The Magical City of Prague
I wanted to visit Prague for a long time but I postponed all the time going there due to other destinations. Thus, I was very excited when the Central European Association of Canadian Studies invited me to their triennial conference in Prague on September 20-22, 2018. I planned to fly with KLM Madrid-Prague via Amsterdam, to have a peek at the Dutch capital for a few hours, too.
On the beautiful sunny morning of September 19, I boarded the KLM airplane in Madrid and at 12.55 pm, I was at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. My flight to Prague was at 20.30, so I decided to take the train and have a look at Amsterdam. I had enough time to have a boat tour, roam around the downtown area, get some lunch and buy souvenirs. I enjoyed my time but I was not impressed. A nice city but nothing spectacular.
I couldn't wait anymore to get on the airplane for Prague! At 21:55, I finally landed there! I found an ATM right at the airport and I withdrew some Czech crowns. The approximate exchange rate is 1 euro = 27 Czech crowns. I bought a 90-minute public transportation ticket for 32 crowns and I boarded bus number 119 to get to Nádraží Veleslavín Subway station, where I took the subway line A to Mustek Station. It took me 5 minutes from there on foot to get to my hotel U dvou zlatých klíčů. While I was walking to the hotel, I didn't miss the opportunity to look around and I was already impressed with the architecture! It was spectacular! Much better than in Amsterdam! It reminded me of my favorite city Vienna. I asked some pedestrians where Spálená ulica/Spálená St is in my broken Czech but apparently it was good enough to be understood and directed to the third street on the left. Since I speak Bulgarian, which is also a Slavic language, I didn't have big issues understanding basic Czech and if I got in trouble, I could always switch to English. Czech language to a Bulgarian speaker sounds so sweet, full of diminutive forms as if little children speak.
The only thing that confused me a bit while I was looking for my hotel was the double numbering of streets, e.g. Spálená 98/31, but I figured out where I was and found my place. The receptionist was a young Czech polyglot, who offered to serve me in Czech, English, Polish or Russian. I chose English and managed to get as well two different city maps. After a quick shower, I went to bed, because it was already past 11 pm.
A morning in the Old Town of Prague
I woke up early on the next day, September 20. At 7 am, I was already up, excited to discover the city of a thousand spires! The more I roamed around, the more fascinated I was! St. Vitus Cathedral, Jan Hus' monument, the astronomic clock, the bridges over the Vltava River, the Museum of Medieval Tortures, the Museum of the Boheman garnet, Clementinum, the National Theater and the monument of Jan Palach - the student who self-immolated in 1969 to protest the Soviet invasion after the Prague Spring reforms of 1968. All of the above inspired me and boosted my energy! Beauty, beauty and more beauty and history!
The Jewish Quarter
Before crossing Charles Bridge, I decided to see the Jewish quarter called Josefov. The Jewish quarter is so nice that even Hitler decided not to destroy it and save it as a museum of a vanished community. I wanted to see the Spanish synagogue, which I heard was very beautiful. However, I was informed at the gate of the Spanish synagogue that I needed to buy a combined ticket of 450 crowns or roughly 15 euros that included a number of synagogues and the Jewish cemetery. I bought this ticket from the information center in the Jewish quarter and thus, I visited the Spanish synagogue, Pinkas synagogue and the Jewish cemetery. The most impressive was the Spanish synagogue! The most beautiful synagogue I have ever seen by far, even though I admit, I am not a synagogue expert.
Charles Bridge and Lesser Town/Mala Strana
After seeing the Spanish synagogue, I rushed to the Vltava coast. I couldn't stop enjoying the magnificent architecture and taking photos! Finally, I reached Charles Bridge and started crossing it. The view left me speechless! Wow! I haven't been impressed that much with a place for a long time!
I enjoyed all the views, documented them with a ton of photos and reached Mala Strana or Lesser Town of Prague, literally in Czech - Little Side (of the river). I immediately climbed the tower next to the bridge and took some amazing birds eye view photos. Then I went to Kampa Island to get a Czech hotdog with a big sausage and even bigger glass of beer. With this quick Czech style snack, I felt like a real Czech! Czech beer also surprised me pleasantly. Definitely, in top 3, together with Belgian and German beer, of course.
After this intense tour, I had to go to the conference, which I did, exactly at 4 pm, to catch the afternoon sessions.
Wenceslas Square and Prague Castle
On the next day, I decided to go to Cesky Krumlov and at 7:45 am, I was already on the street with an open camera! I went to see the Powder Tower/Prašná brána in Czech and Wenceslas Square/Václavské náměstí in Czech. An amazing place full of architectural gems, monuments dedicated to King Wenceslas and Jan Palach and the Czech National Museum. From there, I went down on foot to the train station to catch the subway to Florenc Station. I tried to buy a bus ticket to Cesky Krumlov but there were no tickets well until the afternoon. I rapidly changed my plan, not to waste time. It was a simple plan, to catch the subway and go back to Mala strana/Lesser Town and see the entire area of Prague Castle/Pražský hrad in Czech. The Golden Street was not bad, as well as all the knight armor and weaponry and palaces but quite frankly, I was much more impressed with the Old Town/Stare Mesto on the other side of the Vltava River. After lunch, I went back crossing the amazing Charles Bridge to Charles University, where my conference was.
Last day in Prague
On Sunday, unfortunately my last day, I just had another quick walk admiring the Old Town and went to Havel's Market. It is a great place to find original Czech souvenirs on affordable prices. After a hearty lunch in the Beer Museum near Charles Bridge, which is actually a pub-restaurant where you can have tasty food and try numerous types of beer, I headed to the airport. It was already raining as if the weather was also sad and in a gloomy mood that I had to leave this astonishing city after such a short time.
For me Prague still remains an incredible surprise! I haven't expected that I would be so impressed with a city that was on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. However, the amazing architecture, the lively streets, the welcoming people, the tasty food and beer, the entire atmosphere overall, everything just left me full of adrenaline, overflowing with happiness and joy that I had the luck to behold this gem! This is what I call a CITY! A city with a SOUL!
© 2020 Chris Kostov