In hopes of acclimating ourselves quickly in Prague we brought along this handy article from the New York Times (36 Hours in Prague) which charts a 36 hour agenda for visitors who, as the article anticipates, will be pleasantly surprised to find that the city has much more to offer than cheap beer and beautiful architecture. We didn’t follow the agenda precisely, but by choosing several recommendations in various neighborhoods in and around the Stare Mesto area, we managed to set ourselves out on a path that for the most part measured up to everything the article promised. Between the NY Times article, our Lonely Planet guides and recommendations from friends, we felt as prepared as could be expected. We had over 5 days to spend, and, as it turned out, we made numerous discoveries of our own in the coming and going.
On our first day there, we arrived around 11am, checked into the Buddha Bar Hotel, freshened up and then went out for a walk to check things out. It was my birthday and we had reservations for dinner that evening at The Bellevue Restaurant, an upscale venue that we discovered via Lonely Planet. We decided to make our way there first thing as a dry run to get a sense of our surroundings. We knew The Bellevue was located right on the Vltava River so we set out in that direction. Unwittingly, we took the long way by walking in the direction we remembered seeing the river during our cab ride in from the airport. This route took us due north to the Stefsnikuv Bridge, pretty much the opposite direction of the restaurant. Our trek west and then south along the river brought many adventures consisting mostly of dodging tourists and taking in the wonders of our new surroundings.
Somewhere between the Stefsnikuv Bridge and the Cechuv Bridge where the river winds south, we witnessed a serious car accident involving a tiny European car and at least several oncoming vehicles. We were strolling along a small path below the main walkway so our view was partly obstructed by some trees at the moment of impact. After seeing the speeding car spin like a top down the busy thoroughfare into oncoming traffic and hearing the crash that followed, we quickly made our way to the main road to see if anyone needed help. Miraculously no one was injured. Five people had piled out of the tiny car, and were milling around aimlessly, probably in shock. One woman was comforting another woman who was sobbing. Others, from several cars also involved in the accident were standing near their vehicles looking on. We asked a third woman from the tiny car if everyone was ok. Yes, she said firmly as if to convince herself more than us. There was nothing we could do, so we continued on silently at first, before puzzling together over what exactly we had just seen. It didn’t take long and we were back to marveling over the sights, but from time to time throughout our stay in Prague we would revisit the conversation about the accident.
We passed The Museum of Decorative Arts, the Rudolfinum Prague (Czech Philharmonic), and the Klementinum, the largest and most historic complex of buildings in the Stare Mesto area of Prague, dating all the way back to 1232. Finally we reached The Charles Bridge and we knew we were close to our destination. When we arrived at the Bellevue Restaurant, it was closed for lunch so we peered in the windows to size it up, then perused the menu posted outside. We agreed we had made a good choice for dinner and decided to head back to the hotel, taking a leisurely pace through the heart of Stare Mesto in the general direction of Old Town Square.
The cobble stone passageways presented a confusing maze of twists and turns that seemed to go on endlessly. We felt lost at times but we pressed on, wandering in and out of the various shops that caught our eyes. I photographed along the way. It was easy to imagine Joseph K. or Gregor Samsa waiting just around the next turn. In fact we stumbled upon the Kafka Bookshop in Old Town Square, but not before encountering the Old Town Hall Tower & Astronomical Clock, Tyn Church and St. Nicholas Church, the three main architectural characters of the square.
We made it back to the hotel in time to rest up before heading out again for The Bellevue. I had planned to wear my favorite Frye pumps for the occasion, but tackling that cobblestone journey in heals seemed impossible. The solution was easy and one I recommend for travelers. I simply packed my pumps up into a fashionable tote and wore my walking shoes for the trek, then changed shoes for dinner.
More to come…