|Subject: Prague SIghtseeing|
Some well-known sights and some not well-known but not to be missed. Sandy,
To be forewarned is to be forearmed, so watch for the following: men dressed like policemen and sometimes driving up in police-looking cars will stop you and say they are from passport control, and want to see your passport and your money. They are con men, don't give them the time of day, let alone your passport or money, you'll never see them again. Someone approached a friend of mine stating: passport control, but he did not trust him, and ignored him, and although the man followed him to his hotel yelling passport control he didn't follow him into the hotel. In addition, in April of 1999 the Prague paper wrote about the security problems in the Hilton, Forum, Diplomat and Bohemia hotels, saying guests were accosted by crooks in the halls and had things stolen from their rooms while they were sleeping. So check at these hotels to see how they are handling the problem, and perhaps bring along an extra travel lock for your hotel door. Check out the State Opera (4 Wilsonova; 42-2/265-353), a good place for snapping up last- minute tickets.
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Considered to be one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world. Prague's medieval appearance is so perfect it astonishes visitors. See Old Town (Stare Mesto) and its Gothic Town Hall and the 15th-century astronomical clock. One of the best walking trips starts above the city at the 9th century Prague Castle--within the complex are the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, the Golden Lane (Zlata Ulicka) of artisans' houses. Walk down the hill, past the baroque frosting of St. Nicholas Church and continue on to the river where you will see the Charles Bridge, which was begun in 1357.
Make sure you find Golden Lane at the far end of the castle hill complex. This narrow sreet, named for alchemists who supposedly worked here changing lead into gold, consists of tiny little shops and houses built right into the fortress walls. Kafka wrote for a time at number 24.
The Charles Bridge connects the Old Town with the Lesser Town and is a wonderfull place to take a stroll. Day and night, street musicians, artists and other unique acts display their talents from one end of the pedestrian stone bridge to the other.
Visit the neighborhood of Novy Svet up the hill to the west of the Castle. Its a charming area of 14th-18th century homes set on crooked alleyways withsecret gardens behind high walls.
Petrin Hill in Mala Strana to the south of the Castle is a delightful park in which one can escape the crowds. Climb the hill on foot or take thefunicular to the top where you can rest while enjoying one of the best views of Prague. Also, the neighborhoods surrounding the park are great to stroll through and admire the architecture‚##‚##many foreign embassies are located here.
Don't miss the Obecni Dum (Municipal House) located just to the east of Old Town Square on Republic Square. An extraordinarily extravagant art nouveau building that is a celebration of the Czech nation. From the paintings of Alphonse Mucha to the tilework, to the light fixtures, no detail was overlooked in this recently restored jewel. Visit the cafe and linger imagining yourself seated with the turn-of-the-century intelligentsia.
An early morning stroll through the small streets near the Charles Bridge on both sides of the Vitava River allows you to escape the crowds and savor the city's charm. Daily Walks of Prague: Meeting point is directly under the face of astronomical clock in Old Town Square. Guide will hold up a Daily Walks poster. 250 crowns (about $8): Prague Intro: 90 minutes, daily at 10 and 12 noon. Takes in all principal and some hidden sights. Castle &Cathedral: 2 hours, daily at 12 and 2 pm. Explores Prague castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. Jewish Quarter: 1 hour, daily at 1 and 3 pm. Old cemetery, synagogues, the golem. Architecture: 75 minutes, daily at 2 pm. Exploring the different building styles around the historic city center. Franz Kafka: 1 hour, daily at 4 pm. Analysis of life and work of Kafka. Retracing his footsteps of where he lived and worked in the city. Mysterious Prague: 1 hour, daily at 4 and 6 pm. the legends and folklore of Prague through the historic city.
All museums, monasteries and castles are closed on Mondays throughout the country. In all castles and monasteries you must go on a guided tour. They usually have a script in English you can follow if you miss an English tour. Going on an English tour costs about double ($3) of a Czech tour ($1-1.50).
Guides: Dr. Stania Weigova, former journalist and radio talk-show hostess, wonderfully, warm, caring person. Knows her history of Czech Republic very well, as well as knowing some non-touristy sights. She shows you how to use public transportation. $8/hr. Na Porici 8, 1100 00 Prague 1; phone/fax 011-4202-232- 3203.
Katarina Sklenarova, (Stania's cousin). A delightful girl who can show you nontouristy places and great restaurants. She can drive you around countryside also. She is a very good and careful driver. Drives a white, 4-door Skoda (Czech car). $8/hr, $4/day for gas. She offers airport transfers for about $13.
For a great private tour guide who speaks fluent English, contact Peter Klen, Rozsifena 18, 18200 Prague.
Go to an opera at either the state opera house, Wilsonova 4, 2422-9437 (muzeum exit of A or C subway, exit station direction stat oper and bear to the right about a block down) or the National Theater, Narodndi 2,2491-3437 (Narodni trida exit from subway B, or Narodni Davidlo stop from trams 18, 22, 23). Most expensive seat is $24, and you can get much cheaper ones. They both take you back to the Victorian era and you wish you were wearing formal attire as you enter their elaborate Baroque interiors. They make our theaters seem quite sterile. At the National Theater I saw a patriotic Czech opera. Since it was sung in Czech the subtitles were in English.
Also go to the Image theatre, Parizska 4 ( on a tree-lined street about a block from Old Town Sq. You can have dinner at U Karpu on Zatecki street, just couple of blocks from here). It was the most unusual, fascinating show I have ever seen. The costume and choreography appeared out of some science-fiction era. The stage is black, and the dancers are lit up in fluorescence as are their props which range from geometric figures to filmy material. It gives off a very etheric effect. In between acts is a slapstick comedy, mime routine. Quite a contrast to the sophistication of the modern dance acts. Tickets about $10.
To get away from the hordes of tourists take a picnic lunch to Vysehrad. It is atop a hill across the Vltava (Moldau) River from Prague Castle and started out as a castle in the 900s. When it was destroyed rebuilt as a fort in 1003. Wenselas II, when he became king, selected Vysehrad as his residence. Destroyed again in the 17th century by the Hussites, it is now a ruin, but walls of fortress, gate, and rotunda of St. Martin (the oldest of three still existing rotundas) remain. In addition there is a beautiful St. Peter and Paul's Church (founded in 1070), a cemetery where many of the Czech Republic's famous artists, composers and musicians are buried and the Vysehrad Museu, (in the New Deanery) housing the history of Vysehrad. It also has spectacular views of Prague and the river, rivaling the views from Prague Castle, and you don't have to compete with the crowds to get pictures, or worry about pick pockets. A wonderful place to spend a relaxing few hours. Getting there: From Wenselas Sq. Mustek subway station, take subway line C, direction Haje. Get off at Vysehrad. As you exit station keep going in a straight direction; road starts to go down a gentle slope and you are in a residential area, go through this til you get to ruins on your right. When you come back take C, direction Holesovice, exit Mustek. Open daily 8 am to 7 pm; winter 9 to 4, including Mondays. First Monday of the month, free entrance. Museum open daily 9:30-5:30. Admission 20 crowns (less than $1).
Krizikan Fountain at Exhbition Hall (L.D.S. 1/20 Vystaviste, Prague 7-Holesovice). A large rectangular fountain, a spectacular water works show as the water burst out of over 300 spouts, lit up in a rainbow of colors, dancing in rhythm to the accompanying concert and the oooohs of the crowd. It is not on every day and there are different concerts every hour. Go only to the 8, 9, 10 or 11 pm shows as that is when the lights are on. Phone (011-4202) 2010-3280 for days and schedule. Getting there: From city center take tram 12 (from Malostranske Sq.) or 17 or 18 (from Narodni Trida or National Theater stop, Narodni Davidlo), off at Vystaviste. You can see the big Exhibition Hall facade. Little over $5 admission.
Brevnov Monastery, Marketska 1, phone: 3335-1565, newly reopened after extensive restoration. Oldest monastery in Bohemia. Founded in 993 by Czech Prince Boleslaw and Prague Bishop Adalbert, as a Benadictine Order. The monastery's ornate Baroque Church of St. Margaret is a wonder to behold. The current church, a descendent from the original was built between 1709 and 1716. What makes this one particularly worthwhile is that you go through the whole monastery, not just the library and church as you do in most of them. You get to view the paintings and fabulous frescoes in the dining room, the audience hall, the quarters of the abbot as well as several other salons. The most spectacular Baroque room is the Pompeiian Hall, which you can rent for parties or weddings. The library, stretching across the whole north wing of the building features ceiling and wall frescoes from mid 18th century and houses 20,000 volumes on theology, history, philosophy and law. The tour includes a visit to the crypt where you view the remains of the first church as well as several human skeletons in their burial sites. The tour is given only in Czech, but you can buy a book describing the history and the rooms. Definitely worth a visit. Open only on Saturday and Sundays. Guided tours are at 9, 10:30, 1, 2:3;0 and 4. Getting there: Tram 8 from Republic Square, direction across the river or tram 22 from Molostranska Square, direction away from Bridge St. Off at Brevnovsky Klaster, third stop after Pyramid Hotel (stop after Drinopol). Yoco's is a good place to have a bite to eat before or after visiting the monastery. You can either walk back down the street (it will be on right side) or take tram one stop to Drinopol and walk down from there. One of joys of this site is you practically have it all to yourself so you can enjoy wandering around the grounds undisturbed.
Troja Castle, U Trojskeho zamku 1, open 10 to 6, every day except Monday,
The St. Michael Mystery: Feel the History of Prague, Michalska 27/29; phone: 2281-8204. A block behind Old Town Square. Open 10 to 8, continuous performance lasting 45 minutes to an hour. It is a high-tech, multi-media show with sound and sometime images that surround you as you walk through Czech history; part of it reminiscent of the Haunted House in Disneyland. All the more poignant if you walk through alone as I did. You hear, in English, about Charles IV, who built new town, Charles University and the Charles stone bridge; John Hus who predated Martin Luther by several hundred years in denouncing the church. Through the sound you can feel the horror and fear as the Nazis rounded up the Jews and sent them off to the camps. After that you experience the takeover by the Russians, then the Prague Spring uprising of ‚##68 and finally the free Czech Republic after 1989; the ending being very upbeat.