Last summer, my sister and I had the opportunity of taking our mother to celebrate her sixtieth birthday in a part of the world she always dreamt of visiting, The Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 12 days we visited eight incredible cities in five different countries. The itinerary included Prague, Krakow, Auschwitz, Bratislava, Vienna, Budapest and more.
Prague, Czech Republic – Part I
The historical capital of Bohemia has a lot to offer with its beautiful Gothic and Renaissance architecture, taverns, squares and local culture. We stayed in a historical building hotel a few steps away from the heart of the city: The Old Town or Staré Město, as the locals call it. In the Old Town Square, we visited the Astronomical Clock, the Old Town Hall and its tower, for a panoramic view of the city. The square is also home to The Church of The Virgin Mary Before Tyn, a variety of restaurants, stands offering souvenirs and local food including Prague’s Ham and the Trdelník, a sweet spiral pastry which is freshly baked in front of you.
The next day we crossed Charles Bridge to get to Lesser Town (Malá Strana), where Prague’s Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral and The Golden Lane are located. I noticed that many of Prague’s buildings were blackened by time and weather, which gives the city an even more gothic atmosphere. Later that day, we went back to the east side of Vltava River to visit the Old-New Synagogue and the Old Jewish Cemetery. At night we attended a performance of Prague’s unique Black Light Theater— a psychedelic mixture of fantasy, drama and light show. We finished our evening with a late dinner followed by celebratory drinks in a medieval tavern called U Zlaté Konvice.
On our last day in town, we window-shopped at Prague’s version of Fifth Avenue: Pařížská Street. There we found top fashion designer brands such as Dior, Prada, Hermès, Versace and Cartier. For lunch we went to an Old World Cuisine restaurant where the duck and pork plates were delectable. As we wandered the streets, we saw a diverse array of people but it was the peculiarity of homeless people that caught my attention. They all adopt the same beggar’s position in which they kneel, face the ground and extended their hands holding a hat to collect spare change. I gave some coins to a man; he humbly made the sign of the cross in gratitude and went back to his position. I found that extremely touching and different from the U.S. culture. That evening we took a taxi to the main train station in Prague, Hlavni Nadrazi, to catch the night train that would take us to our next destination.