Hi all, this is my second travel blog post about my trip to Prague which commence just after my last Poland trip and I should have written this blog post straight after that. Prague is the capital of Czech Republic and is quite beautiful in city design and architecture. It is famous for its Beer and stag parties. I reached Prague after an eight hour long train journey from Warsaw, Poland. I thought it would be nice to travel by train in the day time which will give me ample opportunity to see the Polish and Czech Republic landscape on the way. I would recommend anyone to do it while travelling from Basel, Switzerland to Milan, Italy or from Milan to Cannes, France but not from Warsaw to Prague. I did see some nice scenes but they were not worth of eight hour long tiring train journey. Specially when an old lady is sitting next to you for almost half of your journey. As usual I booked my accommodation in a hostel and shared my room with an Argentinian guy who was then working with a news paper agency in New York, USA. I don’t remember his name but he was a cool guy and was travelling on his dream trip to cover the entire Europe from east to west.
My trip started with a free waking tour by a guy named Thio who was working with the Sandemans New Europe tour company (http://www.neweuropetours.eu/). Thio was a trained psychologist from the Netherlands, who came long back to Prague and fell in love with the city so much that he became a tourist guide. Sandemans free walking tours are conducted in several European touristic cities and I would positively recommend it to any one travelling to those cities. Usually one of their tours are free in which you don’t have to pay anything to the company however, if you are happy with your tour guide then he would not mind accepting a tip. According to the company these tour guides do not get anything from the company and their wages is the tip which they get from the tourist. The free walking tour took us to main and free to see attractions of the city mostly in the area of the Wenceslas Square and the old town square. My camera got stolen on the very next day so I lost all my pictures except a video of the city which I made using my mobile phone from a hill top close to the Prague castle. Therefore the pictures in this post were taken from the internet mostly from Wikipedia. Below is a panoramic view of the old town square and a video clip of the city.
Probably the most interesting thing to see in the old town square was the astronomical clock. This clock was installed in 1410 and is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world. Its still in working condition and is one of the must see attractions in Prague.
The next interesting thing to see was the Estate theatre where Mozart’s famous opera Don Giovanni were first performed, for more on Mozart and his relationship with Prague see (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozart_and_Prague) . Right out side the theatre stood the famous statue of “The cloak of conscience” by Anna Chromý.
Picture below is Memorial to Jan Palach and Jan Zajic. Jan Palach and Jan Zajic were two students who set themselves on fire in protest of the Soviet occupation of Prague in the late 1960s. This memorial can be seen in Wenceslas Square, but Jan Palach also has a square named for him where a copy of his death mask is on display.
The other interesting thing to see in Prague is the Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Quarter has many historically important things to see which includes Old Synagogue and the Old Jewish Cemetery. Charles bridge and Prague castle is also a must go in Prague. The castle is built on a hill top and has quite a scenic view. Its fun to see changing of guards in Prague castle.
One of the particular interests to me was the John Lennon wall not because I am a fan of John Lennon or Beatles (i am not a fan of Beatles or John Lennon) but because that wall symbolizes freedom of expression. This wall is the back side of a monastery on which hippies started drawing graffiti in the memory of John Lennon. Later on several people painted this wall in what ever colour or expression they want. Czech government repainted this wall several times to get rid of the graffiti. Interestingly the French embassy which is very close to the wall objected and asked the Czech government to keep it as it is because it represents the freedom of expression and people like it. Since then wall is ever changing with new graffiti and paintings.
Another interesting thing was the lock bridge. It is a small pedestrian bridge over a sidearm of the Vltava in front of a water wheel in Malá Strana district just next to Lennon wall. Couples tie their love padlocks and throw the key in the river as the expression of their love and everlasting relationship. There are several locations in the world where you can find these love padlocks.
Well all the above comments were about the good things which you can see in Prague, but Prague is not all safe and good everywhere. Prague is very prone to theft and drunk people bumping around with malicious intent. Thio (the tour guide) told us that it is not just the people in Czech Republic who do this but also the presidents. Two recent presidents of Czech Republic were filmed on the national networks, one while stealing a pen in a conference and other being drunk in a chapel service. See the videos below.
According to Thio when media asked the president why did you do this he replied don’t you take souvenirs when you visit a place, so I took the pen as a souvenir.
Regarding the theft as I mentioned earlier that my new DSLR camera got stolen while I was having lunch at the Burger King at the Wenceslas Square and had to spend 2 hours with the police to file the report. However, I had a new experience of travelling in a police car with two police men who took me to their nearby station. I sat on the back seat which is for the criminals and not surprisingly you can’t open the door of the back seat from inside. Czech police doesn’t know English or are very poor at it and the copy of the report which they gave me was written in Czech. I appreciate the guy who did the interpretation for me otherwise I would have never come to know what they have written in the report. Thio also told us that Prague is flooded with pick pocketers specially in the free sight seeing areas. Usually people are busy in seeing things or taking pictures and the criminals get the opportunity to work. . Well I recovered the loss of my camera from my travel insurance money but I lost almost 500 priceless pictures from Poland and Prague.
Another sad thing in Prague is that if you are a tourist and go to a restaurant or buy something from a road side shop and do not check your final bill, It is quite likely that there is something extra added to your bill which you have not ordered. Thio told us about this as well that many local restaurants and pubs add the bills of the local Czech people in the tourist bills, they think that tourists usually have more money than them and they don’t bother to counter check. They also have something called cover charge which no restaurant tells you in advance or is written any where in the menu. So, if you order something and then ask for ketchup, salt or pepper then for just bringing it from the counter to your table they will charge you. It happened to me all the time, I can’t remember any shop or restaurant where I did not get the wrong bill, even in the souvenir shop. And its not just in the shops, if you take a taxi from your hotel and give some extra money to the taxi driver then he will not bother to return it. Most of the Czech people in restaurants and taxi drivers assume it as a tip.
So in summary Prague, Czech Republic is a nice city with lots of things to look at and enjoy Bohemian beer and Bagel but the people are cheat. And if one is not paranoid about his belongings and do not check his bills regularly then he would end up either losing things or spend loads of money.