Prague: Weekend Runaway

06, July 2017 Croatia

In Europe we have at our finger tips an array of cities to choose from for weekend getaways. When a month strikes where you want to escape reality for 48 hours you are never more than a 3 hour plane journey away from a new wonderful destination and more importantly a new culture right within your own continent. 

For our mother, daughter getaway this summer we chose the historical capital of Bohemia, Prague. Situated on the river Vltava in the Czech Republic Prague is famous for it's Old Town Square, pedestrian Charles Bridge, picturesque streets, medieval Astronomical Clock and colourful Baroque architecture. 

Prague presents the perfect opportunity to wander around a city. I recommend staying in the centre, in the Old or New Town. Beautiful vintage style trams traverse the city but we found it nicer to walk and take the surroundings in. Saturdays see a farmer's market open on the banks of the river. Here is the perfect spot to kick start your day with some delicious fresh local food and coffee, take in the atmosphere and plan your route. From here we walked to the Charles Bridge taking in Frank Gehry's Dancing House en route. Before you cross Charles Bridge pause for a moment and take in the magnitude and power of this structure completed in the early 15th Century. Note how the point you walk through is where gates once closed as a means of defense. More importantly take in the Catholic statues, the ones who greet you as you enter and exit the bridge and the many that line it, each with their own often harrowing back story. Coming from Ireland where Catholicism was a hidden religion for centuries it was interesting to see it in reverse, a country where Catholicism ran Protestantism out rather vehemently. Ironically now centuries later as a result of this atheism is the dominant belief system in the Czech Republic.

The walk across Charles Bridge leads you up to the Castle and Saint Vitus Cathedral, a climb up stepped winding streets. Once you reach the square outside the castle walls you have the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy the city from a height. This is the prime spot to grab a coffee on a tucked away terrace and take in the view in the sunshine.  Ramble back through the warren of streets and squares, boutique shops and art stalls are perhaps the best spots to pick up a keepsake from this city. One of the greatest hidden gems worth a visit is the John Lennon Memorial Wall - a tribute to the singer that is constantly being updated with artwork and quotes. Evenings are well spent by the river enjoying the sunset or on one of the many hidden urban terraces. 

By straying not too far from home it's amazing to see how politics and history have shaped modern society. 

One of the greatest ways to familiarise yourself with Prague is with a walking tour and you will find none better than than The Naked Tour Guide (http://www.nakedtourguideprague.com/prague_tours/). Get up and about early on a Sunday morning and avail of their breakfast tour while the city still sleeps and you have the luxury of the Charles Bridge to yourself. Marcus takes you on a humorous and informative tour starting in the Old Square, stopping to fully explain the marvel that is the Astronomical Clock, the political and religious relevance of Charles Bridge and an insightful tour of the Jewish Quarter. Along the way you will see how Prague has progressed over the years and how the Communist regime has led to an almost classless society, there are no run down areas in the city, no streets you feel unsafe to walk alone. By straying not too far from home it's amazing to see how politics and history have shaped modern society. 

Breakfast in one of many cafés will set you up for another day's exploration. Prague is filled with a variety of parks made for sunny days. Kampa park is the perfect launch point for pedal boats along the river while the nearby Vajanovy Sady provides a more secluded retreat. A climb will take you up to Vysehrad Park, next to the Basilica of St Peter and Paul it offerings beautiful panoramas of the city and cafes to refresh the weary traveler.  

The nicest way to round up a day exploring in the summer sun is with a cold pint of beer at the famous U Pinkasu close to Wenceslas Square. First opened in 1843 by tailor Jakub Pinkas and his wife the establishment is renowned for boasting the best Pilsen beer, the establishment has changed little over the past two centuries with new owners aiming to retain it's identity. The nicest area by far to sit is the open air Gothic beer garden at the old timber tables, what feels like a secret space tucked away in the city and the perfect spot to wrap up an active day.