Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Take the time to Czech out Prague

Weary old buildings that conceal impressive historical pasts stand next to public monuments such as the gothic Tyn church, neo-classical Estates Theatre and medieval Prague Castle. The contrast in Prague’s architecture mirrors the city’s past, charting the progression from its rule under several regimes to its transition into a democratic state with the ‘Velvet Revolution’. 
 
The main attractions of the city are within walking distance of each other and the central point is the Prague Castle complex, which overlooks the whole of the capital from its dominating position on a hill in the northwest section.
 
The huge castle complex is considered the largest in Europe. You can easily spend a day wandering around the grounds including the magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral with its handsome chapels and stained glass windows. 
 
It is the site where Prague's patron saint, St. John of Nepomuk, is buried in a massive, silver sarcophagus. Ascend the steep staircase of the cathedral spire with nearly 300 winding steps that lead up to the tower for an impressive view of the city.
 
Visitors can also explore the numerous unique tombs on the grounds, watch performances in the courtyard and shop for souvenirs in the little picturesque shops along Golden Lane. 
 
Time you visit to the Old Town Square so you can see and hear the five-century-old Astronomical Clock that strikes on the hour. The clock attracts a daily crowd of onlookers who stand in awe of a device considered a marvel of engineering during its time. 
 
A trip to the Jewish Quarter, with its rich and poignant history gives a fascinating insight into the culture of the people. Visit the cemetery where the famous Rabbi Low is buried. He is recognized for his efforts in the 16th century to save the community by creating a golem creature of mud that figures prominently in many Prague folk tales. 
 
For a look at modern Prague, take a tram ride to Wenceslas Square, which was the site of political demonstrations that changed the course of history. The Museum of Communism in Wenceslas Square gives a vivid representation of the Czech people’s struggle against communist rule. The square has various hotels, cinemas, shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, some of which are hidden away in side streets or short passage ways. 
 
Stop by Charles Bridge and enjoy great views over Prague's rooftops. The famous historical bridge crosses the Vltava river linking the Old Town, Prague Castle and surrounding areas. This 13th century bridge holds a distinctive collection of 30 religious statues. 
 
While you stroll the bridge, enjoy performances by sidewalk musicians and watch artist paint by the footpath. For a unique souvenir, get your caricature drawn by an artist for a small fee. Hop on to one of the boats to end the day with a sunset cruise down the sweeping Vltava water way. 
 
If you want to sample the local fare, step into one of the sidewalk cafes or restaurants for an affordable and filling meal. The Czech enjoy a hearty cuisine meant to cope with the effects of a cold climate and a customary Czech dinner includes bread dumplings, cured meats, potatoes and cabbage broth.

Practical Information:

Prague has attractions for visitors all year round. The months of May and June are popular times to visit along with Easter and the Christmas holidays. The section of Old Prague is a great place to explore on foot so choose to stay in a hotel in the heart of the city and wear a sturdy pair of shoes to cope with walking on cobblestone streets. If your feet begin to tire, there is a good tram, bus and underground system to help you get around.

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Article written for www.natastravel.com   

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