Praha. Prague. “City of Spires.” And it certainly is, as you can see in many of the photos! Prague has been settled since the Paleolithic Age. Its extensive historic center has been on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 1992. Incredibly, it is the fourth most-visited European city after London, Paris, and Rome! That means it receives more visitors than…Madrid, Barcelona, Dublin, Berlin, Florence, Vienna… places that are historic and also very memorable. But, we must say, we are not surprised, as there were hordes of tourists wherever we went over the past few days. We did a long tour through Europe in 2015, and Prague was near or at the top of our favorites, precisely because it is so beautiful, grand, and historic. The Old Town has cobblestone streets and sidewalks, and as we walked, we talked about the workers who placed the cobblestones so very many years ago. It must have been backbreaking work, as there are many miles of stonework. There are shops, restaurants, and cafes along all the streets, main routes and alleyways alike. We came across many puppet shops, a Czech specialty, as well as lots of Bohemia glasswork and amber jewelry. Popular Czech foods are local goulash, grilled meats with vegetables, and of course, hamburgers and pizza. We had some fairly good Mexican food last night with some spicy salsa, which reminded us of California. And everywhere, as you will see below, there are “chimney cakes” for dessert. Dough is wrapped around a cone-shaped piece of metal and deep fried, then rolled in cinnamon sugar. It used to be eaten just like that, as a donut, which you could peel off in strips. But they have upped their game today. It is now used as a better-than-a-waffle ice cream cone, filled with soft-serve or hard-packed ice cream. Or, you can get it filled with strawberries, vanilla pudding, and whipped cream; apples and whipped cream; with chocolate sauce over ice cream or berries, or both….you get the picture! The more you pile on, the more you pay, but everybody was walking around eating one of the versions, and taking a photo with the poster, as you can see in one of our photos.
The magnificent first photo looks like a Gothic castle out of Grimm’s fairy tales, but it is a church that looms over the Old Town Square: Church of Our Lady before Tyn, sporting soaring 260-foot medieval towers. The church dates from the 14th century, and not only has amazing towers; architecturally speaking, the exterior also has octagonal helmets, galleries, four corner turrets, gables, and rows of phial tops. Its name comes from its location just before the Tyn courtyard. It, along with St. Nicholas Church and Old Town Hall, now dominates the Old Town Square. The second and third photos are of St. Nicholas Church, followed by four of the square’s activity. The eighth is of the Prague Orloj, the oldest astronomical clock still operating in the world, dating from 1410. The photo after that is of the clock’s home, Old Town Hall, still a magnificent tower building. After that are a few buildings that we just really liked. The giant panda and gorilla (wearing a sash that naughtily says Miss Prague 2019) are staples in the square, and their faces are actually in the mesh on the costumes’ chests, which means they are top-heavy; as they stand there, they gently sway back and forth. Yes, it was hot and they must have been roasting inside, but yes, also, there was a donation box in front of each of them. We must note that the activity, hustle, bustle, and variety of things happening in Old Town Square are just amazing. First, there are hundreds of people. Then there are many more people sitting in cafes drinking, eating, and observing. And, in addition to the costumed animals, there are several people with giant wands blowing soap bubbles all over; street buskers playing accordions, a violin trio, a Big Band singer; people sitting wherever they can and just enjoying the scene; everyone is taking photos; and some people are taking videos of it all. It is busy, and wild, and wonderful!
After the giant animals is a closeup of one of the towers flanking the end of the Charles Bridge, arguably Prague’s most famous and most beloved landmark, followed by one of 30 statues that line the route along the bridge from Old Town to the Lesser Quarter (which, by the way, looks just like more of the old town). You can see by the size of the statue that these are immense, not dainty small sculptures. Crossing the bridge is like walking on a wide street. Completed at the beginning of the 15th century, Charles Bridge’s construction began under King Charles IV. It spans the Vltava River, but has only been called Charles Bridge since 1870. After the statue is the bridge from upriver, and a view of Prague Castle, which survived WWII along with the bridge. The two following photos are approaching the Lesser Quarter through a wonderful arch, opening into more shops.
The next photo is called the Narrowest Street in Prague, as noted on tourist sites and even Google Maps. But as we photographed it and waited to enter, a tour guide told his group that it was actually just an entryway into a restaurant, cleverly promoted by the owner to get people to come! And…it worked! We had to wait for two huge tour groups to move along before we could get close. The last five photos are the fun ones….a puppet shop, a beautiful toy store, a whipped cream chimney cake (as described above), and….what is that next to last photo? Looks weird, huh? Actually, it is from a candy store and is of silver candy-covered almonds. The last photo was too good not to post. It is a Mexican restaurant menu….look at what they call an “Outstanding exotic meal!” and “Recommended to eat by hands!” You might think the year was 1919, not 2019!