Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The magical city of Prague.

Everyone talks about Prague as the magical European city where the streets are full of unique architecture and lined in cobblestones, but until you actually set eyes on this city you can't understand how magnificent it truly is. The Czech people are welcoming, even with their dry sense of humor, and accommodating to foreigners roaming their streets, frequently getting lost in the large city that has so much to offer. Street corners are filled with hand made crafts, like wooded toys and puppets or with with tiny hole in the wall restaurants with traditional Czech cuisine that will warm you up as the temperature lingers around eight degrees. 

Arriving in the evening, the city quickly accommodated my desires for something unique and exciting, beginning with the hostel atmosphere. Wandering into the basement with its brick walls and cozy feeling I was greeted by friendly faces and an invitation to join others heading out to the nearby bar. Prague being  known for it's vibrant night life I couldn't refuse the offer. Stepping foot into the bar I was amazed by the layout and design of the rooms filled with artist metal scraps all bent into the walls and lining the stair cases leading you between the different levels, with neon lights cast onto the metallic sculptures high lighting the skills of the artist. I learned later that these pieces of unusual artwork were the remains of old city buses, even the seats for patrons had been taken from the old buses no longer in use. The night carried on with entertainment, supplied by good company and the beer that is cheaper than water. 

On my first day of exploration into the city, I first survived a desperately disappointing tour that seemed to take us further away from the city rather than into the heart of it, and through this experience bonded with a few other travelers that had similar feelings. So together we took off into the historical centre, on a particularly rainy day, to see what could be found. Our exploration began by passing through the Prague Castle, one of the largest in the world. Constructed over a thousand years ago it has seen many rulers in it's time. It's uniquely dark exterior, built in the Gothic style is one of the most attractive attributes, as well as the perfectly crafted stained glass windows towering high on the side panels of the entrance way. There are several well trained guards in uniform that surround the outside, rigidly guarding the entrance, flinching not even a little bit despite the efforts of the tourists. 

Crossing over the famous Charles Bridge, one of Prague's most visited spots, we passed by the replicas of the 30 statues that were added to the bridge through out the 17th-19th centuries but later were removed due to the consistent weather damage. At the base of one of these statues there is a two sided plaque where history says that if you touch the picture of the woman on the right she will bring you good luck, but the dog on the left should not be touched because he will bring you nothing but bad fortune. At the end of the bridge is the Old Town Bridge Tower which signifies the the beginning of the historical district of Prague.

Beneath the Charles Bridge is John Lennon wall which displays a variety of work from street artists, locals, tourists, and anyone that wants to contribute to the art wall. During the Communists times, all Western songs were outlawed, so when an unidentified artist painted the face of the iconic John Legend on this wall after he was shot it was was small yet significant act of rebellion from the Czech people. Today the wall displays a variety of designs that are ever changing, but you can still always find John Lennon's words and portrait amongst the artwork. 

In the main square of the historical district we find the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall building. This clock was constructed over 600 years ago and keeps track of not only the time but also the sun, moon and various pieces of astrology. The creative design and craftsmanship of the architect is famous through out all of Europe. It is said that the Czech ruler who hired him to construct the clock waited until it was complete and once he was satisfied with having the most elegant clock in all of Europe he then proceeded to gouged out the architect's eyes and chop off his tongue. This was done to insure that the artist would never work again, thus guaranteeing that he would remain the only ruler throughout Europe with such a unique design within his kingdom.  At the top of every hour the street is packed with tourists all looking up for the famous show that the clock puts on as the chimes begin. Twelve apostles poke their heads out from the clock, a roster crows, a skeleton rings his bell, and a trumpet player serenades everyone from the highest point of the tower, all as the clock chimes away and entertains those passing by on the street below. 

A full Prague experience would not have been complete without a tour of the famous night life, so I joined in on the parade of guests leaving the hostel one night,  joined by our enthusiastic guide for the evening who was guaranteeing a night a fun before we headed out the door. Sticking close to the familiar faces from the hostel while being joined by dozens of others excited to have a good time, we hopped around all evening trying new places, each with their own unique charm, and eventually finding our way to the final stop of Prague's most visited night club. A five story building with a different theme and music on every floor, we climbed our way up and down and through the crowds of guests enjoying every minute of it until returning back to the hostel at the early hours of the morning. 

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