Having spent the weekend on a 'mini-break' in Prague, I think I have found a new favourite European city. In many ways, Prague reminds me of Vienna, but sort of as if you compressed it to a smaller size. It seems like a place that lends itself perfectly to wasting time in a way that is not a waste of time. I mean walking through the city and finding nice secluded corners, or patches of lawn where to sit and read or let your mind dangle.
At the same time, however, Prague is enormously interesting, and is simply crammed full of sights, places and buildings that are not only hyped for the tourists - although they are, devastatingly, frequented by hordes of them - but are also 'relevant' from a historical perspective. (History meaning mostly history of art, but you know that this is quite a relevant subject for me.)
So, facing a huge array of options and things to do, and with only a very limited amount of time - 36 odd hours - on our hands, in which we also had to accommodate a Radiohead concert and some sleeping, Max and I tried to make the best of it, and find the golden middle path between doing nothing and doing everything.
We certainly left out many valuable experiences (Torture Museum?!) and feel the need to return, but that is generally the case with me and towns that I like, and thus a good sign.
We arrived around 8 p.m. on Saturday evening, and after checking into our Youth Hostel, the very recommendable Crib 15, had an initial look at the Old Town and the Jewish Quarter Josefov by night. Walking on the bank of the Vltava we also more or less bumped into Jonny Greenwood, and spazzed. Attempts to take kafkaesque pictures turned out rather spectral:
Next morning, we again set out to survey the situation by daylight, giving the Inner Ring - that is the square where the famous Town Hall, a Jan Hus monument and various churches are to be found - a second chance.
What I find quite fascinating about the churches on Prague is that they're rarely found in open squares, with a lot of space around, but rather in tiny alleys, with the neighbouring houses being directly attached to the buildings. Cf. the view of the Teyn church façade from in front of its entrance:
After an unoriginal and unsatisfying, but neccessary lunch we hit the Lesser Town (west of the Vltava) to look at the Castle and the much awaited Cathedral. We merely interrupted or ascent to the top of the hill on which the Castle is built to buy Trdelníks (I am sure that this is a wrong plural form, but I do not know the correct one), a lovely little take-away-dessert made of yeast dough wrapped around a sort of pole to create the characteristic tube-shape, and topped with sugar and cinnamon and various other all-things-nice, like so:
Continuing our way, we soon came upon an enormous, uninviting and yet very intriguing wall.
At the end of that wall, however, was a magic portal - or so it seemed, for it led into a beautiful garden that belonged to a baroque palace (Palais Waldstein) and had a sala terrena with enormous niches. We had fun there.
After that, we finally climbed the hill (nice view), and then entered the area that is officially part of the castle-complex. Amazingly, we had coffee and mint iced tea in a cafe right at the foot of the choir of St. Vitus. It was otherworldly, not least because the spot where the church is built seems really secluded and is surrounded by coherent buildings on all sides, so you kind of get the impression of being on a film set. But then again, a lot of it was probably also due to my ability to be star-struck by architecture, something not everybody can relate to, probably.
But then again, St. Vitus is an impressive sight, and only really reveals its actual size (read: enormity) when you enter it. The pictures really don't do it justice, and will probably also bore everybody who is not obsessed with Gothic architecture as I am right now.
But still, I guess that even outsiders who are not interested in the details can appreciate its beauty and impressiveness.
When we finally walked back to the youth hostel, it was later than we had planned, and we were almost late for the concert. But luckily, we managed to get there in time and were graced with an amazing performance. It was the first time for me to see Radiohead, and I'll probably bite my tongue before calling them over-rated again any time soon.
Thanks to Prague for being warm and welcoming - BRB.
And thanks to Radiohead for still being enthusiastic and making an effort.