On the 31st we got an early bus from Vienna to Prague. The bus took about 5 hours (around the same as the train) and was quite cheap at ~16 EU. The bus was well equipped with comfy seats and TV’s at each seat.
Upon arrival in Prague we made our way to our Hotel where we would stay for a night before meeting up with Greta and Laura. We booked the Hotel/B&B through airbnb where the rate was about half that advertised on their website. The receptionist was very helpful supplying us with maps, advising us on places to go and making a much need espresso. After putting our bags in our room we headed into town to explore.
We headed into town around 3pm and planned to get our bearings and have a look around rather than trying to see anything specific. We walked back to the train station and got it one stop into the old town and started our wander. We went to Wencelas Square, which was really more of a road in front of a big building with nice gardens down the middle. That is Wencelas like Old Kind Wencelas in the Christmas carol.
Horse statue in Wencelas Square – they are pretty into their men on horse statues
Got a street sausage which are massive and reasonably tasty in the “Prague Sausage” flavor – not a clue what was in it. Then we wandered down into the narrow streets, there are zillions of tourists everywhere. We went to the old town square and saw the astronomical clock and Tyn church, headed past the market where they sell these rather annoying puppets that cackle when you make noise, and of course the noise of one cackling sets of the others – I don’t know how the stall people stand it all day every day!
Pretty Building on Old Town Square
Astronomical Clock – we saw it go off at noon which was pretty cool – figures moved past windows that opened, the golden chicken moved and there was a trumpeter at the top
On our way to the Charles Bridge there was a gypsy with a massive yellow snake around her neck – have since seen a few more people with snakes, tourists must pay them to hold the snake and have photos.
Snake gypsy lady
Gate House on Charles Bridge
Down by the river was really nice, we stood outside the largest night club in Europe which kindly provided us with Wi-Fi to get hold of Rachel and Greta.
We went over the Charles Bridge which is lined with statues and a few lucky plaques which are shiny and clean from people rubbing. There were also lots of portrait painters and caricature artists painting rather favorable portraits of people on the bridge. Some were actually quite good. I was surprised by the number of famous people that must have crossed the bridge, like Harry Potter, Emma Watson, Avril Lavigne etc, all the artists had been lucky enough to draw them at some time (lol). There was also lots of market like touristy stuff on in stalls – as there seems to be everywhere, the number of shops selling coloured glasses and sparkly things is clock like (astronomical).
Jazz band on Charles Bridge with a guy playing with whisks!
Walking along by the river on the way up to the meet Greta and Rachel at the Chechuv most was quite nice. We met them and went up the stairs to the beer gardens. There was a metronome at the top and quite a good view of the city. We had beer, cider and pizza in the beer gardens which were nice and cool and then walked back through town quite late. Completely exhausted really.
View from near beer gardens
The first was Celia’s birthday! YAY! We got up rather late and had breakfast at the hotel, there were a few interesting things to try, pasta with a sweet sauce and cinnamon on top (a little strange for breakfast but quite yum), chocolate muesli, an apple and custard slice, and strange meaty things. We checked out and traipsed with our packs in the heat down to the subway and back to the bus station where the hostel we stayed for the remainder of our time in Prague with the rest of the NZ’ers. We somewhat hesitantly left our bags including most of our money and laptop in the bag storage across from the hostel until we could check in and headed off for more touristing.
We headed straight for a café we had seen the day before as it most resembled a NZ café and picked it as our best chance of good coffee, delightfully the coffee was good! They added another 4 kiwis to their tally of international visitors they keep, there were a lot of different nationalities on the board which is not surprising as there are so many different faces and languages spoken on the streets.
Post coffee we headed over Charles Bridge and up to the caste. It was quite a long way up and gave great views of the city. We got even better views after paying to go up the South Tower. The climb up the tight spiral staircase was mildly nauseating.
Cathedral in the Castle grounds
View from the top of the South Tower
The castle grounds were lovely with flowers, trees and pretty doors. There was an automatic lawnmower for one of the walled lawns, just like the automatic vacuum cleaners it turned when it hit a wall and went off in a random direction.
Guard at the Castle – it was very hot
Kind of a funny thing to have out in the grounds of a castle. It was interesting to read about the history of the castle and how it developed and got built up through the ages. Also interesting is the attitude of people through the ages, our attitude now towards old things seems to generally be preservation, whereas many buildings have been renovated and updated to the style of the times in previous centuries.
Things infront of every park on one street
Nice park and river in the middle of the city
Same park river and bridge!
We found a restaurant to have lunch (at like 3.30 but we’ll till call it lunch) in the old town, it was pretty good pizza, pasta risotto and salad. When it came to paying we may have had an oopsy – as he put the bill on the table he said something like “the service is not included” which confused us a bit, so we got our cash out to the amount on the bill, tucked it into the bill folder and left somewhat quickly before he came back and we found out if we actually needed to tip on top of the bill. Tipping is rather irritating, I guess we will get used to it in the US, but we expect it over there, whereas up until now we haven’t been asked to tip here.
First gelato was post lunch – DELICIOUS!
Headed back to the hostel, checked in, chilled out, had a shower, got dressed and then headed out for dinner. I dressed in my fluoro orange dress for the occasion. Earlier in the day I had seen people eating a Czech dish of duck, red cabbage, dumplings and sauce that I wanted to try out. Unfortunately the only option for that on the menu was half a duck… I went for it anyway – it was literally a cooked duck chopped in half lengthwise. Enormous. It was ok, a bit dry and not enough sauce, but now I’ve tried it. They offered us some lemony spirit shot, which we tried without knowing how much it cost – oops, it added a wee bit to the bill.
All in all a pretty good birthday away from home. It didn’t feel so much like a birthday as there was so much going on that it wasn’t the focal point of the day like it is on a normal day, but a most enjoyable day czeching out Prague none the less!