It’s my first full-day in Prague and I have mixed feelings about the city. I’m really, really happy that I went to the Baltics prior to visiting Prague because I got to see the Old Towns of Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius without being overswamped by tourists. Of course, there were tourist groups with the leaders carrying a silly umbrella in front and there were opinionated Italian mammas everywhere I went to. In Tallinn and to a lesser extent Riga, there were silly drunken Brits who loved to be loud and stupid. Other than the Brits and the Italians, the Germans and the Russians were quite well-represented in the Baltics as well.
Now, let me tell you about Prague! Today I planned to dedicate the whole day to the sights in Malá Strana (Lesser Town) and Hradčany which are the areas on the other side of the river. I will spend the full day tomorrow exploring the Staré Město (Old Town), Nové Město (the New Town) and Josefov (the Jewish Quarter) tomorrow. My first stop was St Nicholas Church, which was beautifully decorated with frescoes and statues. I got in before the first group of Italian mammas came in, so I could took good pictures in peace. After St Nicholas, I walked along Nerudova Street, with its collection of pretty houses and shops. In the old times, rather than appointing numbers to each of the house, they put a symbol or a picture above the door, so you would find houses such as “The Red Lamb”, or “The Green Lobster”, or “The Three Fiddles”). At the end of the street, I walked up to the Royal Palace and to St Vitus’ Cathedral. By the time I arrived there, it was already about midday, and BOY, IT WAS PACKED WITH TOURISTS! I got in to the Cathedral, and it looked like a fairground on the inside – visitors were told not to take any pictures, but there were clicks of cameras, and chatters of the tourists. It didn’t feel like a Cathedral at all. It was FULL! Imagine a room full of noisy Italian mammas, Russian babushkas, guttural Germans and vocal Americans, complete with competing tour guides. I didn’t bother buying the ticket to the South Tower or to see the Royal Cript, as I have been to a royal cript in Berlin and I have climbed numerous towers in the Baltics.
I also didn’t bother getting into the Royal Palace, because it was packed as well – there were sights that I deliberately skipped in the Royal Castle as I just couldn’t bother competing with other tourists. As a conclusion, you’d get better bang for your bucks going to the Baltics and see the real mediaeval town rather than being lost in the sea of tourists. I wanted to see the Golden Lane within the Royal Castle, but with the tourists queuing to get in, I thought I had seen better lanes and alleys in Stockholm and Riga.
So after the Royal Castle, I continued walking along the Loretanska to visit the Loreto, which is a copy of the Loreto in Italy. Unfortunately it was closed on Monday, so I just took some pictures and besides I’m still quite churched out after Vilnius. After taking some more pictures of the surrounding area (Nový Svět), I continued walking towards Petřín Park, away from the tourists. Petřín Park is full of walking tracks and some quirky buildings that are worth a visit, such as Strahov Monastery, Observation Tower, Church of St Michael (quite a challenge finding this one especially since there is a serious lack of signs at Petřín Park!), Church of St Lawrence, and the Mirror Maze. I managed to dodge the rain by staying underneath the tree canopies and then walked to the city only to have a camera with a flat battery. So I had to get back to the hotel, charge the battery and go to an internet cafe in the meantime.
I’m really glad I’m doing this trip but I’m ready to go home. For any friends who are thinking of going to Prague, go to Tallinn beforehand, you will get the chance to soak in the mediaeval atmosphere without being bogged down by swarms of tourists. Then, you can visit Prague and see the beautiful buildings, or you may as well visit Riga and Vilnius instead, just down the road. Just something that I forgot to mention, I’m really happy to have the chance to practice my Deutsch when I was in Berlin – even with a broken German, I managed to have a conversation with the laundry storeman, a chemist, and other service persons.
So, all, that is my adventure for the day! I will add more tomorrow – and thank you to everybody who have posted your comments too! I read them and have a chuckle or two whenever a comment comes through!