Tourists visit Prague for many reasons but two favorites are to sample the beer and to see the Astronomical Clock on the main city square. So Eva, Suzi and I do both right away. Here’s the clock in the dead of winter with a few (thousand), mostly Asian, admirers with their cell phone cameras at the ready.

Astronomical Clock

Astronomical Clock dating from 1410

We have long planned to stay at the centrally located U Medvidku Hotel and oldest active brewery in Prague, dating from 1466. As we check in, we are offered free steins of their brew, which we enjoy in the lobby. Our room is on the top, fourth floor among the rafters. Suzi’s bed is perched on a loft amongst the beams. Our in-room bathroom is actually in another building. We share the wall. The floors don’t match up so we climb six stairs to the door. Bizarre.

Beers in the lobby

Beers in the lobby

Our room amongst the timbers

Our room amongst the timbers

Some of the brewery kettles

Some of the brewery kettles

Buffet breakfast comes with the room

Buffet breakfast comes with the room. This is a portion of what is offered.

A couple of blocks away from us is Wenceslas Square where major demonstrations have taken place, such as the Velvet Revolution in 1989 against Communist repression, championed by Alexander Dubcek and Vaclav Havel. Today it’s a major shopping area. Because Prague was not damaged during WWII, many fine buildings remain from earlier times throughout the city. Along Wenceslas Square are many places built during the Art Nouveau period around 1900 and the Art Deco period that followed. Here are some examples.

To feed the masses who come there today, there are two McDonald’s, a Burger King and a KFC. When revolution comes to America’s plazas, will MickyD be there?

Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square

The Grand Hotel, now boarded up

The Grand Hotel, presently boarded up

img_0004-copy img_0167-copy img_0168-copy img_0219-copy img_0172-copy

Most of Prague is paved with cobblestones. Nonetheless, yesterday we did nearly 20,000 steps, according to our iPhone, and were none the worse for wear at the end of the day.

Typical back street

Typical back street

img_0146-copy

Not far away from us is the large Jewish quarter with many synagogues, cemetery and shops. Of course, the quarter’s inhabitants were decimated in WWII by the Nazis. In the 18th century, they were about one quarter of the population and more Jews lived here than anywhere else on Earth. Now there is some recovery.

Jewish quarter

Jewish quarter

Nearby flows the Moldau River, put to music by Bedrich Smetana in his famous Ma Vlast (My Homeland) symphonic poems we know as The Moldau.

The Moldau

The Moldau

At the end of one of the several bridges spanning the river is a plaque to Gustav Mahler, the famous 19th century composer. He got his professional start in Prague in 1885 as conductor of the Prague German Opera. At that time there was much tension between the resident Germans and Czechs. He managed to keep his musicians playing together harmoniously, so to say.

img_9732-copy

Franz Kafka, though of German Jewish parentage, is today one of Prague’s most esteemed sons and towering figures in 20th century literature. Try his easily read “Metamorphosis” as a starter. Free on the internet in the US.

A poster

A poster

img_9930-copy

Another notable figure is Jan Hus, the martyred theologian who attempted Catholic reform a century before Martin Luther survived a similar feat. A huge statue is in the Old Town Square.

img_0139-copy

Prague is crawling with tourists, even in the wintertime. Souvenir shops follow their paths.

img_9783-copy

We cross the river but the tourists follow. Still there are many beautiful things to see.

img_9769-copy img_9766-copy img_9757-copy img_9836-copy img_9933-copy img_9925-copy

Of course hunger finally catches up with us. We find a nice local spot rather away from the tourist stream. We drink lots of beer. It’s half the price of German beer, which is already cheap, about 25 cents for an American size can. Bread is 40 cents a pound – the tasty, dense rye type. Yum.

img_9789-copy
It's goulash again

It’s goulash again, seemingly the national dish.

Finally, in the evening we get to the famed Charles Bridge. Charles IV crossed it 700 years ago. These days millions cross it, hourly. Mostly Asians. It’s really sooty and ugly as I see it in the winter gloom.

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

One day we walk to The Dancing House, a bit of extreme modern design. It’s really nice inside.

The Dancing House

The Dancing House

Then we climb lots os stairs to the Citadel where there are views over the city.

Prague is not especially tidy.

Prague is not especially tidy.

A city view

A city view with many towers

View of the Moldau River

View of the Moldau River

Next day we walk to the train station, somewhat out from the main downtown. It’s a rather down-in-the-mouth place on the outside because it hasn’t been restored, but the station was once an Art Nouveau marvel and quite lovely inside.

Main train station

Main train station

Train station interior

Train station interior

Stained glass widows are original.

Stained glass widows are original.

We leave in a couple of days for Vienna. Half the way will be by Leo Express train, half by Leo bus. $7.70 each for the six hour journey. What does it cost to SFO? $32 for a two hour trip? Hmmm.

Here's our train. All aboard.

Here’s our train. All aboard.

Advertisements