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Journeys : Oct Nov 2011
Awatery red sun slowly rises above the endless red rooftops as the Air Emirates plane descends into Prague’s Ruzy ne International Airport, my arrival point into the Czech Republic. The temperature on the ground is just above 0°C, a physical shock after leaving an Australian summer. Most visitors come to Prague in summer, so it can be very crowded. But in winter the city becomes a magical wonderland of contrasting extremes. By day, immersing yourself in the history of the capital, seeing the sights, wandering through the labyrinth of winding roads, alleyways, courtyards and passageways leading deep into buildings; and then by night, discovering the many forms of enter tainment available, drinking mulled wine or hot chocolate to keep warm. Prague has been a social, cultural and political centre for centuries and is today considered a very moder n and progressive city. The public transportation system is good and cheap. There are three metro lines, numerous trams and buses where tickets are interchangeable, but remember to always validate the ticket or risk a fine. The Old Town Square is the central destination for most visitors, which is why you should get there early. After admiring the magnificent architecture of the churches around the square, you could browse in the market or take a horse and carr iage ride; tucked under a blanket, w ith the sound of hooves on the cobbles. Then meet for coffee in a pavement cafe to watch the decorated, astrological clock strike on the hour. Prague Castle, the world’s largest ancient castle, is the city’s most popular sight. Constructed in the 9th century, the castle transformed from a wooden fortress surrounded by earthen bulwarks to the imposing form it has today. Rulers made their own additions so there is a mixture of styles. Prague castle has had four major reconstructions, but it keeps the classical facelift from the 18th century dur ing the reign of Maria Theresa. The castle has three courtyards and it has always been the seat of Czech rulers as well as the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. Another reason for visiting Prague Castle is the Strahov Monastery Brewery. They ser ve an excellent selection of delicious (and often strong!) beers brewed on the premises, with seasonal variations, along with a good selection of light meals and snacks. The 750m long and 60m wide boulevard that makes up Wenceslas Square was laid out over 600 years ago. It was originally used as the Prague horse market and is one of two main squares in Prague. There is nightlife and entertainment all around Wenceslas Square, and an array of international shops. But the true magic of Prague lies in its illogical labyrinth of w inding cobblestone paths that will take you, if you choose to follow them, to the city’s hidden pubs, lounges, and restaurants, bringing you further away from the dizzying frenzy of tourists meeting at the Jan Hus statue in Old Town Square. Take these paths as far as you can, not forgetting to take in the beauty of the pastel rainbow-colored buildings and connecting archways, through towers and past churches – any path you take will overwhelm the architecturally-naive eye and the baroque and gothic experts alike. Robyn Evans was a guest of Tempo Holidays Czech please! Robyn Evans explores Prague Prague’s astrological clock Bridges over Vltava River 80 October / November 2011
MNJ Aug Sep 2011