If you haven’t traveled to Prague, you should add it to the bucket list. Shannon and I deemed it the fairytale city; it’s so clean, it’s so beautiful and each cobble stone street (however uncomfortable it might be for your feet) is full of magic.
Our arrival wasn’t so magical. Our plane arrived and we were determined to use the public transportation system to get to our hostel; only one small problem, we don’t know Czech. With a little help and a lot of luck, we ended up on a public bus into the city, took a metro and then wandered the streets till we found Ritchie’s Hostel, located above a small souvenir shop. In much need of a drink after our first Czech adventure, we went to a traditional Czech restaurant and tasted the famous Czech beer.
Fun Fact: The Czech Republic has the largest beer consumption per capita in the world! That’s right, they beat countries such as Germany, Belgium and Ireland.
Our first day started in Old Town Square where we saw the town hall and Astronomical Clock. Every hour hundreds flock in front of the clock to watch the “show” and then are comically disappointed when they realize the 20-second duration is what they lined the streets to see. Nevertheless, the Old Town Square is absolutely beautiful. If you have ever imagined yourself as a Disney princess (or prince) this would be part of your kingdom.
Our next stop, and personally one of my favorites, was St. James Church. Years ago, there was a notorious thief in Prague, stealing valuables all over the city. One day, disguised as a peasant, the thief hid under the pews after the mass and waited until everyone left the church. He wanted to steal altarpiece jewels, but, unfortunately for him, the statue of the Virgin Mary grasped his hand and he couldn’t get out. The clergy found him there in the morning. Nobody was able to disengage his hand, so naturally it had to be cut off (can’t harm the magic statue, am I right?). Immediately, the statue dropped the hand. The Minorits hung the hand on the wall as a warning to anyone who might try to steal from the church again, and it can still be seen there, wizened and blackened.
Our tour continued through the city and we continued to learn about the rich (and highly underrated) history. Czech history was never a top priority lesson in school, but it should be! We saw the tower is the oldest remaining part of Charles University, where Albert Einstein was once a professor. We saw the Estates Theatre in Prague where two of Mozart’s operas were premiered. We even explored the Jewish Quarter where the second oldest Jewish cemetery and synagogue in the world remain, second only to the ones in Israel. It’s surprisingly well preserved because Hitler actually spent a good sum of money preserving and maintaining the Jewish Quarter is Prague to serve as “the museum of the extinguished race”. Talk about disturbing…and luckily it did not fulfill that purpose.
When the tour ended, we took to the sunning cobblestone streets of Prague and started our own discovering, beginning on the Charles Bridge.
Fun Fact: Touching the statue representing John of Nepomuk is a Prague ritual. It is supposed to bring good luck and to ensure that you return to Prague soon. (Here’s hoping!)
Crossing the bridge and entering into Mala Strana, we took a few back roads to find the famous John Lennon Wall. Some might merely see vibrant graffiti and feel-good lyrics from famous Beatles songs. But the wall is much more than that. It is an expression of freedom radiating from the new generation of Czech; the generation no longer under the oppression of communism. For many of us, expressing our ideas is a right. This wall is a reminder that it was not always that way for the people of the Czech Republic. The wall is continuously changing; in fact, it probably already looks completely different than when I went. But that’s the beauty of the wall. It’s not about leaving a mark; it’s about being able to make one.
This wall was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. It wasn’t just another tourist attraction. Everyone there was quiet, reverent, peaceful. A local played the guitar softly in the background singing Beatles songs. A visitor took pictures with his polaroid camera, leaving one candid of the guitarist with some money in the musicians case; a wonderful reminder of what it means to give back.
Feeling at peace, we decided to enjoy the natural scene of Prague by walking up the Petrin Hill. It seemed like a great idea at the time…we didn’t realize how tall the hill actually was. By the time we got to the top, we were far too exhausted but forced ourselves to explore. It was then when we discovered the trolley that runs up and down the hill. [Palm face] We enjoyed some of the views and then happily took the trolley back down…our feet thanked us later.
After all that history, walking and exploration, we were rather hungry…duh. So we decided to try some of the food in Old Town Square…specifically, we tried something from pretty much every single stand. This is a must-do if you go to Prague.
Last stop of the day…the Prague Pub Crawl. Completely out of our comfort zone, but completely worth it. We met people from all over the world: Germany, Australia, Canada, Israel, Scotland and even some Texans.
Cue the curtain: day one in Prague over.
We started our second day with a panoramic view of our kingdom with the castle in the distance from the Clock Tower in Old Town Square. All we could see was red roofs for miles.
In the afternoon, we went on a tour of the Castle, which is actually a small village of buildings still used for government purposes today and a beautiful gothic cathedral.
Once upon a time, two princesses found their fairytale kingdom. And although they had to say goodbye, they know with some luck from Charles Bridge, they will be back again soon. And they lived happily ever after.
Prague: Success. To hear more about my study abroad experience, check out my next blog, The City of the Ancient Aqueduct.