As we planned our trip around the world I knew I wanted to visit Prague. I had heard only wonderful things from fellow travelers and have wanted to go here since spending a month backpacking around Europe 18 years ago with my college roommates. It didn’t fit into our itinerary then and I wanted to make sure it did this time. Needless to say, my expectations were high as our flight landed in Prague.
We found a taxi to drive us to our hotel and we were off. Airports are generally not in the best areas so I didn’t expect much at first and was excited to make our way into the historic area. Even though my expectations were set high, nothing could have prepared me for the stunning view over the city we encountered as we drove in at sunset. The sun was shining along the buildings and over the Historic Charles Bridge. Immediately I was in love with this city. It was so beautiful! As we descended into the city we wound through skinny cobblestone streets flanked by people, segways, scooters, and shops on every side. I couldn’t imagine trying to drive myself through this maze of humanity, so I was very thankful it was our taxi driver who had to do his best to avoid hitting pedestrians, and not Jeromy!
We arrived at our wonderful hotel, Hotel Agnes, where they warmly welcomed us in and immediately sat us at tables with peanuts, pretzels, and free drinks to help us settle in. Of course they offered us the local Prague brew (the best in the world they say), but as we are not drinkers, we had to decline. Throughout our stay people were quite disappointed by our simple request for “still” water or maybe the occasional Coke Zero for Jeromy. You can imagine my kid’s excitement at the prospect of free drinks anytime they wanted from the hotel staff, not to mention that the mini bar was all free! No more threatening them to not touch that $8 bottle of soda in the little fridge in the hotel room. FREEDOM! They immediately decided this was the best hotel EVER!
Richard was the staff member who welcomed us as we arrived at Residence Agnes and we had great service from then on. I know this may sound like a TripAdvisor review or something, but it was the best service I have ever had at a hotel. Everything was complimentary: cold drinks every time we arrived back to the hotel…FREE, stamps for Luke’s postcards he sent to the Grandparents at home…FREE, a ride to the Castle at the top of a huge hill or to the train station…FREE, doing all of our laundry…FREE! After the sticker shock of Scandinavia, this was very welcome and it made me fall in love with the Czech Republic even more!
That night we headed out to dinner and to have our first look at The Old Town Square (Stare Mesto). There were so many people out sitting around the square, drinking and eating with friends. It was magical with all of the buildings bathed in light and people everywhere I couldn’t wait to see more the next day!
If you are like me, you don’t know much about the Czech Republic’s history and to understand the sights we feel it is important to know a little history about the area. I am abbreviating the history tremendously and I don’t want to make light of a rich and wartorn past, but if you would like more information, I’m sure you can Google it and find more than enough to keep you busy for days.
A LITTLE HISTORY…
During the 10th-16th centuries the Czechs founded the kingdom of Bohemia. One of the Bohemian Kings, Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, made Prague an Imperial Capital and many of the most beautiful buildings were built during this time. In the 1600’s they were defeated in war and became part of the Austrian empire. Their history is full of wars, occupations and more war which brings us to 42 years of communist rule as Czechloslavakia. In 1989 after a nearly bloodless “velvet revolution”the Czech people separated from Slovakia and became the parliamentary democracy it is today.
I was amazed at how in such a short time, it had become such a vibrant, commercial city. There were so many restaurants and shops all eager to please and full of happy people. In talking with one local man he said he was talking to a friend from the US who asked him, “After 25 years of freedom how are the people of the Czech Republic handling freedom?” He said his response was, “Oh, it’s going well but some of the people are just so-so.” His friend, and Jeromy and I, were quick to respond, “After over 225 years, many people in the USA are only so-so as well!” He was eager to talk about how much better it was to have the freedom to do what they wanted and how their future was brighter and more filled with hope. They still had their problems, but don’t we all…
THE NEXT DAY…
In doing the research for our visit, I saw something many people do in Prague is to take a Segway tour, but I figured the kids were too young. I was mistaken. That first morning as we walked through the square, someone rode up on their segway asking if we wanted a tour (we realized throughout our visit that this happened all the time). I pointed to Luke and told the man that he was too little, the salesman did not accept the excuse, “No, no, he will be fine, I will be by him the whole time and help him.” After a little haggling for a lower price, we headed out on our Segways! It was so amazing to effortlessly glide our way through the city more quickly than walking, and it made it way more fun for the boys. Since we have left, we heard they have outlawed the Segways in Prague because they were so annoying to pedestrians, which I can totally understand, but I’m glad we were able to have our tour before the ban because it was such a fun adventure for us. I was nervous about Luke being able to ride safely, but our guide Vlad, was true to his word and kept him safe. In hindsight, I should have been more worried about myself! We were probably only 50 feet from finishing our tour when I was squeezing between a car and a building and clipped the side of the building! The Segway went one way and I went the other! I’m sure it didn’t look pretty, but I escaped the fall with only a few scrapes and some wounded pride.
The Segway tour gave us a good overview of the city and we continued to explore from there. After the Segway tour, it seemed in Prague that we just walked and walked and walked. There was something beautiful around every corner and we didn’t want to miss out. A couple of days while we were there, we came back in the afternoon (to cold drinks) rested and then headed back out in the evening to walk around when it was cooler. A picture can speak 1000 words so I will let them do the talking…with a little commentary.
The Petrin Tower (Prague’s mini Eiffel Tower)
We climbed to the top 299 steps! We know because it was the only thing that kept Luke going…counting the steps!
The largest ancient castle in the world. Built in the 9th century and inhabited by Kings, Emperors and Presidents.
St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle
Old Town Square (Stare Mesto)
John Lennon Wall
John Lennon never came to Prague but the wall was started as graffiti with a picture of Lennon and Beatles lyrics. In the late 80’s it became a place for the Czech people to write their grievances about communism during “The Velvet Revolution.” It has now become a global symbol of peace, freedom and love.
Voted the most beautiful library in the world and it lives up to it’s name! We were also able to climb a tower to the top of the building and got some amazing views of Prague.
This historic bridge crosses the Vltava River connecting Old Town Prague to the Mala Strana. It was built between 1357 and the beginning of the 15th century. It is so beautiful and full of street vendors, artists, and many tourists! There were a variety of beautiful statues on either side of the bridge each with a rich history and meaning. We found a fun park at the base of the bridge to sit and let the kids play.
Some food pictures…because food is good.
With that we head out on a train to Berlin!