what shall we do this weekend? Prague?
So, lovely hubby and I were sitting sipping tea one evening last week when it dawned on me that there was a long weekend coming up in Dubai. One thing I love about the second half of the year in Dubai is that there are LOTS of public holidays, starting with one in May. “What shall we do this weekend?” I hear lovely hubby ask me at the very same moment that I am loading flight details up on the computer. We start to peruse flights with decent availability and set a time limit that it can’t be a destination more than 7 hours away as we are scared of flying with the Chubs for that long. Low and behold, what pops up on the screen but Prague – loads are good, flight time is 6ish hours, accommodation is cheap and available.
Hmmm… tempting…. should we.. nah… silly… waste of money… the kids will be too tired… excuse… denial… excuse…
Bah.. what the heck. Let’s just do it!
So, early Thursday morning we find ourselves sitting on a plane bound for Prague – somewhere we have both always wanted to visit. A couple of movies and a nice glass of vino or two later and we are landing in the Czech Republic for the weekend. We are in the car heading to the hotel, taxi driver giving us a bit of a history lesson on the place when it dawns on me that we forgot to do any research on what you should do in Prague. But as we head towards the old town and Prague Castle I realise that this is not a place you need to have a packed itinerary of tourist attractions to tick off… this is a place to just wander, soak up the atmosphere and discover all the hidden treasures.
One of the best parts we have noticed so far is that you can do all of this whilst sipping wine, swigging from a bottle or cup of beer, or enjoying a nice cocktail. Literally everywhere you look, there’s someone sitting sipping a drink, or wandering around sipping from various receptacles. It’s quite a contrast to Dubai! What’s really interesting though is that this doesn’t appear to cause any problems. We never once saw any aggression, fights, weirdos lurching around or any kind of anti-social behaviour. It’s as though everyone has taken and oath to behave, play nice and relax. And, when you feel like you need some sustenance, why not sit down and eat a delicious, warm, crunchy, juicy slab of pork!! Everywhere we look there’s pork roasting, pulled pork rolls, pork sausages.. and if you get sick of pork, then grab yourself one of the delicious Trdelnik pastries lined with chocolate and coated in cinnamon and sugar. I really like this place!
So we get dropped off at the hotel, and as we’re paying the fare, I do remember one warning that popped up on Trip Advisor as I was searching for hotels – something about every taxi driver’s mission in Prague is to rip off unsuspecting tourists. And before we knew it, there he was claiming that as our flight was late and he had to wait around, we had to pay him 150CZK extra. I could see lovely hubby starting to turn red as he explained that the flight wasn’t late and perhaps it’s a good idea not to turn up at the airport at the exact second the flight’s wheels touch the ground as it’s unlikely your passengers will be able to catapult off the plane directly into the taxi. But we realise the argument is futile and we’re talking about a very small amount once you convert it, so he pays and we head on up to the room.
It’s then that a second realisation dawns on us… we forgot to get any currency, and we don’t have a map or speak the language – not even a hello! So we trot back down to get a map of the metro and a map of the key tourist attractions and figure it would be a safe bet to get the metro into the centre of the old town and just start having a look around. As we walk down the street towards the tube station, we are like excited little kids drinking everything in. The smell of the lilac bushes lining the street, the green grass everywhere, the blue sky and warm sunshine. It’s like an assault on the senses after weeks of hot, dry dust in Dubai. We get to the tube station and after a few moments of trying to guess what the Czech writing says on the ticket machine, I realise it has a button to translate into English – there’s no stopping us now! We head to the escalator to delve into the depths of the city and immediately start laughing – a little hysterically. This HAS to be the world’s fastest escalator. I’m not kidding.. this thing was moving so fast I was worried I might get whiplash if it stopped suddenly. Not only that, it is on an angle so steep you can almost lie down whilst descending just by standing up. All this whilst trying to juggle the Chubs in his 3-wheeler pram and Miss Sparky who has a phobia of any escalator let alone one travelling at the speed of sound. Somehow we manage though and amongst much nervous laughter, we decide to get the lift up at the next station.
And then there we are, standing in the centre of Prague wandering around soaking up the atmosphere. As we wander down the cobbled streets we can see gypsy’s doing giant bubble shows, street performers, jazz street bands, a whole array of interesting people and places. We stumble across the Astronomical Clock tower which we later discover is one of the main tourist attractions in the place, and enjoy a giant pretzel whilst admiring the beauty of the tower and surrounding buildings. Turn the next corner and whadyaknow – pork and beer!! I am really in heaven now.
We keep following the crowds and ambling along and before we know it, we have arrived at the Charles Bridge, another of the main tourist attractions in the city. This place is very cool, with medieval statues lining the bridge, artists and buskers, boats passing underneath all under the lovely warm late afternoon sunshine. This is the kind of place Prague is. You can just wander aimlessly and stumble upon beautiful buildings, historical artefacts and larger than life characters. There also seemed, rather strangely, to be a constant procession of small packs of guys travelling together – usually one of them dressed in something odd like a white dress, a pink hat, a gaudy t-shirt; we even saw one in the world’s shortest, ugliest tartan dress, complete with sporran and long socks. That one appeared to be making out with one of the Clydesdale horses waiting to drag tourists around in a carriage, much to the disgust of the horse owner who slapped him on the back with his horse whip and told him to “sod off”. I believe that Prague holds the (somewhat dubious) dual, slightly paradoxical title of the “Stag night capital” as well as the “City of Love”.
The next day, we decide that we should really do some kind of tour to make sure we don’t miss out on some great attraction. We also spend breakfast perusing a simple glossary of common Czech words so that we don’t look like total neanderthals while out and about. And so, after one of the best buffet breakfasts in a European Hotel we’ve both enjoyed for a long time, we head back to tackle the world’s fastest escalator again and head back to the city to catch our bus.
The Chubs promptly falls asleep with his nice full belly and the gentle rocking of the bus on the cobble stones, shortly after followed by Miss Sparky – clearly not history fans these two! So lovely hubby and I hold hands over the top of the two dozing beings and enjoy soaking in the history whilst being driven around in an open-topped bus in the warm sun. We stop to have a look around the Prague Castle and Cathedral which are really beautiful architectural highlights. As we’re wandering and enjoying the views and the buildings, we realise that Miss Sparky has awoken from her bus inspired slumber to be her Jekyll self that sometimes appears either when she’s tired or hungry. We’re not sure exactly which is it at this point and also don’t really care as her snide comments, refusal to take pictures and eye-rolling leads to her being stripped of her ‘official photographer’ duties. This of course leads to more sulking and we spend the bus ride back to the city dealing with a whingeing Chubs who didn’t get enough sleep and a 9-year-old with attitude sitting with her back to us and the side of her face near us covered by a hat. Ahhh the serenity.
All is not lost though. One good thing about our entire family is that once you feed us, we’re generally fine. So we head to a gorgeous little corner cafe to enjoy a yummy lunch and, of course, a couple of cocktails. Both kiddies are much happier with full tummies and so we decide to head down to the river for a boat ride. There’s something about being on water that’s just nice, even if you don’t really see much. And the funny thing about this river is that it has this weird shelf in it just past the Charles Bridge, so the cruises pretty much head up to the bridge, go under it and then head right back. Funniest boat ride ever! We got some nice pics of the swans on the water’s edge I guess…
Being such a gorgeous day, we figure it’s time to do some exercise and we head out for a walk up the hillside that looks over the city to the giant metronome. This has to be one of the strangest things I’ve seen in a medieval city. I believe it was once a giant sculpture of Stalin that has now been replaced by this giant ticking metronome. This thing is very odd and we walked up to have a look and see if there was some kind of explanation for what this strange thing is meant to represent. When we got up there, there was a beautiful parkland with lots of nice grass, flowers, families and lovers which had a really nice welcoming feel. Then you walk a little closer to the metronome and there is this weird gathering of alternative-type twenty somethings, all sipping various alcoholic drinks, making out or queuing for more alcoholic drinks. Completely bizarre. I still do not know what the metronome represents so if anyone out there has the history on it, please do comment and fill us in.
Back down for more pork and beer and to enjoy the beautiful long twilight on the way back to the hotel. Life is good in Prague. Our final morning is spent having fun with the kids in a mirror maze and Imaginarium – very strange thing to do but they loved it! Our last moments of beer in the sun in the middle of the street washed down with more pastry and it’s back to the airport to head home and exercise for the next month.
Such a beautiful place – it really is! And very kid friendly. If you get a long weekend and can spare a few hours, definitely a place to add to the list. Our advice? Mentally prepare for man-eating escalators, and enjoy every second of grass and flowers you can get as they should not be taken for granted in life!
Until next time – Hodne stesti!
Have a great week