I don’t usually travel in the summer, but a chance to see two friends from the USA in Europe was too good to pass up. We met in Prague and despite the heat and crowds, had a great time discovering this fascinating city.
Our first day, we had a lunch that included fresh lemonade—perfect for the hot day and now my new addiction—and then went to the Speculum Alchemiae. This museum is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Prague and seen via a tour given by a staff member. We learned a lot about alchemy during the reign of Emperor Rudolph II , its relationship to the science and Church of the time, and how secretive the alchemists had to be. The ‘reveal’ of the passage to the underground laboratories was worth the price of admission!
Underground at the Speculum Alchemiae.
Underground at the Speculum Alchemiae.
After an aperitif (or was it two?!), we headed to dinner at a restaurant that specializes in duck. Everything we ordered was delicious and our waiter was great, making suggestions about starters and main courses. Then we joined four million (slight exaggeration!) other people to walk across the Charles Bridge.
Silhouette of a statue on the bridge.
Canal on the west side of the Vltava River.
Looking towards the Charles Bridge.
The next day, we decided to take a hop on, hop off tour bus to reach the castle. When I’m by myself, I tend to forget that there are other options besides walking, but this time there were friends to remind me that it was hot, a long walk from our hotel, and uphill. Entering Old Town Square where we could catch the bus, we walked into the activity that was the Prague Folklore Days parade. The participant groups were preparing for the parade and posing for pictures. No way were we hopping on the bus right away!
This man with a whip cleared a path for the parade in a hurry!
Dance troupe from Switzerland with alphorns.
Dance troupe from Finland.
Reflection in train station window
Because of where we ‘hopped on’ the bus, we got most of the tour before getting to the castle, which was what we wanted (and were glad we avoided the walk up the hill). It was hard to get photos while we were in motion, but we were stationary long enough for me to capture the reflection in the windows of this train station.
Arriving in the area of the castle, we opted for a snack before more sightseeing. After the pastry and lemonade of the previous day’s lunch, it was disappointing to be served ‘prefab’ lemonade (how quickly we become spoiled!) and pie that was still frozen. Balancing out that were the great views of the city and the street below us from the terraces surrounding the castle.
One of our priorities was seeing the Mucha stained glass window in St. Vitus Cathedral; turns out there’s more stunning stained glass than that one window.
The Mucha window.
Our ticket also gave us admission to Golden Lane, which was hot and crowded and sent us fleeing to the bus, which appeared almost immediately—hooray!
Before dinner, we did something I would never have done by myself—we went to an absintherie. What an interesting experience! When we asked how best to taste absinthe by itself, the bartender suggested what I think was called an absinthe beetle (not a real beetle to be seen, but apparently, one can buy bottles with an actual beetle). The heated fumes were so strong, I could not take a sip for several minutes. After that, we tasted various absinthe cocktails—good, but strong. As I said, interesting!
That night, we took a ghost tour, led by a storyteller in costume. Kristýna was wonderful and a couple of her stories had me gasping in surprise and shock at the ending.
One of our party had to leave late morning the next day and casting about for something to do that would take only an hour and not involve a lot of walking, we settled on a tour of the Old Town Hall. What a lucky choice! For one thing, we got to see the figures of the Astronomical Clock from the inside. Every hour, these figures rotate in front of the two windows on the front of the clock. For another, our guide was personable and knowledgeable and managed to convey a lot of Prague history in a short time. Once again, we found ourselves underground at what was the original level of the street—two to eight meters below the current street. The tour finished with our guide requiring that we each speak a word of Czech before he would let us up the stairs!
As I seem to say a lot, I look forward to going back and exploring more of this wonderful city.
St. Vitus Cathedral
Images © Melissa Corcoran.