After a pretty pleasant six-hour bus ride from Vienna, we have arrived in Prague, which is bittersweet since this will mark the last destination of our Eastern European journey. However, it’s hard to still not be excited when driving into a city marked by centuries-old cobblestone streets, sky-scraping cathedrals and rolling hills.
Once we settle into our hotel, the Grand Majestic, our tour guide, Julia, walks us about five minutes down the road to the Old Town Square where we can check out the Astronomical Clock, a famous clock that puts on a little medieval “show” on each hour. From there, our group quickly breaks up and Mike and I wander sort of aimlessly (a welcome change on a very busy tour) towards the direction of Charles Bridge and Prague Castle in the distance.
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On our way to Charles Bridge, we notice that many tourists in this busy area are eating what looks like cone-shaped donuts stuffed with ice cream, otherwise known as chimney cakes, which of course I can’t say no to. We hustle into one of the storefront’s crowds and order two of them before continuing our walk towards Charles Bridge.
Prague is a beautiful labyrinth of buildings which wind around one another, making the busy city difficult to navigate if you have a specific destination in mind but fun for us, who are so spent that we are more interested in just getting a lay of the land, enjoying the warm, sunny weather and checking out the trinkets, photographs, paintings, food and jewelry for sale.
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I’m actually kind of shocked when we actually find Charles Bridge, which is a 14-century pedestrian-only bridge – the very first bridge in the city – filled with 30 baroque-style statues of saints. After this, we wind around through the streets some more – nicknamed the “Venice of the East” due to the fact that some of the buildings sit on canals, and eventually stumble upon the Lennon Wall nearby.
The colorful Lennon Wall probably doesn’t have any visible graffiti any more back from the days of communism, but its message still holds true – every night at midnight during this time, city kids would head to the wall and protest communism with their graffitied messages, which would soon be whited out by the secret police. However, the white wall never lasted long – the following night, kids would return to paint their messages of love and peace all over again. The days of communism may now be over for the Czech Republic, but still, kids often paint their own messages on the wall.
Now that we are on the other side of the bridge, I don’t see why we shouldn’t continue up the daunting mountain to Prague Castle, which from our hotel is a 30-minute walk but from here it’s probably only about 15 or so. What I don’t account for is the 90-degree angle that we have to hike up to get there, but it’s worth it once we reach the top and see the view of Prague below.
To visit the grounds of Prague Castle is free, but to enter some of the buildings – including St. Vitus Cathedral – a medieval and almost menacing-looking cathedral – is not. I don’t really care to do any more formal touring anyway so we just wander the grounds, mostly not really sure what we are looking at despite my guidebook but enjoying the cool buildings regardless.
Eight miles of walking later, we’re ready to head back down the mountain and find our hotel before dinner. However, the hotel isn’t nearly as easy to find as we remembered it being – nor do either of us remember the name of the hotel. Mike jumps for joy when he realizes he has the room key, which will have the hotel’s name on it – until we realize it’s simply blank.
Our search seems hopeless for another 30 minutes or so, until we finally stumble upon the hotel and go back to the room quickly before heading out for a 10 p.m. Dinner, one of the perks of being smack in the middle of a large city. As I have been doing every night, I fall asleep immediately before having to wake up early again tomorrow morning.