Everyone will tell you that the Charles Bridge, the Prague Astronomical Clock and Prague Castle (Prasky Hrad) are must-sees, and they are. If you have time to visit only the Big Three, don’t miss them.
The clock, which is in Old Town Square, is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world, dating from 1410, and the oldest one still functioning. On the hour, it strikes, and the show begins: a series of bell tones, trumpet blasts, and figures of the Apostles appearing in small doorways just above the clock face. Go early, as it will seem that everyone in Prague is waiting to view this hourly exhibit, and it can be difficult to find a good place to take photos.
|Prague Astronomical Clock|
|St. Vitus's Cathedral in Prague Castle (Prasky Hrad)|
|My favorite stained-glass window.|
If St. Martin’s is inconvenient, don’t hesitate to find a venue more to your liking. Most Czech churches have been decommissioned as places of worship and have been turned into tourist and concert venues. The art within is often on par with the finest museums, and you won’t be disappointed in the music selections. Signs out front advertise the evening’s program, time of performance, and the price of tickets. If you happen upon a venue just before concert time, and you are interested in attending, ask for a price discount. Chances are good you will save a few koruna (crown), but don’t haggle too hard. The music will be worth the price of admission.
With its more than one thousand years of history, Prague is an architectural or art student’s delight. One of my favorite places is the Municipal House (Obecni Dum), located in central Prague. Following a major overhaul about 100 years ago, the present décor is predominantly Art Nouveau. Dine in the first floor French Restaurant or Café, or make your way to the basement to dine in the American Club. The food is fine, but the ambiance and tile mosaics are marvelous.
Monuments abound in Prague. You can’t help but pass them on any major street. But the one dearest to me also happened to be located next door to the apartment building where I lived in Prague. The Memorial to the Victims of Communism is of 21st-century design and pertains particularly to victims in the Czech Republic. It took me a good bit of processing before I decided how I felt about it.
Even if this monument isn’t to your liking, it sits at the bottom of Petrin Hill, a wonderful green space with excellent walking trails to explore. Just follow the trails up the hill, and you will eventually reach the Czech version of the Eiffel Tower and great views of the entire valley. About halfway up the hill are a couple of lovely restaurants with quite decent food and amazing views. Sit out on their patios, and enjoy!
|Memorial to the Victims of Communism|
Finally, Prague is famous for its beer (pivo), and there are dozens of boutique breweries all over town. My favorite is located at the Strahov Monastery, located at the top of the hill above the Prasky Hrad. The monastery has much more to see than the brewery, and I recommend a leisurely stroll around the grounds, through the church, the art gallery, where there are rotating exhibits, and the library, recently beautifully restored.
And finally, advice from my experience in Prague. When you fly into Prague airport, pay attention to the signs, located where you collect your luggage, identifying taxi companies recommended by the city government of Prague. When you exit the building, there will be a line of taxi cabs. Do not be fooled into thinking you must take the first cab in line. Take ONLY the recommended cab companies, and if you like the driver, ask for his card and call him again. Your hotel will arrange proper taxi service to your destination, but you will need to call for a returning taxi. One of the recommended taxi companies has stands around town that are usually reliable.
Just know that hailing a taxi in Prague, as a foreigner, is a very risky business, and you are much less likely to be dissatisfied if you take the recommended taxis, the metro or trams, which provide excellent and inexpensive service.
So, colleagues, have a terrific time in this very lovely European capital city. Prague is magical and begs to be savored.
On a personal note, I am retiring from active practice in a few months and, sadly, this is my last post for “NP Worldview.” I am returning to the United States to bone up on my grandmother skills, and I can’t wait. My career in the U.S. Foreign Service has been an amazing experience, and I do hope I’ve been able to share some of the best of it through my blog.
Best wishes to each of you!