|Vltava River - Prague|
Winter in the UK has been busy, lots of fun jobs with some delightful animals kept us on our toes over both Christmas and New Year. December saw us up in Wisbech, then over to the Cotswolds near Ramsden. From there we zipped down towards Streatley for the week and David found himself about forty-five minutes away in Wantage. Luckily close enough that we could get together on Christmas day and enjoy a tiple .
After a week of rain and mud we headed further south to Romsey, just on the edge of the New Forest, then back up towards London a little slice of heaven in East Horsley. I'm sure we would never have discovered some of these delightful spots had it not been for the house sitting requests, nor the pleasure of meeting some extraordinary nice people. The animals are a real bonus.
But a weeks gap in proceedings meant there was time to hop on the plane again and explore some untouched ground in Europe. As you can imagine its a pretty quiet time for most hotels in Europe, even in your very popular destinations, so there were some great deals to be found.
Prague is our city of choice, its been on the dream list for quite some time, and we got the impression that it could look just as stunning in the middle of winter as the height of summer. I know its the sixth most visited city in Europe or the world, but I'm sure most of them keep away while its temperature hovered somewhere between -8 and -15.
The first impression was less than exciting, as it sometimes is on the first day especially when its grey and murky, but we rose the next day with a plan of action and the gorgeous "City of Spire's" to explore. What a transformation, the city turned from a 1970's Communist state building site to one of the most beautiful cities in the world with just a dash of snow.
Not sure if our photography does it justice, but at least a peek at what we enjoyed.
|Nothing moving far |
|Top end of Wenceslas Square|
We joined a Free Walking Tour (tips gladly received of course) which was a great success - these are an ideal way to get a good introduction to the city and from there do our own thing. Do check these tours out online and if you can, get one with a local guide as they are always so much more passionate about their city. As we wandered we heard American and even Australian tour guides doing their thing, perhaps a good way to make money but imagine being shown around a city in the Czech Republic by a good Aussie bloke - just wouldn't quite be the same!!! Klara was delightful, open and so enthusastic about her city and its history and of course won our hearts as she had been in Christchurch last year and spoke so fondly of our 'home'.
|David and Judy - touring buddies |
One of the other wonderful spin off's from these tours is the other people that you meet. We joined a German couple, an English couple, a Russian girl from Siberia and a young Australian living and working in Vienna. Their views and opinions on some of the things we came across were sometimes more thought provoking that the historial site itself.
Everything in Prague has a story and many of these revolved around throwing the other side out the windows, whether it be off the bridge,or over the edge of the castle wall.
|Nick and Judy creating own fun|
Sadly most the people, except for our delightful Hotel receptionist Jana and Klara were rather dour and seemed unexcited about most things, we had to work hard to get a smile. Perhaps it's something to do with the high rate of non believers, 80% of Czechs come under this category.
Franz Kafka - was a Jewish German writer who was born in and studied in Prague -Regarded by many critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century.
|Astronomical clock |
Orloj, the medieval astronomical clock dates back to 1410 .This masterpiece rests on the side wall of the town hall in the centre of the old town. The story goes that after the clockmaker had finished the mechanical figures he was blinded so as to never be able to reproduce the same masterpiece. But in retribution he scaled the tower and sacraficed his own life to stop the clock and it remained silent for over fifty years.
Prague is described by architects as a crazy quilt of architectural styles - I found it fascinating. The coloured buildings often soft and muted, with large wide tree lined streets, even a little Venice of its own. I'm told that it has an amazing resemblance to Paris and has been used when filming a number of European based films supposedly set in Paris!
|View from Charles Bridge|
The Charles Bridge would have to be one of the more romantic sites of Prague. The famous 14th century stone bridge crosses the Vltava River - initially built as the link between the Old Town and the Prague Castle. Famous for its numerous Baroque statues it is usually crowded with both tourists and a variety of artists and street vendors but with a cold snowy day we were lucky to have it quiet.
Prague Castle - renown as The largest castle complex in the world with an area of almost 70,000 sq feet- it stands in all its glory over looking over the Vltava River to the Old Town.
|View from the castle|
St Vitus Cathedral stands inside the Castle grounds - the biggest and most important church in the country. This spectacular piece of Gothic architecture is actually the third religious building to be erected on this site and contains the tombs of many of Bohemian kings. The interior is a glorious site with spectacular stained glass windows that also tell a fascinating story!! Check them out when you go there.
|Guard at entrance to Castle |
|St Vitus Cathedral|
Had to try the traditional Goulash soup and dumplings, wonderful on a cold day with a beer or two. Also found the best hot chocolate ever at Paul's but that turned out to be a chain of French cafe's, hardly a local Czech delicacy.
A wonderfully easy city to explore, trams, buses, metro and trains are very efficient and incrediably good value. Hotels can look a bit tired from the outside but if anything like ours was super easy to find, close to good amenities and fabulous value for what we received.