Prague: Almost time to Czech out

Unsurprisingly, we again woke to another bright and sunny, and ultimately hot European day.

It was unfortunate that our shuttle connection on to Prague wasn’t possible until midday, however it did mean we had time for another stroll around the town and plenty of time for a lazy breakfast (I remember wanting pancakes, and it did take us some time to find a place that had them).

We were able to kill a bit of time relaxing in the lounge back at the hostel, where earlier (before we’d left for breakfast) we’d witnessed an English guest complain about how terrible his time had been staying there. It didn’t seem terrible enough however , to prevent him from storing his bag there, using their free Wi-Fi or helping himself to free coffee after his exchange with the hostel manager…

As promised, our shuttle bus arrived at noon, and we discovered we were the only 2 passengers (it was booked through and although not the cheapest option available, it was very convenient). We were presented with complimentary water by our driver (this was a nice touch on both our journey to and from Český Krumlov, and most welcomed with the heat) Michael, who also provided me good conversation as Sarah slept for much of the trip beside me.

There was another quick highlight as a deer suddenly bolted across the motorway. It didn’t seem as special, until Michael mentioned that he’d never seen one here before.

We’d booked a place near the Prague Old Town Square, and although there are areas where vehicles aren’t able to go, Michael did his best to get us as close as possible. We gave him our thanks and parted ways.

My first impression of Prague? Wow, the crowds! This was the busiest place we’d seen since London, and from the accents we could hear, possibly had as many English people as well.

The Old Town Square

The Old Town Square

As has become the norm over this hot European summer, our first action was to find a place for lunch, as well as a beer.

We knew the prices would be higher, but we couldn’t be bothered straying too far from the Old Town square (another UNESCO site). We chose a seat in a shaded spot, and sat back to drink, eat and people watch.

I was also able to grab snippets of the conversation on the tables beside us. A couple of young locals sat talking to an aged American and his much younger female companion.

They were enthusiastically telling this American visitor where he could go to watch some live, local sex shows. The American laughed at this, eventually indulging these young upstarts with the fact they had seemingly suspected (they did say the recognised him at the conversations conclusion). He was in fact an aged porn star from the 1980’s! I didn’t however manage to catch a name. Based on his looks, I can only assume he had other assets…

After heading to the Vltava River to take in the famous Charles Bridge  and the beautiful views up towards Prague Castle, we settled on tackling the bulk of the tourist sights the following day.

Looking across the river to Prague Castle

Looking across the river to Prague Castle

Now I’d heard plenty about the Astronomical Clock that “springs to life” on the hour, so like many others it appeared, I arrived with 10 minutes to spare, again found some shade then rose moments before the clock was due to tick over.

Talk about an anti climax. Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful clock, however you can see all of those beautiful bits at any time. if you happen to be nearby when it rings, sure, take a peek, but certainly don’t go out of your way to see it.

The beautiful Astronomical clock, built in 1410 and the oldest still working in the world. Just don't expect much of the show

The beautiful Astronomical clock, built in 1410 and the oldest still working in the world. Just don’t expect much of the show

On the other side of the river bank, we stumbled upon one of the more amusing (and self deprecating) symbols of national pride I have ever seen.

Two male figurines stood opposite one another, seemingly peeing into a pond the shape of the Czech Republic. It did make these people seem that bit more endearing to me, whilst at the same time providing us both with a good chuckle.

National pride whilst taking the piss ("taking the piss" is a lighthearted Australian term for mockery)

National pride whilst taking the piss (“taking the piss” is a lighthearted Australian term for mockery)

Now as a hark back to my childhood, we took a stroll over to Wenceles Square (of the Christmas Carol fame) where as a bit of a football tragic, I was joyfully able to come face to face with the 3 big European pieces of silverware. The UEFA Cup Trophy, the UEFA Super Cup and the big one, the UEFA Champions League Trophy.

It was however, a strictly hands off affair.

We’d made the decision to climb the tower of the Old Town town hall around sunset, but unfortunately as the hour approached, so did the clouds.

The square itself was still abuzz with activity, as people not only wined and dined, but a stage was also erected and music began to play as part of the local jazz festival which added to the jovial atmosphere.

Our voyeuristic view of the crowded square

Our voyeuristic view of the crowded square

The tower offered us some more great city views (to burn into the memory like the London & Budapest skylines), but as already mentioned, the cloud ruined our desires for a blazing sunset.

As the evening wore on into the night, the amazing thing was the throngs of people which remained everywhere. They showed no signs of thinning despite the hour, even as we wandered again over the Charles Bridge, they were everywhere.

The bridge itself was dotted with many stalls as well, selling lots of tacky items, and also home to more than its necessary share of sketch artists all ready to draw you for a fee (they looked talented no doubt, however I’m not sure of the need for so many of them, as even those at either end of the bridge seemed hard up for business).

Some places look even better at night: Charles Bridge looking up towards Prague Castle

Some places look even better at night: Charles Bridge looking up towards Prague Castle

With some more good luck, we happened to again be traversing the bridge, when a collection of fireworks were lit, further down the river.

We by chance found ourselves in a prime position to watch the display, after which we decided to call it a day as we thought it likely, we’d again be up fairly early.

Day 1 in Prague finished with a bang!

Day 1 in Prague finished with a bang!

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