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Pretty Prague

CZECH REPUBLIC | Sunday, 14 September 2008 | Views [380]

On arrival at the station Prague was a tad overwhelming. All those signs in a strange, symbol-populated language! Plus they were brown instead of blue (blue is THE colour for railway signs in most of Western Europe) – how was my feeble brain going to figure out where to find an ATM and locate the tram to my hostel!?!

But, after inserting myself into the back-packer populated mega-queue for the public transport info centre and with a wee bit of perseverance, i did indeed manage to buy the right ticket, find my tram spot, AND get on the right tram in the right direction and off at the right spot, which is an achievement since my hostel was a ways out of town. All i can say is thank God for LCD display panels (the names of the stops sound nothing like how we english-speakers would pronounce them).

The tram ride, despite me freaking out at the possibility of someone starting a conversation with me in Czech, was a nice chance to sit down and whet my appetite for sight-seeing. It didn't take long to get whet!

Prague is an amazingly beautiful city – more beautiful even than it looks in the films e.t.c.

Take a huge fairytale castle, beautiful public squares complete with fountains and statues, gorgeous pastel-coloured ancient buildings, winding uneven cobblestoned alleyways, a large river with a multitude of old magnificent & famous bridges and add to it a healthy dose of hard history and you begin to imagine the majesty of Prague.

Ok – i think I've exhausted my supply of adjectives again – but seriously, i was very impressed by Prague. It felt safe too (despite my original doubts) which was great because it meant i spent every night out in the town centre wondering at all the pretty, pretty lights and getting some pretty kick-arse photos. The best pic ever was when i managed to capture some fireworks (they were letting them off in honour of their team heading off to the Beijing olympics) in my night scenery shot from Charles Bridge (see photo gallery).

I had a lot of fun exploring Prague – whether it was the “official” sights or just wandering around (see the photo gallery for some pics of all the pretty things i saw).

I did a couple of walking tours from which i learnt a lot of interesting facts/history – most of which i have forgotten - but i do remember that Prague is about 80% atheist, a testament to hellish religious wars and reforms of the past. Almost none of it's beautiful, history-rich churches are in use as actual churches. And, as a consequence of all the atheism - the divorce rate is about 70% (was the first thing that came to mind when i saw a couple of weddings taking place – i almost said to the couple “why bother?”).

I suppose the former (but not that former) communist regime didn't help things either. The communist past is pretty interesting (though, yes, it is a tad depressing) – on the tour we saw the only 5 star hotel of the communist era – a wonder in brown, minimalist concrete (very similar to the universities of NZ). I even went to the Museum of Communism, which, ironically is right next to Prague's first McDonalds (outside which people queued for 2 days waiting for it to open!! - nowadays it takes about 2 days worth of pay to afford a big mac). Museum was great – informative mixed in with good old ironic humour - I got some great propaganda spin-off postcards from the gift shop.

To top all that off – my hostel (the boathouse – which literally was a boathouse) offered home-cooked meals -perfect to fuel up for a nights worth of city-gazing.

To sum up – Prague is so so romantically beautiful. Don't worry about the language barrier (English is one of the 4 languages you have to speak to get any kind of service work in Prague so most people can speak it). If you get the chance – go!

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