A visit to Prague Old Town

As said at the end of my previous blog, our trip back to the hotel on the first day was very interesting.

From the Castle Square we walked toward the nearest tram stop.We needed to exchange some more dollars into euros and so looked for an exchange. As soon as we saw one Trevor went in and did the exchange but came out rather aggrieved as he had been charged commission. He realised that it was his mistake in not checking first and what made it even more annoying was that, as we continued on our way to the stop, we saw three exchanges which advertised that they did not charge commission! We also took the opportunity to buy chicken burgers from a small Chinese shop and they turned out to be really delicious.

When we got to the tram stop we were told that we needed to go to the stop around the corner as the No. 25 tram, which we needed to take into town, did not stop there. At this stop we met a lovely young lady, Magdalena, who told us that she was going to the stop after ours for the hotel so she would get us safely there. It turned out that she had finished her architecture studies a year ago and was now working at an architectural firm all the way across town to this area. We were really appreciative of her assistance as she helped us to change trams and to leave the tram.

We woke the next morning to a cold, 10deg C, and wet day. To follow the itinerary as given in the guide we were to visit Prague’s Old Town today. Central Prague is divided into 2 ‘towns’ – the Old and the Lesser. In the Old Town are the main city buildings dating from the 14th Century whereas the Castle actually dates as early as the 10th Century, having been the seat of the Bohemian Kings. The Lesser Town comprises the area around and below the Castle and is linked to the Old Town by the Charles Bridge. (The Czec Republic and Prague itself have an interesting history, too much to include here so do go to this link for more information.)

To get into the Old Town and Wenceslas Square our guide, who had accompanied us from the airport, had told us to catch the No. 8 tram and “get off at the very large square which you cannot miss.” As we had purchased tickets yesterday we went to the stop across from the hotel and caught the tram. We both kept our eyes open for this very large square and did not think that not seeing might be a possibility, I suddenly saw a smallish square but with wooden huts as shops as others had said that they had seen. I was sure that this was where we had to get off but Trevor said no. The bus driver even opened his door and looked straight at me, shouting something in Czec which further convinced me, but still Trevor said no. The driver just slammed his door and drove on. (I was right!)

We got off at the next stop as it was obvious that the tram was about to turn off the main street. While we looked around we saw a tower up a small hill in front of us so we decided to go and look at this ‘church’ first. When we got there we discovered that it is the New Town Hall built in 1348! It is the New Town Hall as it is seated in Prague’s New Town, the 3rd of 4 former separate sections of Prague. Over the years it has served as prison, a High Court and the seat of the Town Council. Today it is used for exhibitions and conferences. For amazing views over Prague Trevor climbed the 221 steps to the top of the tower at which point one is 272m above sea level. When he returned,he said that he New Town HallNew Town HallView from New Town HallView from New Town Hall had seen a lovely park just the other side of the tower. We spent a while walking around this park and looking at the statues and fountains.

We then ambled slowly back to the Old Town Square. When we reached the intersection we first went uphill to the wooden huts that I had seen earlier and found a stall which sold TredlnÍk – a sweet pastry covered in almonds, sugar and cinnamon and shaped in a spiral. Delicious. As the day progressed we saw many more of these stalls, some even selling the pastry shaped so as to be able to hold ice-cream. I wanted to make sure that I knew how to spell the name of this food and as I took the photo of the sign I saw her sign indicating NO PHOTOS. Oooops.Making TrdelnikMaking Trdelnik

Once at the top of the hill we realised that we had not seen the Astronomical Clock, Statue of Franz Kafka or the Old Town Hall. We asked a passer-by who told us that it was on the other side of the main street. On our way down we passed a shop called Palác Knih or Palace of Books. I had to go and look at this and boy, did I salivate. The shop with shelves filled with books just went on and on and on. We didn’t go right to the back but it was just amazing.Palace of booksPalace of books

 

We continued our wander down the hill and came to “a very large square” which was not visible from the main street or the bus. This is the Wenceslas Square named after Wenceslaus !, Duke of Bohemia and considered to be a good king. In a circle in the centre of the Square were many more of the wooden huts or stalls, almost all of them selling sweets, painted eggs, TredlnÍk and other foods. In the centre was a statue of Wenceslaus surrounded by a lovely fountain. It was then that I realised that none of the fountains we had seen was flowing and we were told that it was because it was still so cold.

Around the sides of the square were many beautiful buildings decorated with friezes and frescos. We were keen to see the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall tower which, as it struck each hour, a parade of the 12 apostles would roll by a couple of windows. I have to admit that we were rather disappointed at this display as the busts moved past quickly and deep within the windows. So many people had gathered at 1pm, as did we, and many walked away saying, “was that all it is”. The clock itself is a wonder to see and quite fascinating. One can stare at it for ages seeing something different all the time. Trevor had to take these photos as there was some scaffolding around the base and I am rather short for this sort of photo shoot.Beautiful frescoesBeautiful frescoesAstronomical clockAstronomical clock

As it was a Saturday, we were unable to visit the Jewish Quarter as it was closed. This was sad as it was one place we wanted to visit as Prague’s Jewish people have a painful history. Thus, there was time to see just one more place to see and that was the Charles Bridge built in the 14th Century and links the Old and Lesser Towns over the Vltava River. It is the oldest stone bridge in the Czec Republic and is now a pedestrian bridge only (except for the garbage truck which came on while we were there). We did ask directions to the bridge and we were told, “straight down this way”. There is no straight road in any old town anywhere!! We found it and it was packed with people. All along both sides of the bridge were religious statues with one of the Crucifixion itself in the middle. Numbers of tourists stopped and crossed themselves and kissed the statues but the more we travelled the more we learnt that the majority of the people were not active Christians.King Charles statueKing Charles statue at entrance to the Charles Bridge


On the Lesser Town side of the bridge we found a Tourist Information Centre where we were warmly welcomed and assisted. Their advice was for us to take the Underground back to our hotel, 200m from the station. We enjoyed a pizza in a little one-lady shop and went to pack and prepare to leave the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

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About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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