Holiday in Prague - a travelogue

Malá Strana seen from Charles Bridge

If I should describe Prague with one word, I'd probably say "beautiful". However that is pretty simplified. I could also say impressive, old or crowded. None of the words are adequate, but they all add a facet of reality.

The following is a more elaborate description of our experiences on a holiday in Prague, March 2008.

On the interactive map of Prague you can see our whereabouts, and on the facts page are travel tips and more practical information.

We arrive to Prague

The flight was uneventful. While waiting for our luggage in Prague's airport, two employees on roller skates rush past.

A girl is waiting in arrivals with a sign: "Mr. Bentzen". That's me. She is our driver from Prague Airport Shuttle.

She is pleasant and speaks excellent English. The trip to town takes half an hour, and she tells a bit about Prague. I don't ask, but I guess she is a student and drives to make an extra buck.

Hotel Perla

A piccolo snatches our suitcases outside Hotel Perla in Perlová 1. It is in the city centre, and the location was our primary reason for selecting this hotel. The room is rather small, but okay.

The old town, Staré Mesto

The Storch House in Staromestské námesti

The winding streets in the old town, Staré Mesto, are paved with cobblestones. Many houses are palace-like, and if you look up, you see lavishly adorned fronts with bright colours. Stunning!

It is Prague's and our luck that the city was almost unscathed during WW2, so we can still admire the beautiful buildings, so full of history.

After the downfall of communism in 1989 the old town was in a terrible state after decades of neglect. Houses were blackened with soot and dirt, walls were peeling, roofs leaking.

That is difficult to imagine today, where almost every building has bright colours and appears to be in good condition. Contractors and workers must have had a great and busy time.

The old city square, Staromestské námesti

The Astronomical Clock

With a bit of help from the map we find the old city square, Staromestské námesti. This is where you find The Astronomical Clock and the Týn Church, where the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe rests in his sarcophagus next to the altar. Danish guidebooks usually write that there is a Danish flag by the sarcophagus; then we can polish our national vanity in a strange land.

There are many stalls in the square selling everything from hotdogs to bric-a-brac. We are somewhat surprised by the many tourists. We had imagined that March would be fairly quiet. Maybe it is, and then it must be pack-jammed in the height of the season!

It starts raining and of course the umbrellas are safe in the hotel room. We get very wet in no time and seek refuge in two pints of Urquell at a café with shameless tourist prices (2 x 85 CZK = 7.6 EUR). It is our first Czech beer, "pivo", in this country, and it is excellent with fruit and hop!

The Czechs make the best lager in the world, and I would support a pipeline - pivoline - to Denmark anytime.

Czech food at the beer hall u Medvidku

A frothy glass of Urquell

"Drunk, but wiser" (a foolish play on words).

It has stopped raining, but back at the hotel we arm ourselves with umbrellas none the less, before we turn the corner to the beer hall/restaurant/brewery Minipivovar u Medvidku. It is a mini-brewery, but most of the beer being sold is Budweiser (Budvar) - the REAL one, mind you.

u Medvidku

The visit was planned from home. You must see a Czech beer hall, and this is only 5 staggering minutes back to the hotel. Be prepared.

We step into a big and deep room with vaults and dark wooden tables. To the left is a long bar. The walls are a nicotine yellow, and there is a sharp smell of cigarette smoke. This place has been around since 1466.

I ask a waiter in white if we can have a table for two. Without a word he waves an arm as if to say: "Seek and Thou shalt find". The tables nearby are all occupied. Some guests are eating, some are drinking beer, some are reading.

From restaurant u Medvidku

We pass the long bar, and deep within there is a free table. In this room there are only diners.

Almost immediately we get two pints of beer. The waiter leaves a piece of paper on the table with two lines.

The menu is comprehensive, and prices are VERY reasonable. It is all Czech food. We order a starter and a main course.

Czech food with dumplings

Helle's main course is veal rolled around some stuffing (eggs?) with red/green peppers. With this fresh spinach and several slices of solid dumplings that very convincingly confirm the law of gravity.

I have Czech goulash, tasty but not the least like Hungarian goulash. Two slices of white bread and two "bacon dumplings" (balls of dry bread with dusty bacon flavour) serve to scoop up the gravy.

We arrived early at 17:45, and now the place is full. Everybody at the long table in the middle are served a monstrously big knee of pork. It is almost bigger than the plate. A young boy is obviously overwhelmed and wondering how to launch the attack.

I have coffee while Helle finishes her beer. The waiter has trouble reading his colleague's scribble, but he manages with a bit of help, and the bill says 516 CZK. That is almost 21 EUR for two persons - very cheap.

It is probably wise to visit the loo before leaving. The man next to me is a Czech and obviously a beer lover. He breathes heavily and rests his forehead against the wall while emptying his reservoir. Suddenly he releases a wind like a trumpet blast that could make less solid walls crumble. Joshua groans happily and tumbles out for a refill, while I wash my hands.

Towards Charles' Bridge

It is dark when we leave. The lampposts look like old gas-lamps, and the streetlight is subdued.

We stroll in the neighbourhood. Souvenir shops and jewellers are open even though it is evening and Easter Sunday. We are caught by the mass of tourists and taken to Karlova, the old King's Road.

Soon we are at Charles Bridge. It is chilly now, so we don't cross, but I take a few evening pictures of the tower on this side of the river and the illuminated castle on the other.

On the way back to the hotel we get lost. We walk in a circle and find ourselves by the river again, but then we manage to read the map and find our way home.