Trafalgar Tours - Prague, Vienna and Budapest: Chapter 4
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City wonders and cafe life
10.30am, the next day, we were standing on Gothic Charles Bridge.
14th century and famous around the world.
It connects the Old Town to The Little Quarter which leads up the hill
to the castle. The bridge is over 500m long, has 16 arches and is unusual in
the fact it is slightly curved. Thirty
statues line the bridge. All your favourite saints are here - almost an A -
Z. St Wenceslas has to be here as is St
John the Baptist, St Christopher, St Francis of Assisi, St Barbara, St Ann and
The feel is totally cosmopolitan. The area has an almost
festival atmosphere at any time of day or year. Street performers are all
around. A rather anorexic Winnie the Pooh pranced up and down, miles away from
the Hundred Acre Wood. The kids loved him. Artists selling prints and
watercolours, sketching 5 minute caricatures, photographers selling atmospheric
photos especially black and white, jewellery. It's all on offer here.
There are always tourists milling around. The bridge and
river acts as a magnet. Once again throngs of Japanese and Chinese see this
amazing capital through their camera lens rather than experiencing the
staggering beauty Prague has to offer in 360 degree 3D.
Too many selfie sticks too. The couple in front were almost
decapitated by a Far Eastern tourist swinging one around trying to get a decent
shot. I do think that people who use selfie sticks need to have a good long
look at themselves!
Kutna Hora was the optional tour today offered by Paul and
Gabor. It’s been on the UNESCO world culture heritage list since 1995 because
it was the medieval centre of silver mining, which resulted in it becoming the
second richest town in Bohemia, once rivalling Prague in importance. St
Barbara's cathedral, another Gothic masterpiece, was appreciated by our group. St
Babs is patron saint of miners. The unique Ossuary or bone house is decorated
with over 40,000 bones and is fascinating.
To escape the crowds on Charles Bridge (Karluv most), and it
is easy to do, so we took a stroll through Kampa Park, past the watermill and
sat down. People watching is positively de rigeur. The statue of a seated girl
here was created in 1965 by John Hany. The ‘Babies’ by David Cerny are rather
ugly yet thought provoking.
Cafe Savoy dates back to 1893. It has an ornate and gorgeous
Neo-Renaissance ceiling, crystal chandeliers and spotlessly manicured polite
staff. Don't forget to look up! To preserve the ceiling during the war and
subsequent socialist years, the wise owner made the correct decision to cover
it up. No one using the cafe had the slightest knowledge of the gem hidden a
few feet above their heads. A great lunch is on offer too. The fried chicken
schnitzel and potato salad was lovely. Oh, did I mention the cakes or the
coffee that followed?
Soothed by the ever present sun and full from lunch, we
decided to head towards Wenceslas Square named after the good king of Christmas
carol fame. Through the trees we could
see the impressive Tancici Dum, the Dancing House, affectionately named
the Fred and Ginger building. Designed by Frank Gehry, this popular attraction ‘danced’
onto the riverbank in 1997. From a distance the twin towers look like two
ballroom dancers leaning into a clinch. It’s a frantic, chaotic building,
which is a symbol of post-communist Prague, a building for the city. The guide
book says it’s an icon of de-constructivist buildings and I, for one, am not
going to argue.
Next stop Cafe Slavia, near The National Theatre, serving
excellent coffee again. And cake too. We are adopting the ‘when in Rome’
Wenceslas Square is not square, more long and thin and tree-
lined, rather like a wide boulevard. In the so called Velvet Revolution, a
peaceful people power rose up against the brutal communist rule. The drawing
back of the Iron Curtain began here with Vaclav Havel being elected president
in 1989. Prague became capital of the now independent Czech Republic in 1993. A
crowd stood below the balcony from where he addressed the good people of this
city. The giant statue of St Wenceslas on horseback is impressive.
With the sun still shining, burning my neck in fact, we
headed back to the hotel. A final look at iconic Old Town Square, which was
once was a place of execution. It’s now
a focal point for locals, tourists and street theatre. (One of my school
colleagues left school to join a touring circus. The word on the street is that
he eventually moved to Bohemia to become a mime artist. We haven't heard a word
from him since.)
A final meal of goulash, dumplings followed by strudel and
cream then back to The President to pack. Did I mention the delicious
coffee and cake?
Prague will capture your heart. And in this medieval
romantic paradise, life's troubles seem a long, long world away.
Tomorrow Austria and the wonderful Vienna and
another tick on our bucket list.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Trafalgar
- Trafalgar Tours - Prague, Vienna and Budapest: Chapter 1 - preparing to travel
- Trafalgar Tours - Prague, Vienna and Budapest: Chapter 2 - a stunning city and new friends
- Trafalgar Tours - Prague, Vienna and Budapest: Chapter 3 - a guided walk and music by candlelight
- Trafalgar Tours - Prague, Vienna and Budapest: Chapter 5 - Vienna bound
- Trafalgar Tours - Prague, Vienna and Budapest: Chapter 6 - a Viennese whirl
- Trafalgar Tours - Prague, Vienna and Budapest: Chapter 7 - having a ball
- Trafalgar Tours - Prague, Vienna and Budapest: Chapter 8 - Budapest bound
- Trafalgar Tours - Prague, Vienna and Budapest: Chapter 9 - Big bustling Budapest
- Trafalgar Tours - Prague, Vienna and Budapest: Chapter 10 - Goodbye Budapest
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