Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The honeymoon

Prague is a gorgeous city. There's no doubt about that, although it isn't always completely welcoming. The architecture boasts elaborate decorations at all corners, including places such as the post office and even above a hard rock cafe. It's not hard to find beautiful murals in Prague, although getting an assessment of there history may be harder. Prague is a city that appears to live off tourism, and pretty much every activity will be charged for, especially if you want some information. Sadly many places lack much explanation unless you fork out for an audio guide. Having said that, you'll probably have guide books with you, which will provide some context at least. There were few people who we encountered who could not speak English, although, as mentioned, there was an undercurrent of hostility from some people. Certainly when we went into souvenir shops grim faced staff would follow us round, silently, evidently thinking we might steal something. Presumably this is fairly common, but it could have been done with a little more grace and style.

City breaks are hard work in many ways- hotel rooms tend to be a little oppressive, and while ours was nice, the idea of staying in and just relaxing wasn't that appealing. Besides, we'd still have to eat out! I think a week was just about perfect for us, we had a moment mid week where we just had to rest for a while, but spent most of the rest of our time seeing the sights, which were certainly impressive.

The main attractions are fairly well known, so there's no real point recommending them, but one hidden treasure is the national galllery. This is a little further out, but easily reachable by tram (if you can understand the arcane system, it's a little hard to follow on some of the maps), and is quite impressive. It has a mix of modern art, design, and painted art both by Czech artists and a collection of French artists (including many original Picassos). Because it is further out and the building less decorative, it was astonishingly empty when we arrived (friday afternoon in June), which felt glorious- there were 5 floors and we never spotted more than 2 or 3 people on each floor, which is astonishing considering the amount of art that is gathered there. Check it out before it becomes popular!

The food was cheap and nice, although rather stodgy. The vegetarian czech meals would inevitable involve melted cheese at some point, often slathered over grilled vegetables. Still, tasty and affordable- generally speaking we didn't need to spend over 25 pounds for both of us. One has to be a bit smart about ones choices of course- going to restaurants in tourist hot spots, such as the old town square, would inevitable add to the price. One slightly odd feature of eating out in Prague seems to be a far more relaxed attitude to service- you really need to seek out the wait staff, they often will not come to you. During our first lunch there we were trapped for absolutely ages waiting for anyone to notice us!

If you go to Prague castle, and you should, I would reccomend doing the short tour but getting the long audio guide. The short walk gives you access to slightly over half the buildings (it must be noted that the main attraction, St Vittus' cathedral is entirely free!), but the short audio guide only lasts 2 hours, which really is not enough time unless you want to rush. It's informative enough that it is worth it, although I admit that I fast forwarded through some parts.

Time spent with Alice, was, of course, wonderful, and this was our first long holiday with just the two of us. Prague was a great place for it, and we had a fantastic time, arriving home in time for us to read the guest book and watch a DVD of us on the day.

And then the next day I had to go to Eindhoven....



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