Trip to Prague, Czech Republic

// September 5th, 2010 // Prague Czech Republic

Volvo asked me to travel back to Sweden for 2 weeks to work on a project.  It was a great opportunity to see something new over the weekend.  After researching many cities and checking flight schedules, Prague was the perfect choice!

Friday: I arrived just before midnight on Friday night.  I had previously booked a taxi since I was arriving so late, but when I walked to the exit of the airport, none of the taxi drivers were holding up a sign with my name on it.  “Crap!”  I started to get worried. 

Here I was in a faraway country at midnight with no ride.  After looking at all the signs the drivers were holding many times, hoping my name would somehow show up, I decided to walk outside to see if my driver was there.  I walked about 5 steps and there was my driver walking up!  “Whew!”

I stayed at the Hilton Old Town hotel.  They assigned a room to me on the executive floor (top floor) which was really nice.  It was also in a perfect location, only a 10 minute walk to the Old Town Square where my city tour would begin the following day.  I decided to take a tour with a company called Prague Walking Tours since it was recommended on tripadviser.com.

Saturday: My 6 hour tour began at 10 AM next to the Astronomical Clock.  It took me a while to actually find the Astronomical Clock!  I ended up taking the wrong route and had to ask 3 people for directions, but of course I made it just in time.

The tour started off with a bus ride to the Prague Castle area.  My tour guide was named Barbra.  She did an excellent job and thankfully her English was very good.

I learned that at one time, Prague was made up of 4 towns: Hradcany, Lesser Town, Old Town and New Town.  Hardcany (or the Castle District) is located on a hill on the west bank of the Vltava River.  It is where the Prague Castle is located.  Lesser Town sits just below Hradcany.  Old Town and New Town are on the opposite bank (eastern side) of the river.

Before reaching the Prague Castle, we made two quick stops.  Our first stop was across from the Loreto Pilgrimage site which is a religious place that contains a replica of the Italian Santa Casa which is the Holy House of the Virgin Mary believed to be the very home in which the Virgin Mary lived, conceived and raised the young Jesus.  We didn’t have time to go inside of the church, but if I ever get the chance to visit Prague again, I will visit this site again.  Next was the former town hall of Hardcany. 

Here is where we saw a medieval measuring device attached to the door which was used to measure if the market truly gave you the proper amount of food.

The next stop was the entrance to the Prague Castle!   The castle is where the Kings of Bohemia and presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic have resided.

  The President of the Czech Republic still uses the castle today.  Prague Castle is one of the largest castles in the world!  Located right in the middle of the castle complex, stands the impressive St. Vitus Cathedral.  The cathedral actually took 600 years to complete due to many Bohemian wars.  Construction started in 1344, but it wasn’t completely finished until 1929.  The cathedral contains two styles, both Gothic and Neo-Gothic. The entire western half is a Neo-Gothic style.

We had lunch at a Czech medieval restaurant.  I ordered goulash, but what I got was some type of meat (like brisket) with bread on the side and BBQ “type” sauce poured all over.  The food was good, but just not what I expected.

Next was a walk thru Lesser Town.   We visited the Church of Our Lady Victorious where the famous statue Infant Jesus of Prague is located.  It originally came from Spain and is said to have miraculous curing powers. 

The Infant of Jesus has about 80 different outfits, one of which was made by Empress Maria Theresa, who I found out later was the Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary, Bohemia, Croatia and Slavonia during 1745 – 1780.  She was the only woman ruler.  Our tour guide also told us that there was an outfit given from the USA which was red, white and blue, but I didn’t get to see this particular one!

We also visited the Lennon Wall.  It was once just a normal wall, but in the 1980s, it was filled with graffiti about John Lennon and pieces of lyrics from the Beatles songs. 

Later, Czechs started writing many types of complaints on the wall.  The wall undergoes changes daily and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under all the new coats of paint.  Today, the wall represents a symbol of young adult’s ideals such as love and peace.

Love padlocks on bridges have started to show up everywhere. 

When Chad and I were in Wroclaw, Poland last year, there was a love bridge and there is also one in Prague!  Love padlocks are a new custom in which lovers attach padlocks to fences or bridges to symbolize their love for one another.  They lock their love together and then throw away the key over the bridge.  I learned that this custom started in 1980 in Hungary.

We then arrived at the Charles Bridge.  Charles Bridge is a famous historical bridge that crosses the Vltava River.  It was constructed by King Charles IV.  The first stone was laid in the year 1357 on July 9th at 5:31 AM.  King Charles talked to his astrologers and this date and time was chosen so that the odd numbers that ascend and descend on the scale of 1-9 would form 135797531.  This time was used in order to bring good luck to the bridge so that it would not be destroyed.  There are 30 statues mounted on each side of the bridge one of which is the Statue of Saint John of Nepomuk.  The priest John of Nepomuk was drowned in the Vltava River by the King of Bohemia who wanted him to confess the sins of his wife, the Queen of Bohemia, and tell all of her secrets which he refused.

Next we toured the Jewish Quarter or the Prague Jewish ghetto.   Jews were banned to this area back in the 13th century.  Approximately 20,000 Jews use to live in this small area and today, only 2000 live there.  Only a few synagogues still remain including the Spanish Synagogue, the Pinkas Synagogue and the Old-New Synagogue.

The tour ended back in the Old Town Square at the Astronomical Clock which is the most popular attraction in Prague.  Huge crowds gather at the top of every hour to watch the clock performance.  The clock was first installed in 1410 and contains three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the sun and moon in the sky, the calendar dial with the medallions representing the months, and the “Walk of the Apostles”, a routine hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures.  There is an old story, a legend about the clock, that town officials had the clock maker blinded so that he would never duplicate his masterpiece in any other city. The people wanted this unique clock only in their city.   In revenge, the blind man climbed the tower and broke his masterpiece. It of course was later fixed.  No one knows if this was actually true or not, but this is what they say!

After my full day tour, I went to the top of the tower of the Astronomical Clock.  I got to see an amazing view of the city and got some great photos.

For dinner, I went to an Italian restaurant.  My tour guide, Barbra recommended Ambiente, but I couldn’t find it.  I got lost roaming the streets, so I settled for another Italian place.  It wasn’t very good.  I wish I had searched a little bit more for Ambiente.  I actually found it the following day and had lunch there!

That evening at 9PM, I went to a ghost tour that was free since I bought the full day tour.  Tatiana was my guide’s name.  We walked through the Old Town by candlelight and she told us about 6 ghosts that roamed the city at night!

Sunday: I was so tired, that I decided to sleep in on Sunday morning.  I had an easy going day.  I had a nice lunch at the Ambiente and took one final tour called the “Underground”.  The city of Prague use to flood a lot, so the people decided to build a city on top of their original city.  During the underground tour, I got to see 5 original homes that existed beneath the Old Town Hall.

I arrived back in Gothenburg that night at midnight.  What a great trip!!!

Rhonda

Check out all pictures below!

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