Friday, February 21, 2020 | Written by Blanca
This past Friday was Valentine’s Day, and I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with the most beautiful one of all. Who might that be, you ask? Only Prague (or Praha, as it’s called in Czech), the capital of the Czech Republic, the City of a Hundred Spires, the apple of my eye and the object of my heart’s affections.
With some (extremely sparse and poorly planned) plans to visit Geneva and Interlaken for the weekend falling through a few days before, my Switzerland travel group disbanded, each member choosing a different location to visit for the weekend. I joined to form a 4-person travel group to Prague, a spontaneous, last-minute decision that I’m really grateful I made. In an activity-packed two days, the first of which was spent primarily in the municipal district of Prague 1, I was able to experience a bit of the endless beauty and culture Prague has to offer.
We left on Thursday evening, and following a near disaster involving a series of canceled train stops, we found ourselves on an overnight bus to Prague, our final mode of transportation of the night. After arriving at the train station at 6AM, we miraculously found a hotel restaurant open at 6:30AM (finding businesses that open early is a near impossible feat, as I’ve realized, in Europe), refueled, and scouted out our Airbnb. A quick 2-hour nap later, I was out the door again, off to the Old Town Square to meet a friend from high school, Livia. Liv is studying abroad in Prague at Charles University this semester, and after badgering her for suggestions for my trip, we decided to grab a quick Friday lunch at a cafe before she left for Slovakia for the weekend.
Prague is full of so many world-renowned wonders (hello, Prague Castle!) and hidden treasures alike, but catching up with Liv was one of the highlights of my weekend. In a city so large (to illustrate this point, I walked fifteen miles on our second day there and was still yearning to see more) and so full of people, we occupied our own corner of the Paneria Paul café; this was made all the more intimate by the fact that those who surrounded us each had their own separate lives and stories. Tucked away from the bustle of it all, we swapped college housing horror stories and snippets of all that we’d been up to since we saw each other last over a slice of Milka cake.
After sending Livia off, I met up with the rest of my GTL travel crew, awakened from their snoozing at last, in the Old Town Square. From there, we embarked on a series of tourist traps: doughnut ice cream cones (which, according to a disgruntled Liv, aren’t remotely Czech, and one should opt to visit a cukrárna instead if craving something sweet), the Prague Astronomical Clock (in my opinion underwhelming), and a traversal across the packed Charles Bridge. I’ll admit that while the lattermost, lined with baroque statues, is less of a tourist trap and more of an attraction, it’s certainly hard to navigate at almost all times of day due to the sheer amount of people who flock to cross it.
Having journeyed across the river, we made our way further in the direction of the stately Prague Castle, making sure to watch our step as we went. Perhaps the most notable part of visiting Prague, aside from the diverse yet distinctive architecture and rich history, was the sheer amount of cobblestone. Now, much of Europe’s streets are cobbled, but Prague beats them all in terms of variety and expanse. In which other city can you find miles and miles of stone-paved roads with sidewalks, also cobblestone, comprising even more precise cuts of stone (some marble!) that are more intricately placed than the actual streets themselves?
We arrived in Prague’s Lesser Town with ankles intact, having managed not to stumble over the bumpy stone roads, and made a quick stop at the St. Nicholas Church. While I personally didn’t enter, choosing instead to seek a much-needed caffeine pick-me-up, two of my traveling companions did pay the admission fee and view the church. Upon exiting, they raved about the gilded Prague Baroque interiors, which are supposedly the most prime example of the architectural style.
Onward again! Our itinerary next led us up charming, winding Nerudova Street, the steepness of which provided a perfect opportunity to stop to peek into shops and take an embarrassing number of photos along the way. Legs burning, we finally reached the entrance to the Prague Castle, providing a perfect outlook over the entirety of the Prague 1 Municipality as the sun set.
When the golden glow of the sun finally ebbed away, we took to the streets once more and retraced our steps. The downhill march along Nerudova Street was significantly less taxing on the knees than the uphill trek, and as we made our way back over the Vltava River on the Charles Bridge, which was a bit more tranquil after nightfall, we were able to see the medieval heart of the city as it lit up in the night.