restaurants.  The Modra Zahrada has really good wood-fire pizza.  My favorite restaurant in the city is not far from here, across the street from the National Theater (beautiful building well worth the stop).  The restaurant is the Cafe Slavia.  The best thing on the menu is the svickova na smetana, a sirloin cutlet served with knedliky (dumplings that are like sponges to sop up the sauce) on a cream sauce that is just to die for.  They also have a version of the Czech national dish, veproknedlozeli, pork roast, with gravy, knedliky, and zeli (a type of sauerkraut, but sweeter than what most Americans are used to).  Prices are reasonable, since it's less geared to the tourist trade.  

The nicest thing with Prague, everything is pretty close, so easily walkable.  These sites are easy to fit into one day.  The metro is also very good, and relatively cheap, especially if you buy a day pass.  Just make sure you stamp your ticket to validate it before you get into the gated area.  While there isn't a turnstile or other ticket control, they do have inspectors who will show you their badge and you are supposed to show them your ticket.  If you don't have a valid ticket, you will be fined.  They like to hang out especially at the transfer stations in the corridors between the lines.  They love to get tourists and sometimes will demand immediate payment.  

 I will continue with another post about things to do, and a little more on where to eat, and more.  

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