I must admit I was not too keen to move on to Europe after our great Australasian adventure. I felt I was kinda done with Europe. Over the many years of travel and many family summers we have been to most European countries and seen most iconic sights. Besides, after the sweet solitude of endless deserted beaches who wants to battle the European summer crowds?
And yet, thanks in large part to friends and family, I managed to rekindle the old flame. Being visited by and visiting friends in Europe made me again see and appreciate the good old civilization.
Of course, seeing that we have two cute grandchildren in Prague, it only made sense to now make our summer travel base in the Czech capital. Did you know Czech Republic has been shortened to Czechia? A terrible mistake, if you ask me. Obviously nobody did. And I refuse to call it thus, even if Google maps does.
Taking visitors around Prague, especially those coming for the first time, is a very slow process, as every few steps people tend to stop abruptly and crane their necks looking at the magnificent views or intricate small details. Beautiful women surround you every step of the way, not only on the streets, but peering down from the many stone portals and graceful windows. Crane your neck further and far up you will see the silent silhouettes of the rooftop decorations. Stand on tiptoes to peek over the walls or through the intricate iron fences. As our Australian relatives on their first ever trip to Europe said, “I am just overwhelmed, every step I take, everywhere I look there is a new, more beautiful sight. I don’t even know what to photograph first.” Indeed, all you need to do, is look through the viewfinder framing fantastic shots where ever you point: the river with the rainbow arch of bridges, the sleek red rooftops, the patinated green domes, the slender black spires, the long white flights of stairs, the balustrades and the lamps, the old gnarled trees shading the flowering blooms, the changing leaves slithering down impossibly tall white walls. No need for a fancy camera, or thinking about composition, the pictures are there, postcard perfect, ready for the taking.
There are never ending delights of ancient stone arches covered in ivy or laundry,heavy wooden doors with intricate bras knockers, secret passageways and cobblestone courtyards, magical views of castle, churches, bridges, river. Since the first time I set foot in Prague as a young student I fell for Charles Bridge. In those days it was much quieter and much less crowded, of course. When I got married in Prague I dropped my modest wedding bouquet from the bridge into the river. From then on, on every visit, no matter how short, I make it a point to walk across the Charles bridge, stopping to listen to a dixie band or watch an artist paint.
coming to the other side on Mala strana (Lesser Town) you can continue your stroll through many old parks and gardens or by the banks of Vltava river, humming Czech composer Smetana’s most well know melody Vltava. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=exz6zD056zk
You can stop for a live concert in one of the magnificent churches or synagogues. You can walk in the old Jewish cemeteries and ponder about (in)humanity and the transience of life amongst the old moss covered tombstones. It takes stamina and good shoes to walk the cobblestone streets of Prague. When our feet and/or our necks hurt, we would stop at a coffee shop, a bakery, a beer garden, or a restaurant. Those got more ohs and ahs for the ornate golden chandeliers and decorations or art nouveaux paintings or vaulted ceilings or dark wooden paneling, tables and benches. We ate the goulash and the many kinds of dumplings, tried cheese and sausage at a local farmer’s market and of course tasted the old and new varieties of famous Czech beer.
Refreshed, we climbed many more stairs and took many more iphone pictures, even some silly selfies with cardboard knights and the stone faced castle guards. Along the way I forgot about the steady stream of tourists and the summer crowds. Indeed, all you need to do is step a few steps, or a few streets away from the major thoroughfares and the city is quiet and yours in its golden glory. Any time of the year.