Leaving Cesky Krumlov was a reluctant move. To soften the blow we had planned a walk through the castle gardens which rewarded us with great views of the town below. On our 'hike' through town, that is we were carrying our packs and therefore were 'hiking' we made it 20 steps before diving into a small restaurant for more traditional feast. Full of pork snitzel and roast duck we boarded our bus, destination Prague.
Watching the rolling hills, thick evergreen forests and small farmland lakes pass by the window over the hours was enriched by a number of attempts to read LOTR without getting ill. Camilla needed to remind Steve at the bus stop in Prague that you cannot judge a book by the editorial notes left at the dank, smelly and often overlooked bookshelf behind the toilet receptical. Sorry, a bit left of field, Prague looked pretty grim from where we were standing.
As with all similar scenarios on this trip a spoon full of Metro helps the busstation go down. 15 minutes later and we popped our heads out of the underground network to be greeted by traditional blacksmiths hammering bells into shape below the national museum at the end of the avenue. Whew.
Organising our fully equipped apartment only 10 steps to the river and behind the National Theatre was effortless in the helpful tourist office. 'Hiking' down the main road we had no idea yet of what lay in store around the corner into the old town or what may greet us from across the Vltava river. Eagerly dropping our bags and equiping ourselves for an explore we were out the door within seconds.
Standing across from Prague Castle, the largest castle complex in the world, with the Charles Bridge to our right we knew that this city had a lot of secrets to discover.
Dragging ourselves away from the river bend we delved deep into the heart of the old town, crossing numerous cobblestone streets and dodging trams left right and centre to find the famous astronomical clock.
In the old town square we admired the incredibly bright and colourful mansions lit by late afternoon sun, watched the buskers playing music and the many tourists starting to settle down to the evening meal.
Knowing the good food at reasonable prices is always found a couple of streets back from the tourist hotspots we decided on dinner in the small courtyard behind the old town cathedral attached to a jazz club established in a 15th century cellar. Now that our love affair with hearty meat meals and Czech beer is well ingrained we ate pork shoulder with potato pancakes and beef goulash.
It is possible to wander the streets of Prague without fatigue for many hours however we realised that the only true compliment necessary after such a good meal was gelato. Where else in the world would you find a harpist playing Pacebels Canone in your local cremeria.
Day 1 - 30 June
The bakery did not see us coming as we dove for cover behind the pastry shelf for breakfast. Unfortunately we are not carrying a laptop with satellite connection so our first stop after breakfast was the @Cafe for a quick blog fix and juice to wash down the pastries. By the time we had surfed the www and chatted to all you fine folks the temptation to have a meal at the chinese restaurant outside the window was overwhelming.
Our objective for the afternoon may have been a little ambitious, visit the worlds largest castle complex. Thankfully they know that even the most hardened and diligent tourists with no real interest in anything at all could not possibly walk around this vast and gorgeous complex in less than 4 hours. We had three so were grateful that the long visit ticket would be valid for two days. Without further adue Camilla rushed back to the side of more handsome of the two sentry guards you have ever seen giggling like a schoolgirl.
After the blushing subsided (Camilla, not the guard) we entered the St Vitus gothic cathedral (one of the largest of its kind) we stood in silent amazement at the vast cavity that lay before us. The intricacy of the stained glass is unparalleled and a free climb up the 287 steps to the top of the bell tower was the icing on the cake. Having gawked at Prague from such a vantage point it is difficult to imagine any other city beside Venice or Paris will remain in our minds so prominently.
The rest of our visit on the first day included the old palace, St Georges basilica and convent erected over 1,200 years above more than 120 tombs from ancient times, the golden lane, guard tower and dungeon and finally the portrait gallery. Exhausted we handed by the garrulous (similar to our blog), tangent stricken audioguide we headed down the numerous stairs through the cobbled streets and across the Charles Bridge in the late afternoon for supper.
In true medieval style Camilla had pork goulash in a bread round with pretzel and Steve gnawed on his first Pork Knee (enormous!) shaved horseradish and mustard. Exhausted we headed back for the evening with excitment brewing for our return the following day.
Day 2 - 1 July - Happy New Half Year
Today was commenced with a detour via the old Praha 1st train station where we came across a full blown film set in motion. Nothing too interesting, obviously they are hiding the stars in those big trailers, so we proceeded to the ticket booth to make our decision on where to go. You would think that these sorts of decisions are made well in advance however it has come to us that a trip of this nature is best grown organically. Of course we had in mind that Germany is on the cards tomorrow so it was just a matter of confirming that our desired destination was possible, reasonable etc.
Back through the cobbled streets of the old town we admired the astronomical clock tower again from a variety of angles through the throngs of tourist buses piling out for a sunny Sunday visit.
No visit to Prague Castle would be complete without enjoying watching the handsome uniformed sentry guards change shift, or so we thought. After blinking at precisely the wrong moment half of the 30 second ceremony was over. Eitherway, it is good to know that when the youngest guard came out looking nervous and a little lopsided there was formal assistance from the guardkeeper to adjust his shining outfit.
Prague Castle had only two major exhibits left for us to enjoy. The story of the Castle complex, which included models, prehistoric remains of wholly mammoths, ancient graves (complete), jewelry, attire and crown jewels. Our second stop was the National Gallery which in comparison to many of the non-permanent exhibits left a little to be desired. On our way out of the castle we visited the gardens and walked down below the imposing cathedral and castle walls to the river below.
We debated for a good 15 seconds how to finish off an experience such as we have had in Prague and decided that it was only fitting to plant ourselves at the trendy Cafe/Restaurant/Bar/Disco/Terrace directly adjacent to the Charles Bridge and across from the castle. With cold drinks in hand we decided at this point that Prague has been such a spectacular highlight in our trip that our future plans will be to revisit in the future when the ground is thick with snow. As we left tonight in a steaming sunshower we know this decision will be one easy to keep.