We arrived in Prague mid-afternoon and the terminal was just as sweltering as Dublin had been hours earlier. As soon as we walked outside though, aaaaaahhhh the most refreshing, cooling breeze imaginable. I’m one of those weirdos who actually likes the cold, I’m beginning to have my doubts about being Irish as a result, i’m supposed to hate the cold!
Anyhoo onwards into Prague via the usual airport shuttle bus that operates from all major airports, a pleasant enough journey, kind of reminded me of the same journey from Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. The outskirts are a bit rundown and the prominent feature is apartment blocks from the 60’s and 70’s, you know, those sexy sexy buildings that just ooze architectural charm…..
But then Prague revealed herself slowly….saucy. Steady on now. Every now and then a building would jump out at you from the gloom, there were ornate carvings, huge windows, curves……quaintness. As we got closer to our destination across the river, more and more of the city and it’s famous looks came into view, I recognised buildings i’d seen while browsing Google Street View…..much nicer in the flesh though.
We stayed in Jurys Inn in Karlin, just to the East of the Old Town centre, and a comfortable walking distance to all the major sights…..and smells (More on that later)
We quickly deposited our bags, freshened up and went straight out for dinner. Decided to go with the safe option of an Italian pizza chain, and it was most pleasant and good value for money, similar to Milano’s back home. I was itching to get out and explore the city after the meal, and we took a stroll down towards the Old Square. On the way I realised the extent of the tourism in this town, it’s borderline ridiculous. Think of Grafton Street in Dublin, where every shop is a Carrolls Gift Shop, that’s what most of the streets around the tourism magnetic zone are. Shop after shop selling the exact same products. I don’t know how there’s a market for so many gift shops in such a small area but somebody is making a tidy sum somewhere.
I wish I had been blindfolded until we got to the Old Square, as the feeling you get when you get there for the first time, in Winter, with the festive atmosphere still hanging in the air, is nothing short of, pardon the massive slice of Edam here….but….it’s magical. And the smell! Oh the smell! The smell of wood-burning stoves, mulled wine, sausages and huge chunks of pork cooking away is possibly the happiest my nose has ever been. I’m not a pyromaniac or an arsonist, but my favourite smell in the whole world is the smell of freshly burned forest. At least it was my favourite smell. Now the smell of the Old Town square in Prague is my nose’s favourite place to be.
We continued on from the Old Square to the “New” Square, Wenceslas Square. And emmm yeah wasn’t impressed really. I know it has historical and cultural significance, but when you see ladies of the night (yes I used that phrase), and groups of dodgy looking people on every street corner, it kind of takes away from the pretty buildings and ambiance. I’ll give it another whirl during the day when I return to Prague in the future, but initial impressions, not so great.
We eventually made it to the Liffey of Prague and boy does it make our river look like a petting zoo (Jurassic Park reference whoo!). The standout feature is the Charles Bridge, replete with it’s lovely statues, well most of them. Some were missing, being refurbished, or possibly stolen, although I doubt that as they’re pretty damn big, and you’d have to be one audacious rogue to get away with one of those. Anyway getting back on topic, yes, Charles Bridge, very nice indeed as bridges go. Certainly one of the finest bridges I’ve ever had the pleasure of crossing.
We turned back before reaching the far end of the bridge and entering what is known as the Lesser Town, that would have to wait till the following day. So first evening in Prague and it was a very enjoyable experience. Although the year is 2013 and the tourist schlock is everywhere, it still feels like a medieval town. There’s an other worldly air to the place, a feeling that you’re walking through time. I half expected to come across someone being burned at the stake around the next corner, mmmmm steak