I normally consider myself to have a pretty good sense of direction and if I go somewhere once I usually remember fairly well how to both return back to my starting point and find it again later. Well, walking around certain parts of Prague threw all of that out the window! Any time I found myself in or near the Old Town section of the city it was totally dependent on Google maps and in most cases full on navigation mode. I did well with the multiple maps that I had but in the twisting winding streets and alleys of the Old Town I was SOL. One evening I was certain that I knew where I was going and it turned out to be completely the wrong way and I felt like I was walking in circles around the Astronomical clock forever. It's cool that it was the 605th birthday of the clock and all but I was hoping to get back to my hotel!
Also, one of the spots on my list to check out, Wenceslas Square, I didn't realize that for two days I'd been walking through it after leaving my hotel. It was totally underwhelming and one less sight to seek out :) The same was true when I wanted to check out the old building art as forms of identification prior to using numbers along Nerudova Street - I didn't realize I was on the actual street until I got to the end. I'll say in this case I was so distracted eating my delicious trdelnik that I couldn't see anything else. I had to backtrack up the street filled with people to take time to look up and see the various images above the doorways.
After three full days in Prague I think I did pretty well to see most of the sights and wander around the neighborhoods and took lots of pictures. There's still a few more things that I'd like to go back and see but for the first time I'd say I did OK. While I didn't have any rain, just chilly temperatures, I certainly did not have beautiful skies until Sunday (my last full day) and Monday morning before catching the train. But that was OK, I attempted to plan my sightseeing around getting clearer skies for nice elevated views across the city. I also attempted to get to major sights early in the day and I was semi-successful with that but I should have been even earlier. The crowds and tour groups at the castle were a bit much.
The Jewish Quarter and Jewish Museum sights I did on my first day and found them all to be incredibly interesting. Seeing the synagogues, old cemetery (where apparently there are potentially 12 layers of bodies buried), Holocaust history and memorials was all very interesting. Walking through the Pinkas synagogue and looking at the almost 80,000 names of Jews killed during the Holocaust written on the walls and then the drawings from children done in the Terezin camp was quite somber. The interior of the Spanish Synagogue was stunning. I was going to go back there for a concert on one of the evenings but decided on another venue.
Prague Castle and the surrounding areas were packed with people but still fairly enjoyable. Even with all of the people I experienced I couldn't help but wonder what it's like in the height of Summer - eeeek! St Vitus cathedral was very reminiscent of Notre Dame with it's Gothic style and massive stained glass windows. This was probably my favorite sight, in addition to wandering the gardens, at the Castle. Golden Lane was very cute but so packed with people the charm was gone.
When I knew the sun was going to be out and the skies a bit clearer I sought out some viewpoints where I could overlook the city. Sunday was the sunny day so I started with heading right for the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Bridge Tower. Luckily I hadn't gotten there any earlier than I had because upon my arrival a few minutes after 10 I realized that it had only just opened at 10AM. Perfect timing, there was hardly anyone up at the top and not nearly the crowds of the afternoon along the bridge itself. Great views across the river to Prague Castle and over the rooftops of Old Town. Petrin Hill and its mini Eiffel Tower provided spectacular views over the city as well. The walk up the hill was quite pleasant and helped keep me warm when it was quite chilly. I attempted to stay off the main winding pathway once I realized that it was the main Segway route (more on those later!).
Funky and fun art is all around the city. I would love to go back and just try to take in as much of that as possible. I did see the statues of two guys peeing, one man hanging from a pole over the middle of the street, babies climbing the TV tower, and figures hanging beneath a bridge appearing to be flying over the water. Despite numerous Segway tour groups the Lennon Wall, with Beatles cover singer included, was one of my favorite sights. I love to see places where people are leaving notes, drawings, and graffiti to what has become art in it's own right.
And what is it about the Segway tours anyway? Can someone please enlighten me. I see them offered in pretty much every city (San Francisco included) but never have I actually seen so many people actually taking them. Seriously people?!?! I am curious to know whether or not it's a combined ticket with a club or some type of after party because the age group on them was usually quite young. I don't want to be on a Segway to begin with but certainly don't like to idea of being on one in a line of people down cobblestone streets.
Live music abounds throughout Prague. I discovered this quite quickly and thought that it would be a great thing to do one evening. I happened upon a music shop when I was in the Old Town square that had information about numerous different shows going on each night and a map of the various venues. Apparently this is how many of the churches make money - they have classical or otherwise music concerts a few nights a week and charge admission. I thought the Spanish Synagogue was so beautiful I thought about going to see a symphony concert there but I ultimately decided to go for a husband and wife guitar duo playing a small art gallery. Not quite the same setting but a mix of music, mostly Spanish and Flamenco but also some Bach, and a nice small crowd.
And they even have a dancing building...
Thanks Prague for a lovely three and a half days with lovely sights, lots of walking and best of all cheap food and drink! Off to Budapest now via train with the latest installment in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, book in hand thanks to the Gatwick airport. At some point I need to make a decision on the next move. My planned adventure to Istanbul and some Turkish beaches may be on hold til tensions (both local due to elections and given the proximity to Syria) and bombings settle down. Probably should have bought that refundable ticket as I'm no Carrie Matthison.