In words and pictures, join me on some amazing trips around the world!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Look at Prague

Neither of us had been to eastern Europe before, and we were looking forward to our first trip. There were several options, but one place kept popping up over and over: Prague!

As soon as we decided on the destination, the fun of the research and the planning began. And with Prague, the research was even more exciting than usual. That place has a LOT of history. It has been in existence for about 1,100 years!

Luckily, the planning part was a breeze. The first thing I did was check to see if there is a K+K property there. Sure enough, not only do they have one hotel in Prague, but there are two. We chose the K+K Hotel Central, and what a great find!

One of the many cool things about Prague is that you have an amazing variety of different architectural styles all over the city. The K+K Hotel Central is an awesome Art Deco building that is very well preserved. It includes a full spa, though we never got around to making use of it. It did look incredible!

The cool little bar off the lobby was the perfect place to have a drink before heading out, or to end the night - depending on how late the night got. I had my first (and maybe last?) shot of Absinthe there.

Our hotel is located in Old Town, which has been a UNESCO site since 1992. The mixture of mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture is all around you. In fact, the amazing Powder Tower is just down the street and makes for a great landmark when you're looking for your way home at night!

Old Town is very walkable and you'll find just about everything you could want nearby, but the public transit (street cars and metro as well as taxis) are very efficient. In fact, a streetcar ride from Old Town up to the famous Prague Castle is most definitely something you don't want to miss. It's a great way to see some awesome views of the city.

There are some amazing early morning markets that are bursting with color. You'll find everything from food to flowers to leather goods to t-shirts. It's a great place to head after grabbing a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.

One of Prague's most recognizable buildings is the Old Town Hall with its famous Astronomical Clock. The mechanical clock draws quite a crowd to the town square throughout the day. We were there at a time that was supposedly not peak tourist season, and there was still a wonderful crowd of people...just like I like it! You could hear all kinds of languages and see people from all over the world, all enjoying the same thing together!

The views from the tower of the Old Town Hall were spectacular. You could see the amazing rooftops of the city, get an incredible look at the architecture and landscape weaving together and really appreciate the natural beauty of the area.

Everywhere you turn in Prague, you are confronted with incredible history and art. Some of the buildings - and landscaping - leave you absolutely speechless. One of the most dominating structures in Prague is the Prague Castle with a history dating all the way back to the 9th century. 

When you first approach the massive castle complex, you'll come to the the Royal Gardens. Definitely take a few minutes to stroll through these amazingly well maintained gardens, even if you aren't all that much into gardening and plants. The views of the castle and of the city below are unbelievable!

We've been very fortunate to see some amazing sites around the world. And no matter where they are or what they history is behind them, there is always something magical about castles. Certainly Prague Castle lives up to all that and more!

Just as the country has had an amazing history, the incredible collection of buildings that make up Prague Castle include everything from a soaring, majestic cathedral to ancient stone dungeons. It really is one of those places where you can close your eyes and almost hear the sound of horses' hooves as they must have sounded on these very stones over the centuries.

St. Vitus Cathedral is one of the most impressive churches - in fact, one of the most impressive architectural structures - that I've seen. This place is absolutely amazing. The current St. Vitus Cathedral is actually the third church on the site, but it's no newcomer. It was founded in November 1344.

When you're standing outside looking at this thing, you know that it is going to be impressive. After all, it's a Gothic cathedral. But when you walk inside and see the incredible interior, be prepared to be completely blown away!

The area immediately around Prague Castle is known as Lesser Town and is connected with Old Town by the incredible Charles Bridge. This pedestrian bridge, began n 1357, crosses the Vltava River in Gothic and Baroque style. You'll find artists, musicians and travelers from around the world enjoying the beautiful views throughout the day and night.

Beneath the bridge, the river flows along its banks creating an amazing setting often referred to as Little Venice. The colorful shops, cafes, street artists and incredible architecture make this a great place to wander.

On our first night in Prague, we took a private Segway tour with a company called Prague on Segway. Andre, our guide, was fantastic. Being a private tour, he was able to talk to us at the start of the tour and get a feel for what was important to us. He tailored the tour to what he thought would best suit us, and we had a wonderful time!

Getting to Prague on Segway to start the tour was a pretty cool adventure, to begin with. Again, it was our first night in Prague and neither of us spoke the language. We had already made arrangements for the night-time tour and had the address for the business. The wonderful front desk staff at Hotel Central knew we would need help, so they called a good taxi for us and gave the driver the address. The location was in Lesser Town, near the Castle, so it was a short cab ride away.

The cool part came when the driver was weaving in and out of the small streets looking for the address. We looked up and saw guards stopping cars and thought, "Uh oh, what have we gotten into?" The driver was trying to explain that the address was just ahead, but we were passing the U.S. Embassy and all vehicles have to be checked. We eventually got the message, made it to our destination and started our tour.

Segway is a great way to get a first look at a city, and the night tour was a cool twist. Prague is beautiful any time, but the lights and reflections at night are just incredible. The machines are so quiet, and you just sort of float along. And Andre did an awesome job of making sure that both of us were close by at all times so that we were able to hear and ask questions.

We saw an incredible variety of places. One of the stops that he seemed most proud of - understandably - was the National Theatre. It is an incredible building dating back to 1844, but most impressive was the passion in his voice when he told how the people really see it as a national symbol. He talked about how the people have raised funds to restore and maintain the impressive structure.

We did manage to find an awesome Italian restaurant in Prague! Just a few blocks from the Hotel Central is a wonderful place called Corso Cafe. They serve everything from breakfast to dinner, though we only had dinner there. I can tell you that it was really good. I strongly recommend it!

Prague is one of those places that I could go on and on about. We actually stayed there for an entire week. Before arriving, we were concerned with that being too long in a new city. Man, were we wrong! Time just flew by as we settled in. We discovered great places to eat, interesting things to see, and fun local bars. If you're up for an adventure and like hanging with the locals, search for a place called  U Sudu. It's one of those true local gems that you'll either love or hate. We loved it, and we loved Prague!

Check out more photos from our trip here.

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