We headed east from the U.S.A., and picked up time. Flying overnight through Detroit and Amsterdam, we land in Prague a little past 8 in the morning.
This is a Praguetically a free day to roam the city. The weather has cooperated greatly, changing from a forecast with temperatures in the 50s and some rain to three days of sun and highs consistently in the 60s.
One of the two museums on our agenda is closed for renovations (Decorative Arts), but there were plenty of other sights to see. Most of the day was spent walking the interior portions of a city of 1.2 million people, the 15th largest in Europe. There’s a Triangle area that size “somewhere” in the states, an interesting coincidence.
The Vltava River winds through Prague, with a mixture of classic and contemporary bridges to walk, flanked by towers to climb for views of different perspectives. The end point of the route we planned brings us to Old Town Prague for a preview, since that section will be the destination on Day 3, which begins with our first group tour.
Our first stop is our three-night domicile at the Parkhotel Prague on Veletrzni Street. An hour later we seek the Metro (subway) system for a ride to the Prague City Museum. We only needed to ask one local on the sidewalk to locate the station a few blocks from the hotel.
The City Museum has one feature that delivers above all expectations: a scale model of the city built from cardboard by an enterprising librarian and artist in the 1860s. Think of a model electric train set in a large, full basement of a home. Then think of adding highly detailed features to the train set day after day, week after week, … year after year. It grows until it fills the entire floor of the basement with tracks, trees, roads, buildings, bridges, and more.
Such is this model, a whopping 20 meters square, filling an entire room that is almost the size of an entire floor of our house back home. The amount of detail is indescribable, so I fall back on the phrase, “it has to be seen to be believed.” When there is time, I will post a photo or two.
From the museum we took another subway route to other parts of the city, seeking out vantage points to take in all the sights. We found ourselves at the back door of the Czech Parliament (Congress), beneath the Prime Minister’s house above that spot, and turned away once by police when our path took us close to something sensitive, but we know not what.
Venturing up a hill, we failed to locate the lookout we sought for a particular view of the river, but found another view from the Royal Gardens that delighted us. A stroll through the gardens led to a side entrance to Prague Castle, which will be one focus of Day 4.
We (legally) slipped inside the grounds of the castle for a preview, past the sentry guards standing at full attention with their rifles. Being Sunday, we were but two of a crowd numbering in the thousands that sought views of Prague Castle on this Sunday. We realized evermore that Monday would indeed be a better time for a thorough visit.
From the “Castle District” we ventured downhill to the second oldest area of Prague, “Lesser Town.” Winding cobblestone streets and sidewalks presented some directional challenges, but in the end we found our destination: St. Nicholas Church, with its light green dome. More specifically, the belfry tower of the church was the attention-getter here.
After paying a small fee, we climbed the 303 stairs of this circular turret to the highest observation point allowed. The views from there on a bright sunny day were as good as those from the Royal Gardens, except now we were engaged in the heart of the city, rather than looking her over from the top. It was a treat, but only a tasting.
Prague is sometimes known as the “City of 1000 Spires.” Towers abound. There are many that one can climb, and our goal is to do one or two each of our three days. I’ve found a rage to rise up in Prague, or what I anagrammatically will term an “uP rage.” More on that theme on a later day in Prague.
Today we also crossed the pedestrian-only Charles Bridge, ordered to be built by Charles IV, the most popular legacy ruler of the Czech people. The bridge, we learn later, was begun in year 1357, on the 9th day of the 7th month at 5:31am. If you run those numbers together, you will find a numeric palindrome (if I may use that term) of 1-3-5-7-9-7-5-3-1. Such a number, it was felt by the astronomers in the employ of Charles IV, would create a landmark that would stand the test of all time. Thusfar, they have been correct.
Before the day is done, we have logged the 303 steps of the belfry, another couple hundred in a tower at Charles Bridge, and many thousand exploring the hills, views, castles, one museum, many parks, the subway, our hotel, and much more.
I wish I would have packed a pedometer.
I didn’t mention meals because we did all of these activities from our landing near 8am to dinner after 8pm without another meal. There was too much to do to even take time for lunch. There is much more to do on Day 3. We will sleep long and hard tonight, with the great satisfaction of using our first day in Prague to its fullest.