Exciting short-trip to Prague

Brevnov Monestery

Three months ago I decided to visit Prague after I talked to a couple of friends about the Czech republic and the town. Everything that I’ve heard about the Golden City made me feel that I have to dig deeper into it: to understand the city and to find out what is worth visiting. Very helpful was my visit to the website of the Czech tourism authority. They are engaged in the development of tourism in the Czech Republic through a number of key activities that promote tourism domestically and abroad.

Over this time period I received an offer from Hotel.de showing a room at the Mamaison Riverside Hotel for three nights at less than 280 EUR. I immediately investigated it and figured out that this offer was such a bargain and gift that I immediately booked it – although not yet knowing how to get there. Anyway it made me feel that I did have my first foot in this town.

I started investigating for a train ride, thinking of using my own car or flying into Prague. Using the train indicated an approximate travel time of over nine hours. That equals the estimated time for a car-ride. An aircraft offers convenient travel times of 1.5 or 2.5 hours depending on the outbound airport and whether you chose a direct flight or detour with several segments. Because of the fact that I could spend a couple of frequent flyer miles before they get invalid I selected Delta airlines to fly from DUS towards AMS to PRG. This flight came up with ticket prices starting at 74 EUR for a return flight and 55,000 deducted miles as a business class passenger. Another option had been an Air Berlin flight at 130 EUR with additional luggage and snack costs. I chose the convenient option as a business passenger although it needed one hour more flight time. But I did arrive early at Vaclav Havel Airport Prague and could leave at a convenient time (early afternoon) for my return flight.

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There are several options to get into town from PRG. A luxury and convenient one is a limousine-service that you can order directly through the hotel reception of the Mamainson Riverside for 780 CZK (app. 30 EUR). The other options are public transportation by tram and bus or a taxi ride. My choice was the limousine-service: The driver awaited me with a clearly marked sign after the baggage-claim area. In a very convenient and fully equipped Skoda Superb with plenty of leg-room the chauffeur drove me to the hotel.

My advice for your trip to Prague is: Take enough of the local CZK currency with you. It is convenient to use, offers much better prices than any conversion to EUR or USD, and at least – you won’t be surprised when you do see your credit card charges indicating that the hotel is expensive and charged more than 10% above the on the invoice indicated price! That happened to me, so please pay attention to this fact. You have to pre-order CZK currency with your bank and it maybe a little surcharge for the service, but it’s less expensive than the surprise you will get at home.

A spacious room awaited me. Through the window you could see the river Moldova and the Old Town of Prague. The view was very nice and the double windows kept all the road noise outside.

For my first dinner I planned to visit the Lavande restaurant – conveniently 500 m away from the hotel. The menu was excellent and I chose as a starter the “Whipped goat cheese with avocado, roasted peppers and homemade baguette” followed by “Sea bream filet served with tarragon butter and grilled seasonal vegetables”. The selection of spirits, liquors and wines surprised as well and made me feel like I have been here many times before. This dinner was perfectly prepared, composed in a way that it fully took my attention and fulfilled all of my expectations: I say, it’s a must to visit!

The next day was filled with sight-seeing. I started with breakfast at the Café Savoy. The restaurant and coffee bar evokes the atmosphere of the cafés of the First Czechoslovakian Republic. Its remarkable interior is dominated by a listed Neo-Renaissance ceiling dating back to 1893. It’s a popular meeting place for couples, business men and locals. The restaurant is well-known for its substantial breakfasts and gourmet menu dishes – including Czech snails or veal sweetbread. The restaurant’s own bakery offers fresh confectionery and bakery products on a daily basis.

After breakfast I walked to the Petřín funicular, a railway that links the Malá Strana district with the top of Petřín hill. The funicular railway is 396m long and has three stops: Újezd (at the bottom of the hill), Nebozízek (the middle station) and Petřín (at the top of the hill). It was originally water-powered and subsequently electrified in 1931-32. It’s a 15 minutes ride and very popular to tourists. The funicular is an integral part of the city’s public transportation network. On top of the hill I visited the Petřín Lookout Tower (62m). This is a tower built like the Tour Eiffel in Paris but only one fifth’s of it’s size. From there I did have a great overview of Prague towards the four cardinal directions.

Walking down-hill to see the Charles Bridge I passed by the “Klášter Pražského Jezulátka” – a must see for lovers of relic altars and Baroque architecture. Prague offers so much of classic Baroque as well as Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings, paintings and art objects. A visit to the St. Nicolas Church (entrance fee: 70 CZK) on Lesser Town is exciting, too. It is one of the leading barque constructions in Europe and is usually defined as the most beautiful building of the Czech baroque. The authorship is ascribed to Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer. The most valued monuments of art are preserved in the Church are the paintings by Karel Škréta, exhibited in the gallery. Unfortunately, there is a major restoration process of the church in progress with scaffolding in the main hall that limits the view of the interior.

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Shortly after I arrived at the most touristic point of the Golden City: The Charles-bridge! It seemed to me that in Prague almost everything is in walking distance when you are not lazy and do have the right shoes on.

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Walking through the Old Town showed to me that the people did do a very good  restoration job to many buildings, protecting the beauty of the old center. For me it was like being in a huge museum – I did enjoy it each second of my visit.

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Arriving at the Altstädter Ring (Staroměstské náměstí) I got an impression of how important Prague had been in the mid 1800’s. On the left hand is the Astronomical clock build into the tower of the Old Town Hall leading towards the open market used for fairs and other events. I stepped into one of the old hotels at the very corner of this impressive place. The waitress led me into a medieval cellar. Here  drinks and snacks are offered. The atmosphere was very inviting, so I stayed longer than expected and used the free WiFi to place pictures onto my FB account. Prague offers almost everywhere free WiFi connections and makes us visitors feel supported at every time.

After this short break I strolled back to The Café Savoy to have dinner because I did place a reservation at a Spa for this evening at 20:30 o’clock. Renowned primarily for its historical sites, Prague is now a highly popular destination for beer, specifically the Spa Beer Land with a classic Czech treatment based on the exclusive use of natural ingredients, materials and old medical procedures.

The Café Savoy dinner was a roast pike-perch, broccoli, butter sauce and lemon meal together with a glass of light Sauvignon blanc: absolutely delicious and nothing to regret. Afterwards I walked for twenty minutes over to the Spa and enjoyed an hour of treatment I haven’t had before. The beer bath was relaxing. With a glass of fresh and malty dark Krušovice beer together together with freshly baked bread, I rounded up my day. A nice walk back to the hotel closed this day in Prague.

The next day started with rain, therefore I decided to start easy with a delicious breakfast and see whether or not I will have a slight chance to see something more. As the sky cleared up a little bit, I jumped on one of the tourist trams (EkoExpres) and did a guided sightseeing tour passing the former Jewish Ghetto, crossing the Svatopluk Czech Bridge towards the castle district with a stop at the Castle Square. Although I did see a lot of interesting buildings, I regretted being on the tram because it was very bumpy and no fun to sit on the hard seats. But, the information I received from the tour-guide while driving around was interesting and helpful. I was told that I do need at least a full day to see all of the attractive parts of the castle, the Veits Dome, etc. The cue of visitors – to enter this area – was almost 500 m long (because of security reasons). Therefore I decided to make it during my next visit to Prague. My advice is: You have to pre-order most of the attractions, restaurant and tours prior to your visit otherwise you won’t make it on the day you are in Prague.

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While exploring the Old Town I walked by a vintage Skoda (built 1931) with a sight-seeing tour sign at the windshield. I stopped and started talking to George, a very friendly driver and owner of the beautiful car. He explained that almost everything at the car is original except the body painting.

I had pre-book a 3.5 hour Segway Grand Park tour with Segwayfun prior to my visit for 14:30 o’clock and was surprised, how professional my request was handled. When I arrived at the office, a warm welcome made me feel at home and Jakub, the receptionist and salesperson introduced me to the basics such as route and how to get trained.

Shortly after the two tour-guides (s. picture: Petr = Peter with the sunglasses) grab the attention of the group of seven participants and led us to the Segway shop which could be reached by tram (five tram-stops). There we received our introduction how to operate the “machine” and several safety advices such as how to behave, if something unexpected happens.

The fun I did have driving the Segway is unbelievable. I don’t have enough words to describe it. It’s something I really do recommend when you visit Prague. Thank you to Andrew & Peter for this wonderful trip. I definitely will come back and tour with you again.

Coming back into town I decided to walk through the old town again just to get the most out of my short visit to Prague. The New Town Hall (built between 1419 and 1456) invited me to its tower. Climbing up 221 steps to the tower gallery (272 m high) I was awarded with a beautiful view of Prague – and it was not crowded by tourists. I closed my day with a dinner at the Ginger & Fred restaurant in the Dancing House at the river Moldova. Located on the top floor (level 7) I did have a wonderful view of Prague again. The food here is excellent as well and I will return.

On my way back to my hotel it started raining again. Thinking back of all the good experiences I have made I went to bed that night.

The rain continued until I had to leave Prague. But before saying good bye and heading back home I did have my farewell dinner at the Mamaison Riverside hotel. I do recommend the bar with it’s food because it is unexpected good.

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