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Travel Notes

Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, is a charming, vibrant city nestled on the Vltava River with buildings, like the original castle, dating back as far as the 9th century. Around the 14th century Emperor Charles IV made Prague the centre of the Roman Empire and fulfilled the vision of this place being, ‘a vast city, whose glory will touch the stars’.

Although occupying a relatively small area, Prague requires a lot of walking. However, as we were told by a local, “you will soon find your favourite trams”. The tram system is fantastic but be warned, you must validate your ticket as soon as you get on a tram or you could incur a hefty fine as we did on our first tram ride; not a pleasant welcome to this otherwise divine city.

There are two sides to Prague, the Old Town and, across the famous Charles Bridge, the Lesser City. We stayed in Domus Henrici, a boutique hotel in a 14th century building in the Lesser City, about five hundred metres from the famous Castle. The hotel had plenty of old world character, amazing views of the city and friendly, helpful staff but the lack of air conditioning and the narrow, hard beds would probably make us search for an alternative on a future visit. Although, the location was a real winner.

Prague is an enormously popular weekend destination for Europeans and if you can time your visit for mid-week, all the better. We had four days exploring Prague and this was enough time to cover the most recommended things to do. Here are our top eight choices, starting with the gay scene.

Gay Scene
Gay Prague is alive and dynamic with a good number of bars, dance clubs and saunas. The city has gay pride in August, hosts a Queer Film Festival in November and Prague4Gay is a gay tour company which runs a number of private tours around the city year round.

The Vinohrady district is the centre for most gay bars and clubs. We visited three gay bars during our short stay. Saints Bar, with an S above the door, is a very small, cosy bar, with a mixture of ages and nationalities. There were several low lounges which were perfect for mingling.

Club Termix is only for men and is set in a modern underground space with a hard-edge dance floor, a back room and ‘it is compulsory’ to leave your jacket at the cloak room. Our favourite bar was Friends. The bartenders and very friendly host made everyone feel welcome. Each night there are different games and shows which keep the crowd thoroughly entertained.

Eating before the bars is a good idea as most start well after 10pm. Before arriving at Saints Bar we dined at PerTe, a stylish Italian Restaurant with excellent food and English speaking waiters who have a sense of humour; definitely a bonus in this city. Not far from Friends Bar we had a really enjoyable meal at Potrefena Husa, an ultra modern bar/restaurant with healthy and delicious menu choices and a range of boutique beers and wine.

Charles Bridge By Day Or Night
By day or night Charles Bridge is a grand piece of architecture in the centre of Prague and can have thousands of tourists on it at any one time. Construction of this massive stone bridge started in 1357 and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. It has enormous towers at each end that tourists must pass through to use the bridge. Don’t miss a photo opportunity beside one of the 30 Baroque statues lining both sides of the bridge. At night the Charles Bridge is beautifully lit and from there you will have gorgeous views of the river and city buildings.

Old Town And Square
The Old Town is full of romantic history with Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture, fully deserving its UNESCO World Heritage Listing.Walk the cobbled streets, gaze up at the buildings painted in pastel colours, see beautiful art nouveau apartments, wander into the huge Old Town Square which features buildings like St Nicholas, the Old Town Hall and the National Gallery. Of more human interest were the thousands of ‘selfie’ taking tourists, buskers and street performers who bring this ancient square alive and into the 21st century, every minute of every day.

Astrological Clock
The Astrological Clock in the Old Town Square is highly popular with tourists who have cameras at the ready for the hourly show of the Walk of the Apostles. On the strike of the hour figures representing the Apostles and other moving sculptures make an appearance. There is also a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months.The clock itself dates back to 1410 and is considered a mechanical masterpiece of its period. However, the hourly show is a little underwhelming and nothing to compare to the famous Town Hall (Rathaus) clock in Münich.

Prague Castle And St Vitus Cathedral
Prague Castle complex includes a number of features like The Old Royal Palace, St Vitus Cathedral, St George Basilica, Golden Lane, The Powder Room and several others including the Medieval Prison. The Castle is quite magnificent and it took us several hours to see most of the buildings. We bought Ticket A which gave us access to seven of the main attractions and, when it was all over, just outside the exit gate was a small market which sells a variety of tasty local delicacies, like succulent spicy sausages hot off the grill.

Petrin Hill
Easy access to Petrin Hill is via the funicular which is in the park near Ujezd tram stop. The same transport pass used for the city trams will let you travel on the cable car ride up the hill. The main reason to go to the park is to climb Petrin Tower which is a small replica of the Eiffel Tower, built in 1891 and used as an observation tower as well as a transmission tower. The 299 stairs will take you to the top for wonderful views over Prague.

For less energetic activities in the park walk through the rose gardens, find your way through the Mirror Maze, (not so amazing) and have lunch at Peklo Restaurant set in a warm, dark medieval wine cellar, that has its own spring water originating from an 800 year old well in the natural sandstone. When you’ve had enough of wandering aimlessly through the park, take a tram to the celebrated Café Savoy for a divine afternoon tea.

Gardens Below Prague Castle
The Gardens Below Prague Castle, at Praha 1 Mala Strana in the Lesser City, are a very pleasant reprieve from the crowds. The gardens are a complex of five baroque gardens, starting from street level, steeply making their way up the hill to the castle ramparts. Each garden has a specific layout, some with fountains, wall paintings (tromp l’oueil) and from the upper terrace there are spectacular views of the rooftops and church towers of Prague. Don’t miss this beautiful sanctuary in the heart of the city.

Majestic Prague By Night
In a memorable and spectacular city like Prague our final night had to be special. The Sweet Prague Dining Cruise was perfection. Embarking on our elegant, richly timbered sailing vessel we were offered a chilled glass of Prosecco as we watched the sun’s last rays illuminate the historic architectural masterpieces we had explored all week; a debut to a simply divine evening. Dinner was a superb á la carte production washed down with a bottle of select wine.

Between courses we headed to the upper deck to secure our last nighttime snapshots of the breathtaking beauty of the Vltava River and its vivid treasures. Back in the dining room the piano man charmed us with soulful, romantic ballads as we bid farewell to one of the most enchanting cities in the world. A gold class ticket gets you a table at the front of the ship but each group on this exclusive cruise has its own space to make the 3 hour voyage truly unforgettable.

Know Before You Go
Summer is hot and very crowded in Prague.
Try to time your visit for mid-week
Buy a three day Tram ticket first up and be sure to validate it at the start of your journey
Check out www.agoda.com for accommodation options

For more information, visit: www.gaymenonholiday.com for details.

Image: Prague (supplied)

 

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