I decided to take the guided tour arranged at the hostel. Prague applauded my decision by ceasing the watery barrage for a while. But not too long. The weather in Prague seems a little psychotic. In the space of 10 minutes you can go from sunny and beautiful to cloudy, cold and drizzly, and then back again.
First off, they took us to the center of “old town” to see a building with a balcony and an lovely picture of a woman hanging out in a field with trees and some other people gathered around.
Story has it, this woman had visions. First she had a vision of her future husband, who she saw as a guy working the land. So her people went out, found this guy working in a field and brought him to her. Moral of the story: cupid.com is for chumps if you have people doing your work for you. Her second vision was that there would be a grand city. This would become Prague. This girl really had some good people with her. They got stuff done.
We then went to the busy town square. Here they have a cool astrological clock that all the tourists gather at since every hour there is an animatronic show where a skeleton on the side of the clock rings a bell and little windows open and twelve apostles rotate through.
It is the most underwhelming show you have ever seen. The clock is impressive though, and hundreds of years ago might have been quite cool. The neat part for me is that it all still works.
We then wandered around town seeing many other impressive buildings and learning random facts along the way.
Eventually we wound up at a church, one of many in Prague, and heard a story that there was once a thief who got into the church to steal some of the riches there (churches back then controlled much of the wealth). He went to take the necklace from the statue of the virgin Mary, but the statue grabbed his hand and held him there until the next morning. When he was discovered, they severed his hand from the statue (I mean, you wouldn’t want to hurt the statue, right?) and left it there as a lesson to any other wrong-doers.
Here’s the thing: there is still a mummified hand hanging in the church. I know, right? Sadly I only have digital zoom on my camera so I didn’t get any good detail. Also: it’s not imbedded in any virgin Mary statue, so I’m not sure how it comes to be just hanging there. Regardless: I’ve never seen a mummified hand hanging in a church before.
Speaking of churches: apparently Prague isn’t a very religious place. Only 20% of people here say they are part of an organized religion. Old churches get repurposed. This one here was turned into a bar / strip joint last year.
All in all, the tour lasted about three hours and took us all over old town. Very cool. Recommended.
So that’s all good. But what about Prague at night?
The food stalls in Wenceslas square (try to visit that every day and NOT get that damn “good king Wenceslas” song stuck in your head) are open at night. Sausages and other open-air cooked meat products are prevalent, along with many other options:
So, the old Museum was shut down for remodels, but it turns out that the week I was there they were doing one last thing: a nightly performance by the Czech strings orchestra being held inside, and this would be everyone’s last chance to see the original interior. Of course, I had to go.
This was one of the highlights of my visit. The interior was beautiful, sumptuous, and absolutely perfect for a small orchestra. The performance was intimate and stunning.
So, how do you follow something like that? Well, since I was staying at a hostel, pub crawls are kind of the order of the night. So, when in Rome (er, Prague)…
Several of the pubs look like a tiny, intimate affair from the front, but then you are led down flights of stairs into an underground maze of room after room. I literally had trouble trying to find my way out of one of these.
Each place they take you has some claim to fame. Such as the Vodka Bar. Themed in cold war Russian style, I couldn’t help but think Dr. Strangelove would feel at home there. They have some crazy number of flavored vodkas. I tried “peanut butter and jelly” vodka. It is exactly as horrific as it sounds. They also had a room for live music with a giant Stalin statue dressed as the Joker hanging from the ceiling. I’m not sure why.
In another room they just had random graffiti. Some of it was cool:
By the end of the night they drop you off at a five story club and leave you to find your own way back to your hostel.
luckily, everyone made it back okay, even without supervision, which I count as a big win after a pub crawl like this. Unfortunately, an Aussie I met (let’s call him RacerX) didn’t make it back without incident.
RacerX wandered home alone after some time at the massive club, and on the way encountered some gypsies. They befriended him briefly, and as he wandered away, thought to check his wallet, only to discover that his three hundred euros was now reduced to a mere fifty.
Yep, the gypsies took most of his money, but seemed to have a heart and left him enough to get by. Unfortunately for Racer, he encountered a second set of gypsies. Now, he was rather alcohol-addled, but still had presence of mind from his first encounter to sequester what was left inside his waistband. This next set of gypsies also attempted to befriend him and dance with him a bit, but he quickly extricated himself. Upon arriving back at the hostel though, he found he was now missing everything: cards, cash and phone. So either the second set was very crafty and more heartless, or through some fumbling he just lost everything on the street.
So, if you wander Prague at night, perhaps keep your valuables somewhere more safe. Like your shoe? I don’t know, obviously I’m not good at securing my belongings.
A few more odds and ends from nights out in Prague:
Wandering around, especially on the weekend, you’ll encounter lots of street performers and buskers. I ran into this couple playing some really amazing violin music under the town gate.
Many of the buildings are lit up at night, making a nighttime tour just as interesting (maybe even more-so) than a daytime tour.
So: Prague. Really cool city. Lots to see and do. I will come back some day.