Prague felt like we had arrived in Europe in a way that Berlin hadn’t. Where Berlin feels corporate and drab, Prague is sexy and cool. It feels like a city for everyone. History buffs and art aficionados. Lovers and romantics. Foodies and mustachioed craft beer enthusiast. It has centuries of complex and fascinating history that’s been well preserved and even cultivated. It feels erudite and accessible at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a big city with all of the complexities that come along with it, but it manages to feel charmingly foreign and intimate as well. And it’s absolutely packed with sites to see and things to do and, thanks to Martha, we managed to see an impressive number them .
With military-like efficiency, Martha kept us on a carefully crafted schedule. Through crowds and record breaking temperatures, hunger meltdowns and temper tantrums, we were
mercilessly prodded firmly encouraged to keep pace. Occasionally, one of us would even receive a special dispensation for a luxury item like water, maybe even a bathroom break. But for the most part we hustled along, reigning in those slowed down or otherwise tempted by the smell of food (Larissa) or a shady bench (me).
Okay, okay, it wasn’t quite that strict of a timeline, and without Martha’s careful planning we definitely would not have seen all that we did. And it’s not like it was a simple task, keeping us on the same page; herding autistic cats through a bird sanctuary would probably have been easier.
Here’s Martha providing some direction, consulting The Guide Book, which came in way more handy than I thought it would:
Old Town in Prague is definitely an enhanced experience from Berlin. More charm, more history, more crowds. One of the first things we tried was a trdelnik, somewhat traditional treat local to this part of Eastern Europe. It’s a pastry, made from dough, layered around a revolving stick, and grilled over an open oven/grill. It’s filled with…well, with pure heaven is what it tastes like, but it’s mostly butter, sugar, and whatever flavor is in vogue at the moment. Nutella and cinnamon my favorite.
Our first night, after settling in, we enjoyed a little escapism (literally), having booked a session at the MindMaze in downtown Praha. Billed as the most fun you can have in an hour (that’s a pretty strong statement), it basically a strategy/puzzle room. You have an hour solve various riddles and puzzles, moving along through a loosely scripted story to escape the room. Take longer than sixty minutes and you fail! Get out in under an hour and…well you don’t really get anything, but it’s pretty damn fun. It’s also marketed as team building exercise, which makes sense. There are more of these opening up around the world, or variations of this idea, and if you get the chance to try one out I recommend it. We finished the night with a ridiculously great meal at La Degustation, a Michelin starred restaurant downtown. It’s a splurge for sure, but the eleven course meal complete with selected wine was very much worth it. Mike and Martha have a great photo gallery of the dinner here.
The astronomical clock in Old Town Square was pretty interesting, with hourly clockwork shows and Death himself doing the striking. It’s survived in various states, wars, and conditions since the 1400’s. I’m not sure how much of it is original after all this time, not to mention two world wars, but it’s still pretty great. The best part is climbing up to the top of the clock tower and enjoying the sunset views of the city. It’s crowded (of course) but it’s something not to be missed.
The next two days were filled with tons of site seeing and trdelnik, and a day trip to the ossuary in Kunta Hora. The final resting place for 40 thousand people, it’s essentially an awesomely creepy bone church. Bone sculptures, for lack of a better term, line the inside of the church and surround you from the floors to the hanging bone chandelier. But don’t lean in too close, I discovered the hard way they have VERY loud proximity alarms.
We spent the next couple days seeing the city, hanging out in the Old Town and Prague Castle. Walking around the city, enjoying the very interesting public art installations, like this one-
Next stop is Krakow via an overnight train where we have a private berth with beds and running water. Let’s see how it stacks up against Asian overnight trains. Hopefully, we will also have cooler temperatures heading East. We all feel a little scorched after Prague and it’s record breaking heat wave.
Where we stayed: Airbnb near Wenceslas Square
What we did:
Old Town Square
Kunta Hora, Sedlec Ossuary, Torture Museum
Dinner at La Degustation
St. Vitus Cathedral