Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trip Report - 5 days in Magical, Magical Prague

Prague is not a city; it is a chapter from a fairytale which everyone should read, re-read, memorize and learn by heart. It is also not a place that you can visit in 3 days and be done. Believe me, we stayed there for 5 nights and wished for more. No other city that we have visited in the past has had that impact.

My most favorite picture from the trip - taken from Letna Beer garden. I will never get over this one!

Our October visit had many firsts. We booked our flights two weeks in advance without any plans to do so. We were going at a time when the weather wasn't our favorite (7 to 10 degrees). We had planned to stay there for 5 nights and just be in the city without any excursions (except Bratislava for sixth night). We were obviously skeptical, but we went ahead anyway.

There were a few areas which were ideal for our stay - Old Town, Mala Strana (Lessor Town), Wenceslas Square and New Town. Both Old Town and Wenceslas Square had an upbeat vibe which we prefer. Staying at Wenceslas was obviously cheaper and so we stayed at EA Rokoko. The hotel was a few metres away from tram and metro (which had the steepest elevator and so we didn't use it more than once!! Yes, chickens!). From pictures it looked like an old hotel, but it exceeded our expectations. It was clean, had amazing staff, good breakfast, a 5/5 really. We also got a good deal from Dnata.

View from our upgraded, top-floor room at EA Rokoko

I wasn't feeling too well on the first night and so, after our dinner, I slept in at 8 p.m. itself. The next morning, after a 12-hour deep sleep, I woke up so fresh that I walked the walk of my life!

We walked from our hotel in the direction of Old Town to start our day from the Astronomical Clock. It was drizzling a bit and so, after strolling around the area, we took a tour in the Eco Express. Worst tour ever, really! The only thing that came out of it was the Absinth Ice-Cram shop that we saw on our way and planned to come later.

After a long journey we took a coffee break at one of the cafes facing the Old Town square. Even though it wasn't that cold, we loved the warmth from the blankets and heaters. Some coffee and conversation later, we started walking towards the iconic Charles Bridge.

There is something spectacular about this bridge. There are hundreds of people walking over it during the day, still it continues to magically awe you. No matter where you stand, the views are brilliant. I think it is the colours, the dark shades with flickering greens in the background that make it special. Or maybe it is the statues, or the river, or the church beyond. I really can't say.

Ah, coming back... we crossed the bridge and entered Mala Strana to see these pretty buildings. I loved the colors in each neighbourhood I visited in Prague - like every structure was planned. So, so beautiful.

John Lenon wall in Lesser Town. Someone had mentioned - May the best of your past be worst of your future - Amen to that.

We (I) was super excited on this particular day and so we continued our walk towards Petrin Hill. A short Funicular ride later we were in the midst of beautiful gardens and some picturesque views. The trek on this hill reminded me of Black Forest. The trees stood tall covering every inch of land. Why, oh why, I didn't come here before!

So after a lottttt of walking, we decided to take a break. We went back to the hotel by tram and took a short nap. I had read about a lot of bars in Prague that serve great beer. On this particular night, we decided to go to the most iconic of it all - The Golden Tiger or U Zlateho Tygra.

It was a no nonsense bar. You go, you sit, and they serve you the one thing they serve - Pilsner beer! We had actually checked it in the afternoon as well, but it was closed. It seems it opens only at 3 or 4 p.m. We were lucky to find a seat at 10 in the night on a weekend. The buzz was quite unique and we had fun sharing stories with a local who came with his daughter and had been coming here for the last fifty years. Now I don't have a better picture of this place but I would still want to share it. We again went to the Old Town square and the bridge before heading back to the hotel. What a day!

As one can expect, our legs were aching the next day. The excitement had been just a tad too much it seemed. We decided to take it easy on Day 3 by just visiting a microbrewery, a beer garden and a bar!!!

However, the thing in Prague is that even if you do pub hopping, you would be passing through such beautiful places that it will take your breath away. No, seriously.

So after an hour at the Museum of Communism, we took a tram to Strahov Monastic Brewery. It is here that I had a beer with a hint of chocolate in it. We ate some nice chicken, took pictures and then headed over to take in some amazing views. The monastery library is suppose to be very beautiful, but since it involved steps, I thought of avoiding it.

Choco Beer at the Strahov Pivovar

We again took a tram and headed over to Letna Park via Letenske Namesti stop since it did not involve steep climbing towards the beer garden. Since we didn't want to walk, I could not go to the spot where we could take THE views I wished I could. Nevertheless, it was an amazing sunny day, the park was bright and beautiful, there was beer and coffee, there were locals and tourists, the river and the bridges looked gorgeous. We just lazed around and time just flew.

In the evening, we had a delicious and light Indian meal at the Golden Tikka. It was so flavourful and homely - I just loved it. And then we opened our GPS to take us to Anonymous Bar where we had fun drinks and a lovely time. It's a touristy place and definitely good for one drink.

Funfare  came with a game, Scrap came in a trash can. Menu came in a camera. Interesting place!
After a relaxing Day 3, Day 4 needed to cover a lot of ground! We took a tram to Pražský hrad for easiest access to the Castle area. Our first stop was St. Vitus Cathedral. Now having seen my fair share of Cathedrals accross Europe, I thought this had by far the best interiors. Also the setting was such that it seemed like we were in some other century. The Golden Lane was okay. Again, the views from here were amazing.

We walked down to Mala Strana in search of the Absinth Shop (in the above picture) that we had seen from the train on day 2. It involved a steep climb, but I wanted the Boy to taste the ice-cream! Well, even though the shop was funky, it didn't serve anything that could make you high! The ice-cream tasted fine though.

As my friend mentioned, most of our discoveries were while finding alcohol! From next time, I would again try to have an agenda, it makes wandering around streets so much fun!

Our next stop was the Charles bridge again from where we went to the hotel to take rest. For dinner we tried another famous restaurant with its own brewery - U Medvidku. Again, the food here was fine - nothing extraordinary, nothing bad.

Day 5 was for Bratislava which didn't have anything noteworthy except the SkyBar. A must-must do if you unfortunately plan to go there!

Sunset views over Danube

The Old Town of Bratislava

Lovely views from SkyBar

We had so much to do on Day 6. Time was running out and I wanted to roam around so badly. I wanted to go to Vysehrad, see more districts, walk along the river, see the Jewish quarter, go to ...ah, maybe next time.

On this day we took a Beer Spa which we had booked two days in advance. I was again impressed by the neighbourhoods on our way from Wenceslas to Prague 2. I was falling deeper and deeper in love!

The spa was quite a fun experience. They run hot water in a tub, pour some yeast-hops mix and let you take a bath for 30 minutes with unlimited fresh beer that you can pour yourself from the tap. The heated bed later seemed like a waste of time, but interesting nevertheless.

Hard to show you more!! :p
We walked towards Naplavka after this. I had read a lot about Prague on this blog and took a lot of tips. A walk along the river was on top of my list. We went to Restaurance Vlatava for a quick drink and some appetizers. after a short stroll, we went in to another restaurant and had the best tiramisu. Then we walked some more, took the views of Charles bridge and St. Vitus Cathedral and had the sweetest Corn on the Cob. My moment of ultimate bliss was this. It was evening and it was drizzling a bit, yet it felt so beautiful...

I wish we had come here on a sunny day, but well, some things are for our next trip. And well, Prague is as beautiful in the night as it is in the day. Aaahh, Prague, you bowled me over.