We travelled from Cesky Krumlov to Prague by bus and then underground – good opportunities to see some more Czech countryside – lots of farms and grass like home.
Once in Prague, we had a three hour walking tour of the city with a local guide. The good thing about these walking tours is that you can quickly cover the “must sees”, like the castles and cathedrals. If you want to explore them in more detail, you can come back later. We saw St Vitus Cathedral, the Old Square and Astronomical Clock, the government buildings, castles and changing of the guard.
To be honest, we never became particularly fond of Prague during our three day stay. The architecture is incredible, but the enormous number of tourists (it was a weekend in peak season) and the often grumpy locals (when compared to Berlin and Vienna) took away much of the charm. It was a lot dirtier or grungier than we expected.
Day two we wandered and then found this small vineyard next to St Vitus Cathedral, overlooking the city. Five hours later and following coffee, cake and red wine, we finally left there.
That night, Viv (our 25 year old tour leader from Hungary), Clint (the 25 year old Aussie who was in the army), Steven (the Scotsman who lives in Dubai) and I headed to one of Prague’s infamous night clubs. This place was crazy – five stories of night club with DJs playing different genres on each level. The downside was the number of tourists (we weren’t helping that ratio) and there were too many misters and not enough sisters (weren’t helping that either). But the drinks were dirt cheap and the music was ok, especially on the “Golden Oldies” floor (it’s scary that music from the late 90s fills up this category).
Perhaps more exciting than the night club, was walking home through central Prague at 4 am. I walked home with Steven the Scotsman. We both agreed that there is no equivalent in NZ (or any place Steve had been to – and he lived in LA for 10 years) to the seedy side of Prague at that time of night. By all accounts it was similarly seedy earlier on at 11 or 12 pm as well.
Following the night time adventures, we were pretty slow the following day. There was a gay pride parade going on near our hotel (the anti-gays were there as well, complete with shaved heads, boots and Rottweilers), but we made it to the National Museum showing the collection of gigantic Mucha paintings. Czech artist Mucha painted these for the city over the course of 18 years. There are 20 canvasses in his “Slav Epic” collection, the largest of which measure 8 x 6 meters, with intricate detail throughout. The museum itself is huge, and we managed to get through most of it – lots of Picasso, some Van Gogh, Monet and other big names. On the way home, we picked up takeaways and sat on the roof of our hotel where we caught the sun setting over the Cathedral.
All in all, Prague won’t go down as our favourite city, but it has an interesting history and we were pleased to have gone there. We were also lucky to have a young Canadian with a History Masters in our group. He was pretty much reading one history book for each place we visited, and was a wealth of information on just about anything you wanted to know. Quite impressive.
Swapping big for small, we caught three trains to get to Teplice Nad Metuji, which is a tiny village still in the Czech Republic, but close to the border (they speak German there). The trains were very “Eastern Block” – probably how it would have been in the 60s – and one of them dropped us pretty much onto the tracks to wait for another. The train staff were less than friendly.
Once in Teplice, the thing to do was a two hour walk to see all these bizarre rock formations. We did that, and they were bizarre. The highlight was climbing up a long series of vertical steps and steep ladders to the top of one of the rocks, where we had amazing views.