16.06.2009 - 20.06.2009
Cz-cz-czech it out!
Still on a high from our Opera experience the night before, we got through an early start to hop on an 8am Eurolines bus, headed for Prague. A short 4 hours later, we arrived to Czech out the city with a big reputation for beauty, fun and history.
The shabby and extremely poorly signed metro station put paid to a bright start however, as we rushed around having validated our ticket, to find the correct train to Karlovo namesti, only a few stops away.
Checked into the hotel - another 'upgrade' from hostel courtesy of Expedia - and immediately appreciated a nice big room with comfortable bed and air conditioning.. Ah, the little things that make a difference on a long trip away!
Spent the afternoon with a walk around Wenceslas Square - the city's shopping and entertainment hub; and the Old Town Square - a pretty public space complete with old buildings in classic bohemian style (tall narrow windows, spires), a tower and home to the Astronomical Clock.
A nice surprise..
Early the next morning we had an unexpected Facebook message, from childhood friend Ajay who happened to be in town for a few days. Ajay had been following the Indian cricket team at the Twenty20 world championships in the UK. Given their early exit, he had a few days up his sleeve and by chance chose Prague!
We'll be back..
We caught up and proceeded up into Old Town (scaling the old tower) and across the old, sculpture lined Charles Bridge into the old Castle district. On the bridge itself, one of the sculptures had a brass plate underneath where everyone seemed to be rubbing the figure of the dog. Not one to be left out, we all followed. Later we found out that, like the old 'toss a coin into the Trevi fountain' gig, the legend goes that you will return to Prague.
The largest castle in the world
In the castle, we found the large old cathedral (ABC = another bloody church) and took some photos. Outside, the Czech guards stood unmoving in their baby blue uniforms. Above them towered the usual suspects - sculptures of large muscled muscled men smiting enemies in fearsome poses. Back in the day, they must have scared everyone into obeying..
We didn't look into exploring the remainder of the castle, but headed back into town to see a bit more of the cobbled streets and many grassy parks that dotted the town, including one with an interesting sculpture of a man made of paper-like characters from many languages - depicting peace. Don't know what its called, but we dubbed it the 'paper man'.
Back in Old Town, we sprung a group of dancers twirling around in the picturesque square.
Don't have a cow, dude
Prague is a very walkable city and we had been going for a good 5-6 hours, and decided to reconvene later in the evening for dinner - which we did at the Lehká Hlava restaurant, this great vegetarian restaurant where we devoured olives, goats cheese, dips, a lentil soup, burritos, and quesadillas. In a part of the world not known for being vegetarian friendly, I confess it was one of the better meals we had with fresh tasty vegetables and great variety.
The rowdy pub across the way beckoned us in soon after for a couple of (not so) quiet ones, Czech style. At least we couldn't complain of its lack of authenticity.
It's getting HOT in here!
On the way to Lehká Hlava, we had passed a Bikram Yoga studio and with a spare day in town, we decided to give it a go, knowing very little about it. one thing we did know was that it was to be 90 minutes in a 40C studio, so we hydrated in the hours leading up to out 12 o'clock session, weary about the class and hoping just to get through it alive!
Drizzle accompanied us and reflected our tentative mood, but we were made to feel at home by our fantastic instructor who gave us a pep talk and set up our mats so she could watch us. The class itself was 'interesting' - OK it was TORTUROUS! 26 poses, run through twice each, ranging from pure strength exercises to pure flexibility (and everything in between) - the heat was sapping and muscles strained.
However, we not only got through it, but got through it well. Despite sitting out a couple of poses for lightheadedness, we were both surprised how flexible or strong we could be in some of the poses despite the heat, achieving results in the poses we didn't expect. At the end, we felt elated for getting through it, had a great sweat, and left somewhat energised and looking forward to (and dreading, at the same time) our next session.
What better way to recover than to attend an open air festival in the middle of town! A tip from Ajay landed us at the United Islands festival being held in the city over the weekend, involving much revelry, live music sights and, from what we could tell, a whole load of drinking!
As we walked back home, our final glimpses of the old city were set against the pink hues of the setting sun.. ahh..