We headed to the Wein HBF train station at 6:30 am for the next leg of our trip, sad to leave immaculate, stately Vienna but excited to check out Prague, which had been on our list for years. We hopped on our first class train to Praha and spent the next 3 hours listening to podcasts, snacking on dried mango and granola, staring out at the rolling countryside and falling in and out of sleep. Immediately upon arriving in Prague, we knew we would love it. Where Vienna was sophisticated and palacial, Prague was gritty and mysterious. Even with the sunny day, the dark-toned architecture with jutting spires gave an ominous feel.
We dropped our bags at our Airbnb, and Erin made a faux paux with our host by accidentally referring to her elderly father as "the repairman." Our place featured high ceilings, a lofted bed and a balcony looking over the back of Old Town square. After taking a few minutes to get cleaned up and changed, we scoped out the famous Astronomical Clock, which dates from 1410. Boggling the mind, it miraculously features all at once an astronomical dial, representing the position of the sun and moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details, a clockwork hourly show of figures of moving sculptures including figure of death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time, and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months and time. Although the clock tower was under construction, we were so fascinated by how such a complicated device could be constructed so long ago that we watched a documentary about it later in the day.
After the clock, we checked out Old Town square, the surrounding pedestrian only streets, dotted with souvenir shops, bakeries, Thai massage stops and, randomly, an Apple computer museum. We then headed to the Jewish Quarter to check out the Spanish Synagogue, a synagogue dating from the 1800s decorated in the Moorish Spanish style, like one of our favorite buildings in the world, the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain. Upon entering, both of us were blown away by the intricate patterns, colors and details. We both got lost in time just staring up at the ceilings.
U Supa Lunch
We then headed to lunch at U Supa, a famous Prague brewery, for some local beer and delicacies. We feasted on a delicious (although super heavy) lunch of spatzle, salmon, potatoes, mushroom toast and salad, all washed down with beer brewed in the building. We took a long walk around town to attempt to make up for the big lunch, and then headed to our Airbnb for a few hours before heading to the Klementinum for an evening classical concert.
The Klementium is a series of interconnected classical buildings dating from the 1700s that include a baroque library, astronomical viewing tower and the famous mirror chapel, decorated with gilded stuccos, marble paneling and baroque mirrors in the walls and ceiling. We stepped into the impressive mirror chapel and spent the next hour listening to Vivaldi's Four Seasons and other classics played by a few string instruments, an organ player who mastered the giant chapel organ and a few soloist singers. The acoustics in the room were great, and, coupled with the gorgeous surroundings, we both had a moving experience. For us, this was much more immersive than the famous Vienna opera.
Nighttime in Praha
After the concert, we headed to a club-like Asian restaurant which featured multiple levels of bars, hookah lounges, live birds and fish, rooms full of Asian art in museum style and delicious food and drinks. We shared a variety of tapas including marinated salmon sashimi, steamed buns, siu mai, naan and noodles. We walked along the river to check out the famous Charles Bridge by night and marveled at the intimidating Prague architecture lit up in the darkness.
Check out our Travel Vlog for Day 1
Prague: Day 2
We awoke to a rainy sky before sunrise Tuesday to photograph the Charles Bridge. Construction on the bridge started in the 1300s, and until 1841 it was the only bridge connecting Old Town Prague to Prague Castle on the other side of the river. During the winter, the sun rises perfectly over Old Town from the vantage point of the bridge, so it has become a famous photography destination. In addition to the sunrise views, the bridge is well known due to its unique views in each direction toward the town and castle, and for the gothic and baroque bridge towers and sculptures that punctuate the 2000 feet span.
Even with the cold rainy weather, there were multiple brides attempting to capture wedding photos on the bridge at 7am, and a few professional photographers with tripods set up to capture the sunrise. However, with the rainy, cloudy conditions we didn't get much of a sunrise view. The scene felt movie-like though with the misty weather and gothic bridge towers, so we were glad we got up early before the crowds arrived. Next, we stopped at Bohemian Bagel on the other side of the bridge for Dave's favorite meal: lox and bagels, for a nice warm breakfast. After that, we headed up to Prague Castle, one of the largest castle complexes in the world.
Prague Castle dates from the 9th century and is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. Within the castle walls, there are medieval houses, palaces, gardens, churches and towers. The castle was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it. After purchasing our tickets, we embarked on a 10-stop navigation of the various castle sites, but our favorite was St. Vitus Cathedral, which dates from 1344 and contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. Even with the cloudy sky, the stained glass in the gothic church was shockingly vivid and alive. We climbed the tower of the church and took in the sprawling views across Prague.
After exploring the cathedral, we spent the next few hours visiting medieval halls, torture chambers (some with real skeletons strung up in wicked devices), in-tact peasant houses and palaces. We headed out of the castle complex and took a long walk down Novy Svet, a cobblestone walking street that led us back to the river. We climbed the Charles Bridge towers for some more sweet views before picking up some veggie burritos (not very local, but delicious) and heading back to our Airbnb.
Next, we took a nice long afternoon nap, and then headed out to just explore and get lost in Prague at night. We took a long walk around town and then grabbed a delicious vegetarian dinner featuring veggie versions of classic Czech dishes. Erin had some sort of "meat and gravy" dish that tasted a lot like Thanksgiving. We came to the conclusion that the foods in both Vienna and Prague were delicious, but super heavy and not great for everyday. We headed home to rest before the last day of our trip.
Day 3: Prague to Lux
On our last day in Prague, we checked out a few major sites we hadn't seen, including the Church of Our Lady (which looks super cool from the outside but is fairly simple inside) and the Asian Art museum. We had a delicious bagel breakfast at a local cafe and also got some Thai foot massages after walking 40 miles over the past 4 days. After seeing all the major sites, we spent the morning just wandering around the streets of Prague, away from the tourist zones, just getting a feel for the city. We spent our last hour taking in the town and then hopped in an Uber. Once we got out of the city, the surrounding areas felt a lot more industrial and looked very Soviet, which was a stark contrast from the ornate gothic and baroque feeling in Prague center. We hopped on a 2:30 flight, and were back home in Lux by 4.
Both Vienna and Prague were perfect fall destinations, as we were able to walk around without too many crowds. Next up, our honeymoon trip around the world to Vietnam, Japan, Seattle and London.
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