The infamous Prague! I am now casting my mind back several months with blog delay becoming a bit of a disease in the hurried environment of London life. However, I will persist because each place is worth documenting, and indeed sharing with others! So I apologise for the time-lag…
Nevertheless! So we departed the much loved Cesky Krumlov with mum proclaiming that “The Cesk” would never be beaten, so in some ways we had low expectations arriving in Prague as we dragged our suitcases through a maze of cobblestone. At this point I have to add: cobblestones are my enemy and I was looking forward to brushing my hands of them at the conclusion of our trip. Whilst they may be pretty, they do not cooperate with suitcases that must be wheeled! We arrived at our accommodation and gave ourselves high fives as it was spacious, close to the centre, and cheap for a major city. It was then a 180 and back out the door for some Prague lovin’!
This is where it gets good: my fave memory of Prague…mum’s entrance to the city square. Her eager trot became a bit of a gallop as she raced around the square in ecstasy going wild with her camera, to the point where I thought it might be wise to confiscate it. When Joel and I managed to pin her down, the eruption came – “This is the BEST city in all of Europe!”… Followed by a frantic “Forget Paris. Forget Rome. Forget London. Prague is the most beautiful of them all!”. Amidst the laughter and the admission of this moment to my memory bank, I had to admit mum had a point. The square was stunning – vibrant colours, regal statues, sparkling cobblestones, horse-drawn carriages, cathedrals and a mill of people amidst the dying light of the sun which was bathing the square in a warm hue.
The good thing about travelling with mum is that she does more research than even myself, so with a list of things to see and do and check off the list we embarked on the first – Charles Bridge. I had seen this ‘famous romantic’ bridge in artwork which of course makes it look like a whimsical fairytale, however the real thing wasn’t far off. I am not sure even into the wee hours of the morning if you could ever find this bridge other than buzzing with life. It features in several of our photos because we just kept going back for “just one more sunset”! I loved the detailed statues that stood like silent watchguards over the sure footed traveller, and of course the view of Prague Castle.
It is at this point that Joel made his outstanding contribution to the holiday. It can only be described as historic. With dogged determination he dragged our wearied legs across the Old Town to a little local vegetarian restaurant he had read up on called ‘Maitrea’. By this time I could tell (as only a wife can) that Joel was now feeling a little nervous about this leap of faith and needed to get some tallies on the board with the in-law after the captaincy disaster in Cesky. Lucky for Joel the restaurant was AMAZING! I am not a vego fan, but this little gem of a restaurant hidden in backstreets where only locals can find it, was one of the highlights of Prague. We went back, not once, not twice, but three times! If we were there longer it would have been more. You could say that Joel became somewhat of a celebrated hero and earned those tallies on the board. Mum loved it so much that she declared that if Joel and I didn’t want to come and eat there that she would go by herself! If you are in Prague, this is a must – amazing flavours, cheap, generous sized meals with a comfy atmosphere and friendly staff.
The next day we were up and off to Prague Castle, which is more like a complex of palaces and cathedrals. Quite amazing. Not wanting to bite off more than we could chew and suffer from ‘castle fever’, we opted for a little family palace with an audio tour. It was called Lobkowicz Palace and the family have recorded the tour for you themselves. It is the story about how their home and possessions were taken from them twice through the war and communism and have made their way back into the family. An amazing collection of art, music, weapons…everything you can think of. Astonishing history and so worthwhile having been told through the eyes of the family themselves. We all thoroughly enjoyed this history lesson and would highly recommend this as a valuable and meaningful experience. This was probably the place where I was able to get a feel for Czech history more than anywhere else.
We spent the afternoons strolling through the narrow, colourful and cultured streets of Prague, chatting amongst one another and tracking down a much-needed coffee or ‘the bean’ for Joel which he finally located in some random offset of Prague. With Joel having been fully satisfied the girls were allowed to shop. However Prague is not a city which lends itself to the greatest fashion in the world so we gave that the flick and mum and I started planning our assault on the Jewish Quarter the next day (well we didn’t assault it, we just eagerly planned to take it by force!). Our guide was at the clock tower waiting for his minions, having come highly recommended. His name was Roman and he was highly passionate about the Jewish Quarter. He gave an animated and detailed tour of the Ghetto and Mum and I learnt so much we couldn’t recall anything by the time it ended! Funnily enough we discovered he wasn’t even Jewish but it scarcely mattered because he had more than enough passion to make up for that!
We then took our time to look at some of the sights in more detail. Two things will stick with me for a very long time. One was the temple completely covered in tiny handwritten print of the names of all the Czech Jews who perished in the Holocaust. That was completely overwhelming because everywhere I looked I could see names and having just visited a concentration camp in Austria it all hit home. There were more names than I could fathom and that was only the Czech Jews. However having said that, I never knew how unfortunately they fared in the war. The second thing was an exhibit showing drawings children had done in the concentration camps. Under each drawing was their name, age and whether they had survived or not. It was a very difficult thing to look at a drawing full of such innocence, beauty and often such sadness…then to learn of their fate. Most children were gassed to death. It took me about an hour to process all of this and move from the room. I was deeply moved. Studying child play therapy with such a high emphasis on art and creativity, the drawings meant more to me than perhaps the average visitor and I really could have stared at them for hours. Fascinating exhibition. Oh and then there was the Jewish Cemetery…. I am not sure if I will ever see anything like this in my life ever again. Photos do not do it justice. Basically because they had no land they had to bury everyone on top of one another. It is estimated there are about 100,000 people buried in this tiny little area with about 12,000 gravestones sitting higgely piggelty askew all over the place. It looked like Tim Burton’s heaven.
Then there was the spectacle of the town clock. This clock was an intricate maze of genius and has all sorts of interesting stories attributed to it, but for most travelers, it is good for one thing – the hourly chime! It puts on a bit of a spectacle with trumpets blaring from the tower, cheering from the crowd, chiming and our favourite feature being a little animated skeleton dance from a puppet in one of the little hidy holes (random humour apparently appeals to us!). In amongst more meals at the Vego restaurant, meanderings amongst the old town, bicycle tours for mum, more coffees for Joel…it was eventually time to depart. Joel and I felt so incredibly grateful for the mind blowing, life altering, awe inspiring experiences we had been blessed with. It was such an incredible introduction for Europe and we were looking forward to getting back to London to establish our lives there. I personally was very thankful to spend that time with mum as it was a fulfillment of one of my dreams to travel with her in Europe and I loved every moment.
So that brings us to the close of our first adventure in the East! We will aim to update you on our subsequent adventures as soon as time allows! Love to everyone back home, we would love to hear from you when you get a chance! xxx L & J