On our second day in Prague we were still adjusting to the time change and ended up sleeping in a bit before grabbing a small bite in Siddharta Cafe at the Buddha Bar Hotel (Breakfast is included in the price of a room!). We then set out in search of more adventures, guided in part by the New York Times Article (36 Hours in Prague) that Allen had folded up and tucked in his pack.
A requirement for us when traveling is finding good coffee that can be enjoyed in a pleasant atmosphere. We would have been deeply disappointed if the only options were hotel coffee, or Star Bucks. The article recommended Original Coffee close to the church of Jan Hus at Betlemske Namesti. It was a delightful option on a quiet street and the espresso had a perfect caramel colored creme. We warmed to the place immediately and decided to make it a stop every morning for the rest of our stay.
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.
Tourist in Stare Mesto
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.
This is another shot with the Fuji X-t1 using the advanced filter setting, Miniature. This filter does not work for all shots, but when looking down from a high perch like the view of Mala Strana from the castle grounds, it creates quite an effect.
One of the highlights of our trip to Prague was seeing the opera, Don Giovanni performed at the National Marionette Theatre. It was such a treat to see the show and the clever way the puppet masters were included into the production. The repertory of the Prague-based National Marionette Theatre includes Don Giovanni , The Magic Flute or The Magic Theatre of the Baroque World – Orfeo ed Euridice. I highly recommend making time to see a show if you are ever in the Stare Mesto area of Prague.
“You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.”
I got this shot while preparing to photograph David Cerny’s Man Hanging Out in the Stare Mesto area of Prague with my iPhone. As I was composting the shot, the nun suddenly appeared in the frame. Thank goodness I had my wits about me and somehow knew to press the button at that moment. What a lucky shot. Then again, as the saying goes…
“I’m a Great Believer in Luck. The Harder I Work, the More Luck I Have.”
– A quote attributed to many, including Thomas Jefferson
Stare Mesto Street Scene by Molly Jarboe, featuring Man Hanging out by David Cerny
Man Hanging Out is in the ‘Stare Mesto’, or Old Town, section of Prague and is surrounded by richly detailed buildings, narrow streets, and cobbled plazas. The sculpture is close to Old Town Square and other popular areas in Old Town.