Day 2 in Prague – Adventure Traveling Girl – and Boy

It was our first full day in Prague. As on most of my international trips, I like to take advantage of the free tours offered in most of these tourist cities. Prague was no exception. We woke early, had an amazing breakfast at the Alchymist, and were on our way. It was going to be another gorgeous day!

My boy on the Charles Bridge

My boy on the Charles Bridge

We took our time along the Charles Bridge as there were many fewer tourists at this time of the day. Our tour wasn’t scheduled until 10 so we wandered into the Old Town Square. This is where the famous Astronomical Clock tower sits as well as restaurants, bars and shops as far as the eye can see. I love seeing these areas of town but try to resist the urge to eat or buy here as these areas are usually a rip-off. But they are fun to see – and the people watching can provide hours of entertainment.

Astronomical Clock Prague Old Town

Astronomical Clock Prague Old Town

Our walking tour was lead by Amanda – a self-proclaimed “half-breed” – half-American and half-Czech – who had spent the last 9 years living in Prague. She was cute and fun and walked us from the Old Town Square to the river and the Rudolfinum (an architectural gem where concerts are typically held and is reported to have the best acoustics in the city) to the old Jewish cemetery and through the Jewish Quarter. During the tour she providing basic history of the area as well as stories from her own family who had “had enough” and finally left the area in the late 1960’s.

The history of Prague dates back to the 9th century when the land was termed Bohemia and under the rule of the Great King Wenceslas. It continues through the Hussite revolution and the rule of the Hapsburgs and entry into World World I. The history of this region that is most fascinating to me, however, is Prague’s role in World War II and the period after that.

Rudolfinum

Rudolfinum

Prague is one of the rare cities that didn’t get physically destroyed during WWII, leaving the beautiful in-tact architecture we still see today. But the impact on the people of the Czech Republic was severe – some 120,000 Jews lost their lives during the war – some buried 12-deep in the old Jewish cemetery in the Jewish Quarter.

Jewish Cemetery Prague

Jewish Cemetery Prague

After the war, the Soviets took over and established communism in Prague during which repression and economic hardship became the norm. Hundreds were executed and thousands died in labor camps simply because of their beliefs. Communism remained in control until the fall of the Berlin Wall when Czech youths organized a peaceful demonstration in memory of 9 students executed by the Nazis in 1939. The days following this demonstration became known as the Velvet Revolution because it was almost completely non-violent. I enjoy hearing this history because those who went through this time are still with us today and it’s easier for me to picture their lives and hardships…

Needless the say, the tour was well worth the time and afterward, we decided to make our way down the river – hand-in-hand – to see a memorial to Operation Anthropoid. John had become fascinated with this story during his research into the area. Operation Anthropoid was the code name for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich who was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and was instrumental in the rise of Adolf Hitler. He was in charge of the so-called Final Solution of the Jews in Europe. If it makes it clearer, this man was nicknamed “The Blond Beast” by the Nazis. Really?!?!?! And called “Hangman Heydrich” by others. The dude had absolutely no compassion for humans at all. So, despite extreme risks, 2 Czech soldiers – Gabčík and Kubiš – were tasked with carrying out the assassination attempt. After some unbelievable circumstances, Gabčík and Kubiš believed the attempt failed. Heydrich, however, was wounded and later died of his injuries. There is now a memorial erected beneath the Orthodox Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror

National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror

John was really looking forward to seeing this memorial. Little did we know that the memorial was closed on Mondays. We’d have to come back.

We’d been on our feet for hours and needed sustenance so made our way to a little bar filled with smoking locals. We tried our first local beer – Gambrinus – and of course schnitzel. On our way back over the bridge, John noticed a little café called Chocoffee. Well, the name says it all. This place was so good we’d go out of our way to return the following day. They advertised Belgian chocolate served from its own tap with any type of dipping food you’d like – from pretzels to fruit to nuts to what they called a cream horn which looked like an éclair but lighter and flakier. YUM! Those who know me know that I’m not a HUGE fan of Trip Advisor but according to them, this is #12 of 4970 places to eat in Prague. Yep – I agree with that!

Happiness at Chocoffee

Happiness at Chocoffee

Yum at Chocoffee

Yum at Chocoffee

Back across the river to Mala Strana, we visited the Lennon Wall, an area of legal graffiti that is a tribute not only to John Lennon but to love and peace in general. Even when the wall was painted over by authorities, on the second day it would be filled again with poems and flowers and even more graffiti.

Lennon Wall Prague

Lennon Wall Prague

Lennon Wall Prague

Lennon Wall Prague

John wanted to stop by the Church of our Lady Victorious which is famous for its housing of the Infant Jesus of Prague. He’d read about the Infant Jesus of Prague in one of his childhood novenas and he wanted to see it in person. The Infant Jesus has 2 crowns and about 46 robes which are traditionally changed about 10 times a year. He is enclosed in glass inside a beautiful Baroque-style church beneath which the novenas can be read in at least a dozen languages.

Infant Jesus of Prague

Infant Jesus of Prague

Our sweet free-tour guide Amanda convinced us that another tour was in order – that of Prague Castle. The tour was to start in the Old Town Square and complete on the other side of the river within the old castle walls. This was something both John and I were really looking forward to seeing – partially because of the amazing views of the city and partially because of the renowned St. Vitus Cathedral that is depicted in almost every picture of Prague.

Fantastic Prague Castle

Fantastic Prague Castle

This tour was a bit different, unfortunately. Our tour guide, Kevin, was American and had only been in Prague for 2 short years. Further, we think he was high or at least severely hung over. Regardless, he did make us giggle a few times but we didn’t get a great overview of this historic castle. One disappointing point – we didn’t get to go into St. Vitus Cathedral. Apparently it closes at 5 and we didn’t get there until after 6. But according to Kevin, “it’s just a church”. WHAT?!?!?! I really regret not having a chance to see this “church”.

St. Vitus Cathedral - "just a church"

St. Vitus Cathedral – “just a church”

Prague Castle is a castle complex dating from the 9th century. It is the official residence of the president of the Czech Republic and is the largest ancient castle in the entire world at over 18 acres! At one time it even had a moat for protection and one leader filled the surrounding area with deer so he could hunt without leaving the castle grounds.

The castle represents virtually every architectural style of the last millennium as each inhabitant built onto the castle in the preferred architecture of the day – from the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral to the Romanesque Basilica of St. George. It has seen its share of hard times as well. In 1541 a fire destroyed large parts of the castle and the Second Prague defenestration in 1618 saw the castle damaged and dilapidated by looting and robbery. Does anyone know what defenestration is? I didn’t! Apparently defenestration – or the act of throwing someone out a window – was a huge part of Prague’s history. Interesting…

The castle was fascinating – and over-the-top gorgeous – and the views of the city were exactly what I’d read – absolutely stunning!

View from Prague Castle across the river

View from Prague Castle across the river

Our friends from Charlotte had recommended a restaurant on the top of Stahav hill very close to the castle district so we decided to walk there. What was so interesting to me is the lack of people on that side of the river at that time of night. We’d literally go blocks without seeing anyone. Kind of strange in such a touristy city. And it also meant we got lost. But not for long. Eventually we found the restaurant called Peklo – which is the Czech term for “hell”. It is part of the oldest monasteries in the world and is accessible by descending into the rock. It was dark and warm and inviting. We had some LOVELY Czech wine – of course white for me and red for John – and enjoyed the food and service there.

Dinner at Peklo

Dinner at Peklo

Walking the roads back to our hotel was like being in a different era. Cobblestones and lanterns lighted the way and very, very few people. It was lovely – and a little disconcerting 🙂 The evening finished with some more Czech wine for me and Becherovka for John. Becherovka is a traditional Czech herbal liquor. Although obviously he looks great drinking it, he didn’t get much past a few sips!

John drinking Becherovka - he looks cute but it tastes nasty

John drinking Becherovka – he looks cute but it tastes nasty

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