We spent our week in Prague with friends from the States, Gena & Chris. It was really nice exploring a place with other people for a change! Gena had found some walking tours of Prague online before she arrived so we followed a few of these which was great as they took us to slightly random places we might otherwise have missed, for example the John Lennon Wall & the Piss Sculpture. I kid you not, nearish the Charles Bridge on the Castle side there are two men peeing onto a pool of water in the shape of the Czech Republic. Their butts rotate left and right and their peeing parts go up and down, supposedly writing letters in the water to form words and quotes from Czech literature- but after much close up inspection of their actions, I don’t quite believe this.
On the subject of random statues, Prague has quite a few. In a street in the Old Town you will find the ‘Hanging Out‘ statue, where Sigmund Freud is depicted dangling over the small street holding on by one hand. On Prague’s large Zikov TV tower you can see huge babies ascending the tower, rather creepy looking if you get close to them. Like the Piss sculpture, these were also created by Czech artist David Cerny.
Two minutes from our apartment were statues of men, in various stages of disintegration. Called ‘The Broken Men’, the monument by sculptor Olbram Zoubek is a memorial to the victims of communism. The bronze strip that runs along the center of the memorial, shows the estimated numbers of those impacted by communism: 205,486 arrested, 170,938 forced into exile, 4,500 died in prison, 327 shot trying to escape, 248 executed. The plaque nearby reads: “The memorial to the victims of communism is dedicated to all victims not only those who were jailed or executed but also those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism”. A pretty clear statement & cleverly done sculpture!
This was at the bottom of Petrin Hill, a nice, quiet park that slopes up to the top of the hill where you find a mini Eiffel tower – Petrin tower, and various other chapels and good views of the city. If you don’t want the exercise (it’s a decent walk up) then you can take the funicular. It’s not too far from the tower to get to Strahov Monastery (ca. 10 min walk) and then from there you can walk another 10 minutes or so to get to Prague Castle. Both these places are described in separate blog posts as one post on Prague would be far too long – see the links.
One thing we loved about Prague were the many vantage points of the city. In addition to great views from Petrin Park, Strahov monastery and Prague Castle, we enjoyed views from Letna park, where we went to watch the sunset. Although the sunset wasn’t much that night, the views of the city were lovely.
Other great views were to be had from Vysehrad, a historic fort south of the main tourist spots- a pleasant 20-30 minute walk along the Vltava River. Vysehrad park is now a nice, quiet place to have a picnic or a stroll and the views up and down the river were fabulous. We were there on a public holiday so there were a few more people around than normal and the river was packed with an endless stream of people going downstream in kayaks and other boats- making the most of the gorgeous autumn weather and a day off work.
The Church of St Peter & Paul at Vysehrad had cool doors and buried in the beautifully decorated and arranged cemetery beside it were a number of famous Czech composers, artists, scientists and politicians. We wouldn’t have known who was who but enjoyed seeing the many different styles of gravestones and tombs… from the round half circles on the grave to elaborate statues… it was rather interesting.
Now of course Gena’s walking tours took us to the more famous points of interest in Prague too, like the Charles Bridge, which by day and night was just packed with people, and the Old Town Square which was charming, day and night.
We joined the hordes of other tourists standing near the Astronomical clock in the Old Town Square on the hour, to see the skeleton shake and the apostles make their appearance above the clock. We enjoyed street performances (a piano playing local & a fire- breathing Pole) while soaking up the atmosphere of the place. The buildings looked glorious all lit up at night- the beauty of which the camera on my phone couldn’t quite capture.
A few other random spots our walking tours took us to deserve a mention here. We visited the small but pleasant Vojanovy Sady park which had roaming peacocks, a pond with legs in it, a weird black cave like structure (perhaps a chapel?), lots of trees laden with pears and apples and when we visited a guy throwing a branch at a tree in an attempt to loosen off the walnuts. Despite the unseasonally warm weather (it was between 20-25 degrees every day in this the last week of September!) it was all rather Autumn-esque.
Across the river, the Rudolfinum near the Jewish Quarter was an impressive building, formerly a concert hall. The old architecture was amazing but there were some new buildings too that made the city interesting, like the funky Dancing House by architect Frank Gehry, built by the river in 1996. En route to this building we visited a church which I really liked, small & sweet smelling with lots of icons, so I am guessing it was Orthodox.
Everywhere we walked in Prague there was detail on the buildings; art, symbols, cool doors, sculptures, different shaped rooves, making even ordinary houses and hotels interesting. So much to see in this great city and we just loved our time here. It was my third visit to Prague but a first to many of the places I’ve written about here.
A beautiful city tempts us to return, especially if our Kyrgyz friends are still here in the future. After all the days of ‘touristing’ in Prague it was a pleasure to also spend time with Gazi (a friend of mine from Kyrgyzstan days in 2000) and her family, who have lived here for a number of years. Talking with her about Kyrgyzstan, eating delicious Kyrgyz food and hearing of her planned Yoga in Kyrgyzstan trips make us want to go there though – argh the more travel you do, the more you want to do!!