It got to June and we were both in need of a break, having not booked a holiday. I asked on Twitter about where people would recommend. Prague seemed to be a firm favourite with a number of people, so we found a long weekend that worked for both of us, and booked the trip for early August. I love Twitter.
We were lucky that we could fly from Bristol, which should have made the start of the holiday less stressful. Unfortunately not. By the time Andrew had finished his work, we'd packed, purchased extra bag allowance online when we realised we'd be over the weight allowance, re-packed, locked up the house, got stuck in traffic, parked up, walked to the airport terminal and got a couple of photographs of the Gromit there, we were aware that we were running late. We were standing at the back of a very long bag drop off queue when we heard a distant woman shouting, we weren't sure what she'd said but thought we recognised the word 'Prague'. We headed over towards the voice and stood in a shorter queue, when we reached the front of the queue we were admonished and told that bag check had closed. Apparently as soon as we heard the call, we should have put our hands up. I didn't like to point out that we couldn't hear the final call, and in the sea of travellers, she'd never have spotted my hand anyway. She reluctantly called down to the gate and seemed almost upset when they said they'd accept us. We were told to run, so we ran up to security (which was luckily quite quiet) and then on to the gate. As sod's law would have it, our flight was at just about the most distant gate which Bristol airport has. I'd got fed up of running with my backpack, and so was speed walking. As we neared the gate we were overtaken by someone who was running properly. He was handing over his passport when we arrived at the gate, and dripping profusely with sweat. The airline staff sent him off for a wash and we joined the back of the queue waiting to embark.
The flight was bearable, at around two hours, even with a screaming child behind me. We arrived at about 9.30pm, collected our bags and stopped at a shop to grab some sandwiches and drinks, as we'd not had a chance to eat. We'd arranged a transfer to the hotel as we knew we'd be arriving late, and were met in the arrivals hall by the driver. The journey took about twenty minutes and we were given a bit of a guided tour in his somewhat shaky English. It was a bit hard to see what was being pointed out in the dark, but we played along. The hotel receptionist was welcoming, and the room spacious enough. The bed was on a mezzanine floor above the living area, up a flight of steep stairs. We soon learned that the only way to avoid banging your toes, head and calves, was to climb back down the stairs backwards, which may be one of my lasting memories of the hotel. The room was hot with no air conditioning, but we ate, turned on the fan and tried to sleep.
In the morning, we had a lie in and then headed to a nearby cafe, which had an arrangement with the hotel to provide breakfast. Finally, we started to relax.
|Breakfast of ham and cheese omelette and muesli with fresh strawberries. Amazing!|
After breakfast we headed off for Charles Bridge. Andrew's sense of direction had clearly stayed in Bristol, as we turned a three minute walk into twenty minutes. It did mean that we happened across the church of St Mary under the Chain. We took the chance to look inside and take a few photos.
|Interior of St Mary under the Chain church|
The temperature was already heading into the mid thirties as we crossed Charles Bridge. We meandered across, looking at the statues as we went.
We then wandered along the side of the river before cutting across to Wenceslas Square, stopping for refreshments on the way.
|Charles Bridge, with Prague Castle on the horizon|
We walked the length of Wenceslas Square and then leaded towards Old Town. The living statues seemed a lot more interactive than the ones I've seen in the UK!
|The top of Wenceslas Square, with its statue of St Wenceslas and the National Museum behind|
We headed back across Charles Bridge and back to our hotel, stopping off to pick up drinks and ice creams. The weather was so hot that all I wanted was a shower and to cool down, unfortunately our hotel room was about the same temperature as outside, so after reading for an hour or two, we ventured out to the nearby St Nicholas cathedral, hoping it would be cool inside. It's fair to say that it was huge and thoroughly decorated with statues and paintings.
The weather had just about wiped us out, so we picked up plenty of drink and some food and went back to the hotel to relax for the evening. We headed out again at about 8pm when the weather had cooled a little, to do a few geocaches. I'd expected Prague to be full of drunken stag parties, but it wasn't like that at all, possibly as we were staying in Lesser Town. Instead, the atmosphere at night was perfect.
After another night where the temperatures didn't seem to drop below the high twenties, we got up early and were at breakfast for 9am. We'd decided to head over to Petrin Park, primarily for some geocaching, but also a little sightseeing. Again, the weather was incredibly hot, and the hills were a struggle in the scorching heat, but we did a few caches and took some photos of the area. It was nice to be able to wander in the shade of the trees and get away from the oppressive heat of the city centre. The views from the top of the hill were a bonus, as were the ice creams we picked up.
|Petrin lookout tower|
|Church of St Michael|
We headed back to the hotel in an attempt to cool down, picking up some groceries on the way. We went back out at about 8.30pm to do a few more caches. We also got some evening photos of the Charles Bridge area.
|St Nicholas cathedral, with our hotel in the foreground|
I was woken up at about 4am by thunder and lightning, but unfortunately it didn't seem to have a great impact on the temperature in our room! After breakfast, we decided to head for Old Town to explore. We struck lucky and got to the Astronomical clock just before midday and joined the crowd.
|Astronomical clock in Old Town Square|
|Church of St Nicholas|
|The inside of the church, with a candelabra that Elton John would be proud of!|
|Old Town Powder Gate|
As we'd got accustomed to, we headed back mid afternoon to relax. Just before 6pm, another storm blew up, the windows in our room blew wide open, with me racing to grab them and close them. That was followed by the noise of glass smashing and people screaming as one of the tables outside the restaurant opposite took off, complete with its umbrella, scattering crockery, food and diners. All umbrellas were quickly dismantled and people moved inside. We watched the storm for a bit and when the wind had died down, decided we should head out to eat. The hotel staff thought we were mad, heading out without even an umbrella, but seemed to understand when we explained we were English! We jogged from restaurant to restaurant until we found a menu we liked the sound of and sat outside under the arches. The food was good, but the meal was marred slightly when one of the waiters disappeared with Andrew's credit card. We made a call and cancelled the card when we got back to the room just to be on the safe side. For the first time that holiday, the room was actually cool, so we wrote some postcards, read and relaxed.
When we got up in the morning, being our final day, we packed, headed out for breakfast and then checked out, leaving our bags behind to pick up later. We headed up the hill to the castle. After the storm of the previous day, the temperature was much more bearable, with the exception of the ticket office which had far too many people stuffed into a small space. We decided to pay for photo licences, but I was only asked for mine once, and Andrew didn't have to show his at all, so I'm not sure how necessary a purchase they were. At least it meant that we could wander around taking photographs with a clear conscience.
We started with St Vitus Cathedral. There was stained glass everywhere, which meant that there were photo opportunities at every turn.
|Tomb of St Wenceslas|
We then looked around the Old Royal Palace and St. George's Basilica before heading for Golden Lane.
|Southern side of St Vitus Cathedral|
|St George's Basilica|
|The vault of St George's Basilica|
We made a final stop for food (as you can see, Andrew chose a plate of sausage!) before heading back to the hotel to pick up our bags.
I'd been looking for these parking meters all trip, I couldn't believe they were round the back of our hotel!
Having currency to spend, I was keen to get a taxi to the airport, but as we had time to kill we opted for public transport. We started with a walk to the metro, which being on cobbles took an awful lot longer than we'd expected. We were just lucky not to lose a wheel off either suitcase! After the metro we waited about half an hour for the Airport Express bus. The bus, when it eventually arrived, was packed, and so hot that I'm amazed nobody passed out. The word 'express' didn't really accurately describe our journey to the airport. We suddenly seemed to be seen as experts (I've literally no idea why), handling questions about how long the journey would take, and which terminal people should head to. It was a relief to get to the airport, albeit three hours before the bag drop opened, but it meant we could get a drink, read, surf, and even do a last cheeky geocache.
The flight home was a real trial, I was exhausted and had a child in the seat behind who kicked my seat for the first half hour, and screamed at the top of her lungs for the last hour. Her father even commented to her mother that he wouldn't be flying with her again. I felt the same! As we flew over the continent, I could see thunder storms below, it was incredible watching them from above, rather than below.
I've returned having really enjoyed our trip, and I'd join the ranks of people who'd definitely recommend Prague as a place to visit. It's not all stag parties, it's actually a beautiful city and not yet fully westernised. My only recommendation would be to get a hotel with air conditioning if you're staying there over the summer, I wish I had!