A few Prague highlights from our last week in “the golden city”.
Národní památník na Vítkově- The national moment and park offers wonderful panorama views of the city. We were lucky enough to go on a snowy day and have the place mostly to ourselves. The views are worthwhile on their own but also offers a nice park to walk through and a war museum if that interests you.
The old town square is always going to be busy with tourists but the off season really is apparent after the holidays are over and the Christmas markets are packed away. The city is a little slower paced, a little colder and a lot more relaxed feeling.
Completed in 1929 and installed in 1931 the window portrays the boy St. Wenceslas with his grandmother St. Ludmila in the centre, surrounded by episodes from the lives of Saints Cyril and Methodius who spread Christianity among the Slavs. The window is bright with vivid rich colors and is truly breathtaking. This is a must see and is located in the St.Vitus Cathedral at the Prague castle.
I’ve mentioned Letná Park several times in this series but I thought I would go into some detail since it is such a special spot and I spent a lot of time here over the last month. Letna is a large park on Letná hill, built on a plateau above steep embankments along the Vltava River. The view from the park looks down over old town Prague and the Charles bridge and beyond. I hear there is a wonderful beer garden open in the summer as well.
Prague castle is actually more of a complex and is one of the main tourist attractions in Prague. We didn’t actually buy tickets and go into the structures until our last week and our main motivation was honestly to see the Mucha window in the St. Vitus cathedral. There are two ticket options the long and short tours. We choose the short tour and spent part of the afternoon on a snowy day in January exploring the complex. The grounds themselves can for the most part be explored without a ticket but if you want to enter any buildings you have to buy a ticket. There is a changing of the guard every hour with 12’clock being the most involved. The castle dates back to the 9th century and is really interesting because of the range of architectural styles and variety in the buildings, not to mention the shear mass. According the visitor website it is “largest coherent castle complex in the world, with an area of almost 70,000 m². A UNESCO World Heritage site, it consists of a large-scale composition of palaces and ecclesiastical buildings of various architectural styles.”
One snowy day we walked around Vyšehrad Cemetery. The popular cemetery is the final resting place for dozens of Czech well knowns , including my favorite Alfons Mucha. Many tombs and headstones are works of art in themselves and the entire complex is massive.
That’s it for Prague! We spent four weeks in the city and loved it. I would love to go back again in the summer and compare the differences and intricacies of the seasons. If you’ve ever thought of visiting I would highly recommend it.
Things to try:
* Honey cake (medovnik)- In Slovakian culture, honey has always been honored, and a barrel of it was even given as part of women’s dowries through the Middle Ages. This tasty cake is sweet and super yummy.
*Svarak (hot mulled wine) while walking across the Charles Bridge- enough said pure magic especially on a cold winter evening.
*Traveling with your dog- Dogs are treated so friendly and welcomed in Prague and the rest of the country. Most restaurants allow dogs and even bring a bowl of water over for them when you sit down at the table. While not allowed in grocery stores, most have a tie up spot just for furry friends. There are lots of parks and in a lot of areas dogs are allowed off leash. We traveled with Pisgah on the tram, metro, city bus and train they just have to have a muzzle or be small enough to be in a bag. (side note though they aren’t allowed on long distance CD buses, we learned this the hard way from Nuremberg)
*Looking up at the architectural wonders that surround you everywhere- Stop and pause for a minute while walking down the street and notice the amazing architecture all around you. Ranging from Art Nouveau to Cubist to Baroque to Renaissance to Gothic to the (in my mind terrible) communist styles is a world wind tour of architecture. The styles are so varied and detailed and change from block to block building to building. Little surprises await on almost every street corner where you can simply turn you head upwards and notice tiny detail in a building structure that is full of character.
*Taking a job through one of the many parks- There are tons of beautiful parks to jog and find relief from city life. I am not a runner but I found comfort in my almost daily runs through the city parks. They are a great place to see local families spending time together, watch dogs run and play off leash and even see equestrians riding their horses right there in city parks.
There are so many more little details but that’s for you to find during your trip to this golden city.
Bavaria & Salzburg
The train ride from Prague to Munich is about 6 hours direct nonstop. The ride is a comfortable and easy day trip from city to city. We rented a car and headed out of town towards the mountains. We stopped for the night about an hour from Munich towards Salzburg in a town called Unterwossen. A short ways off the highway and nestled in the mountains were a charming little set of towns. We came in after dark and awoke the next morning surrounded in breathtaking mountains. There are tons of hikes and winter sports in the area and the towns are comprised of traditional adorable Bavarian style buildings. Absolutely charming towns and the whole area is simply beautiful.
We set off for a winter hike in the neighboring town of our hotel, Marquartstein in the Chiemgaue alps. We found a chair lift that takes you up to a panorama view of the area. However we arrived before it opened so we took off up the winter hiking trail. The snow this year is down and the full winter sports season in the area is opened but we found a good deal of snow about half way up. The views were amazing highlighted by contrast between the green towns below and the snowy peaks ahead. The Chiemgaue alps area is outstanding and an easy drive from Munich.
We arrived in Salzburg in the mid afternoon and took the bus into town from our hotel at the city edge. As cheesy as it is I did watch Sound of Music (for my the 1000th time) on the train ride to Munich to catch up for our visit to Salzburg. We took the bus to the Mirabell gardens were the “Do Re Mi” scene was filmed. The gardens were obviously less than peak being that it is January but were still fun to see and imagine in the summertime. From the gardens we strolled around town and hit as many highlights as we could in one short evening finishing at the Stiegl brewery enjoying wonderful view of the city.
Super short trip in Salzburg but the mountains are calling and I must go….
To be continued.