Karie on Apr 10th 2008 07:21 pm
Prague is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. It was largely preserved during the war, although it was bombed toward the end of WWII. However, any damage caused throughout the decades has been replaced or restored, in some cases with even greater magnificence.
When you walk around Prague, look up. Some of the cities most beautiful and unique treasures are on top of buildings, or sometimes even hanging over the edges. For a while it was quite popular for young, undiscovered artists to take it upon themselves to decorate the city with sculptures (sometimes in random places). They often received no fame or recognition, nor did they expect it; it was simply their contribution to their beloved city.
Even the houses are decorated. Each building has (or had) some type of unique sign by which it could be identified. Before street names & numbers existed, you could send a letter to “the house with the three flying ducks”, and the messenger would know where to deliver it.
It’s hard to imagine that such a beautiful place was under such oppression not so long ago. We took a free walking tour (yes, we’re becoming quite fond of the free walking tours, especially when we don’t have a lot of time in a particular city), and our tour guide was a girl around 30 years old named Victoria. She was a Prague native, born into communism, but her parents gave her and her brother “Western” names in hopes that they could grow up and immigrate, in order to make better lives for themselves. Thankfully now, it is not necessary for them to leave their country to find opportunities.
The city is bustling with activity, and while it was nice to be in a country that’s not on the Euro, the city is not as cheap as we were expecting. Just a few years ago it was known to be one of the best and least expensive tourist destinations, but I suppose a rise in tourism is always followed by a rise in prices. It wasn’t extreme – in fact, we might not have noticed if we had not come directly from Cesky Krumlov. It is still possible to find some great spots to eat with the locals at reasonable prices… you just have to look a lot harder.
We spent a good amount of time crossing the Charles Bridge, admiring the street performers, vendors, and the fantastic views in every direction. We also made our way up to Prague Castle, one of the largest castles in the world, and one of the oldest medieval castles in Europe. The grounds include several buildings, churches, gardens, etc. You could easily spend a whole day there. I think we spent maybe 2 hours, max.
It was our last day, and we had been traveling for 4 of the last 5 weeks. While I know this is not a lot by backpacker standards, we were tired, so we probably didn’t really give it the attention it deserved. I think the last straw for us was when we purchased a relatively expensive ticket that gave us entrance to multiple buildings on the castle premises, only to find out that the main attraction – the palace – was closed.
Why wasn’t there some sign at the ticket booth stating that it was closed? How about the ticket salesperson saying, “You know the palace is closed today, right?” Had we known it was “closed due to technical difficulties”, we would’ve skipped the package deal and bought a la carte style tickets to any other attractions that we wanted to see, which would’ve been significantly cheaper, and less irritating. #@!*%^$!
We decided we needed an attitude adjustment, so at the last minute we squeezed in funicular ride up Petrin Hill to seek out the mirror maze. I don’t even know where we heard about it, and it’s certainly not one of those attractions that tops all the “must see” lists, but it was just what we needed to boost our spirits. We goofed around for a while, and when we came back out Prague was lovely once again.