Mom came!  Since Mom came to visit at Christmas, we wanted to go see some interesting things.  Mom had never seen Prague (since you couldn’t get there when we lived in Germany before) and we knew we wanted to go back, so we decided Prague was one of the places we’d see.

This time we drove.  We were a little nervous—first time driving outside Germany—but other than the Esso station we had planned to stop at not being an Esso station any longer, the drive went pretty well.  The countryside was pretty.


Roy driving to Prague. He looks grumpy, doesn't he?


Driving to Prague


Driving to Prague

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Airport Praha (Prague).  It was a little hard to find, but we finally made it.  I was a little aggravated about the bed situation, as the room they gave us didn’t match what the reservation said, but they put up a bed for Mom, and the “king” bed was more like two queens put together, so we managed.  The room was fairly nice, and breakfast turned out to be included—and the bus station to get to the city was right around the corner.

It was late in the afternoon and the light already dimming at about 1630, but we caught the bus and went into the city.  Directions to get to the city center (bus, then subway) were right on target.  We walked up from the subway right into Prague’s Christmas market.

Unlike most German towns, Prague keeps its Christmas market open through the end of the year.  We had been to the Stuttgart Weinachtmarkt and were a bit disappointed.  Prague’s was much nicer; there were some stalls with touristy junk, but several had pretty nice items.

One of the first items of business was food—we were hungry after the several hours of driving.  We decided to try the place our tour guide on the previous trip had told us had a variety of “traditional Czech food.”  This turned out to be a cafeteria type place, where you go down a line, tell them what you want, and pay by the item (like a Czech Luby’s).  We weren’t quite sure what to do, but of course they spoke English (and Italian, Spanish, French, etc.—the lady behind the counter is apparently able to talk to just about anyone!)  Mom and I had kind of a goulash with some kind of potato thing.  It was pretty good, but actually not that much different from what you could get in an American cafeteria.

IMG_0261.JPGHunger assuaged, we went out to explore the Christmas market some more.  Rebecca had a school assignment to take pictures of Christmas lights, and there were several opportunities for her to get some good shots.  It’s pretty interesting to see some of the sights (the astronomical tower and the Church of Our Lady before Týn) at night.  We ended up walking down to the Charles Bridge so I could get a picture of Prague Castle by night.  Unfortunately it didn’t turn out that well, but it’s a pretty sight to see in person.  Mom got a chance to pick up some rocks to take back (don’t forget the rocks!)  It was really cold, especially by the river, so we made our way back to the subway, then to the bus and back to the hotel.

Next morning, we took advantage of the hotel breakfast, which we had all to ourselves, and then set out back to the city.

We revisited some of the sights we saw on our first trip, so Mom could enjoy them.  We walked to the top of Wenceslas Square toward the dscf0322_0.jpgNational Museum and saw the statue of King Wenceslas.  Then we headed back toward Old Town.  Mom saw two Prague police officers and decided she needed to take a picture of them.  She stopped them and asked if it was allowed.  I think they didn’t quite understand at first, but they let her take their picture (probably decided it was best to humour the nutty American lady!)

We walked back through Old Town toward the Charles Bridge, checking out all the Christmas market stalls on the way.  This time, we walked over the Charles Bridge—destination Prague Castle!  There are quite a few picturesque statues on the way; many of the figures are very old and crumbling.  They are doing some restoration on the bridge, so hopefully some of these things will be preserved.

It’s a long walk to Prague Castle, and once you’re over the bridge, it seems like it’s all uphill!  Did I mention it was really cold?  It’s worth the view at the top, though.

img_0312_0.jpgYou could probably spend a day at least going through all the buildings and museums in the Prague Castle area, but we just spent a while going through the area and looking at the courtyards and the buildings.  We saw St Peter’s Square (the Prague version) and the entrance to the Golden Lane.  The Golden Lane originated in the 15th century, as a place for the castle marksmen to live.  In later times, marksmen weren’t needed any more, and people with other occupations lived there.  The story is that alchemists lived on the street, hence the name “Golden Lane.”  Franz Kafka lived there at one time.

We saw the guards outside the castle; we didn’t see a changing of the guard like at Buckingham Palace, but these guards were definitely patient.  People act like they’re statues or something, standing by them and taking pictures.  We thought about going in the Toy Museum, but when Roy checked, it turned out to be more about “modern” toys—like the Barbie exhibition they were having!

One of my favorite areas was a really large courtyard where you could get a good view of St Vitus Cathedral.  This is the seat of the Archbishopimg_0301_0.jpg of Prague and the largest, most important church in the Czech Republic.  It’s the burial place for saints, kings, princes and emperors of Bohemia, and the coronations of the kings of Bohemia were held there until 1836.  It’s an incredible example of Gothic architecture.  When you go up the hill and through the arch, the cathedral is right there and huge—it’s impressive, but hard to get a picture.  This courtyard area is large and spacious, and lets you get a perspective on the buildings.  The architecture in this area is really beautiful.

There was a nice Nativity scene of straw, and a little area with some stones in it that are from the original building of the church, many centuries ago.

Another interesting building is St George Basilica, the second oldest church in Prague.  At this time of year, it had a Christmas tree in front, with a guard and something that looked like a request for donations.  I think this was something like the Prague version of the Salvation Army.  In the courtyard was a statue of St George and the dragon.

By this time, it was early afternoon and we were hungry.  We tried a couple of places in the castle area, but everywhere was really crowded, so we decided to make our way back to the other side of the river.

We took a different path down from the castle, and it seemed shorter, but quite steep.  It seemed this was the more popular route, so it also had some beggars on the path.  One person was dressed up in a costume and people were stopping to take pictures with him (à la Disney).  We did the same thing, but it’s sad when you think about it.

img_0325_0.jpgWe also took a different route back across the Vtlava River.  We passed several interesting areas on our way back to Old Town, including what I believe was the National Theater.  We went through part of the Jewish Quarter and wandered there looking for a coffee shop that we had on our list.  Part of the Jewish Quarter was run down, but part of it was pretty upscale-looking, so we went on back to the more touristy area of Prague—hunting food!

We looked in a few places, but—did I mention it was REALLY cold?—most everywhere was pretty full.  We finally came upon a little Italian img_0330_0.jpgrestaurant that looked like it had stuff we would eat.  It turned out to be a great find.  You go in the doorway and down a stairway, and there’s the eating area, small but with several tables.  Again, they spoke English, and they were very gracious.  Not sure I’ve ever had diet Pepsi poured out into my wine glass before.  The food was delicious, especially the bread.  And it was nice and warm in the restaurant; we were really shrinking from going back outside after the meal, especially since it was getting dark already.

The twilight meant that Rebecca could try to get some more Christmas light pictures, so we went back into the Christmas market area where they had some pretty lights.  We took a short trip over to the mall, but just walked through there enough to warm up.  As it got dark, it got very cold, and we really wanted some coffee, but somehow we had the same problem as our last trip finding the coffee shops we had researched.  We finally ended up back at Coffee Heaven, where we made the mistake of having dessert as well as fancy coffee (Mom said it was like having two desserts).  We enjoyed it while we were having it, though, and had a really nice view of the square and the market from the window seats.

img_0381.jpgWe wrapped up our day in Prague with some shopping at the Christmas market, including getting rid of most of our last few Czech crowns by buying a bag of the roasted chestnuts they sold in several areas.  I always wanted to try chestnuts roasted on an open fire—well, okay, maybe not an open fire, but they were roasted.  I thought they tasted okay, but Roy and Rebecca didn’t care for them.

Prague is a really beautiful city, and we really enjoyed the Christmas market.  Even though it was cold, it was worth the trip to see Prague at Christmas time.

Related Images:


Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>