What do I remember most about Prague? It was hot, reminding me a little of home. The city was a maze of narrow, curvy roads, and the most spectacular bridges. And people. Lots of people.
Kristen and I traveled separate from the pack that day, just the two of us and a map of the city. If it wasn't obvious from our previous stops abroad, that was the way we liked it. On this particularly sunny day in mid-July, we had the whole twelve hours to meander—and meander we did.
Our walk around Prague Castle took place the evening before, when we first arrived in the Czech Republic via coach. It's located at the tip top of the city, next to the gorgeous St. Vitus Cathedral and a neighborhood Starbucks. Naturally. (Whoever came up with that idea is a genius.) We weren't able to peek inside, but that didn't matter much to me at the time. It was early evening by this point, and my stomach was crying out for dinner.
On our way down, we were told to find the Boy With the Golden Penis, and touch it for good luck. Which, if you ask me, has to be some kind of joke, because really... if you're touring the beautiful city of Prague, you've obviously already got luck on your side. (My guess is that the locals just like to get a good laugh at the gullible tourists who believe in lucky genitalia.) Nevertheless, as we were not willing to be the only two fools to scoff at tradition, we both gave it a good pat and continued happily—albeit hungrily—down the hill.
I only remember bits and pieces of our night after that. Images in my mind's eye of Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, colorful love locks, and John Lennon's wall of graffiti. But it wasn't until the next morning that we discovered what really makes Prague special.
1.) The Old Jewish Cemetery. I have a rather odd obsession with cemeteries, so for me, visiting this beautiful and very historical graveyard was quite a treat. It was founded in the 15th century and has more than twenty thousand gravestones. Walking through, I couldn't help but imagine what kind of lives the people buried there had once lived, and how different our lives might look to them now.
2.) Goulash in bread bowls and iced apple cider. Come lunch time, Kristen used her detective skills to locate a quaint restaurant off the beaten path where we could rest our feet and refuel—away from the crowds. Even though we were nice and sweaty from all of the walking, we couldn't pass up Prague's signature dish, a delicious meat and vegetable stew that has one heck of a name. Say it with me, folks: GOO-lash. Even better, ours were served in the heartiest bread bowls I've ever had the pleasure of devouring. Meanwhile, to top it all off, I was pleasantly surprised to find that that the Kingswood ciders we ordered were filled with bite-size chunks of ice! This is a rare luxury in Europe, and after being in the heat for hours, it floated over our tongues like a refreshing cloud.
3.) While we're on the subject of food, the Czech are known for their Trdelnik (Slovak cake). It is a cinnamon-sugar pastry cooked over open-fire and sold by street vendors, and it's mighty delicious. Sort of like our cupcake trailers, but better.
4.) Around midday, on one of our "sit and chat" breaks, we heard the most angelic music coming from a nearby church. Everyone knows that curiosity is key when traveling, so we wandered inside to
see hear for ourselves what the lovely commotion was all about. In the middle of the church (to this day I still don't know what it was called) was a choir of about twenty people, encircled by rows and rows of happy onlookers. We sat in two empty chairs and listened for about half an hour, completely in awe of the performers, full of passion and purpose. As universal, and even ordinary, as this experience may seem, it is the clearest of my memories from the day.
5.) The Clementinum. This was by far my favorite place to explore in Prague, partly because it was by accident that we stumbled upon all of its treasures. Sort of a funny story, too. Months before our trip abroad, I had pinned this photo of Prague's Baroque Library, in hopes that I would one day scan its remarkable shelves. The night before we were set to arrive, I showed the pin to Kristen on a whim, not at all expecting to make it there without transportation or Google maps. But that fiery-haired friend of mine was determined! Luckily, it happened to be in a central location, close enough to walk from the square. (Gotta love Europe.) With one kind man's help and a tourist map to guide us, we arrived at The Clementinum, the home of the Chapel of Mirrors, the Baroque Library, and the Astronomical Tower. All of which were beyond beautiful. I can't remember if cameras were prohibited or if I was just too enamored to care, but the only photographs I captured were of the breathtaking views from the top of the tower. I must say, what a way to cap off our stay in Prague.
But I can't end our story just yet... This picturesque café is where we ate our last meal in Prague, amidst freshwater fountains and a garden of flowers. Can you imagine a prettier scene?