We spent four days visiting Prague from a home base in Černý Vůl, about 40 minutes from city center via bus + metro.
Although the Czech Republic is part of the EU and part of the Schengen Area, you still need to have your passport ready when you pass the border from Germany if you are riding a bus--something we did not realize until about 30 minutes before the border, when I phoned Petra (who was on a bus with Elias, Jean, and Helen) from the car Stefan and I were driving (so we'd have a car, if needed, in Prague. Turns our that while Prague is pedestrian friendly, its burbs absolutely are not.) I phoned and said, "oops, ha ha, we still have Elias's passport, but that surely won't be a problem since the Czech Republic is part of the EU, right?" To which Petra said, "there are signs ALL OVER THE BUS that say 'have your passport ready for inspection at the border.'"
We were way ahead of the bus, so we crossed the border ourselves to check. Mmm, nope, no border control. Our cell phone SIM card only worked in Germany, so we drove back across the border to call Petra again. "There's no border control," we said. She said, "I checked with the driver, and he says we need to have the passport; border control officers sometimes check buses."
We negotiated that we'd wait for the bus at the last German rest stop before the border so we could hand off the passport. Stefan and I waited about 20 minutes, entertaining a busload of applauding teenagers by blowing Elias's bubble solution out the window, until we saw a tourist bus zip past on the highway. "That's it!" shouted Stefan, "I'm sure it is!" He pulled out of the parking area in hot pursuit while I phoned Petra. "We just saw you go by!" I said. She said, "what are you talking about? We're not there yet."
Thus Stefan and I crossed into the Czech Republic a second time. We turned around to head back to the German rest stop, but as soon as we crossed back into Germany, Petra called to say the bus was just crossing into the Czech Republic and the driver would wait for us--but only for a few minutes--at the first truck stop.
Thus we revisited the German rest stop, turned around again, and crossed into the Czech Republic a third time. We deftly handed off Elias's passport (which, obviously, he had not actually needed) between the passenger window of our car and the driver's window of the bus and continued on our merry way.
And now, the Prague photo dump. Too...many...photos...so I'm just dumping them here.
Day 1: Malostranská beseda museum; Church of St. Nicholas; vegetarian dining oasis; palace complex including Treasures of St. Vitus reliquary collection (no photos allowed; excess of riches with creepy body bits inside makes one understand why Jan Hus had issues with the Catholic church), St. Vitus cathedral, and St. George basilica; and dinner near the river.
|Minimalist piano at the Malostranská beseda museum.|
|St. Nicholas church|
|St. Nicholas dome|
|Wee orglet at St. Nicholas church|
|Don't mess with Christians at the Church of St. Nicholas|
|He messed with the Christians|
|Mozart played here (Church of St. Nicholas)|
|Mozart probably also played this one too, but the St. Nick brochures aren't specific|
|A vegetarian oasis in a country of carnivores|
|Jean, Elias, and I ditched the rest of our group for this. Yum!|
|Grammar Jean teaches Elias what "nursing a drink" means|
|He applies his newfound knowledge to the best mango lassi EVER|
|Changing of the guard in front of the palace entrance|
|Gehry's Dancing House|
|St. Vitus cathedral organ|
|Wee orglet at St. Vitus|
|Codpieces were at their peak of stylish popularity in the 1500s|
|Centuries of rubbing at St. Vitus makes codpieces shiny...|
|...or a little chipped|
|Of course, codpieces need not stand in the way of rubbing|
|St. George gets ready to kill a dragon; here's suggested reading for both of them.|
|Crypt in St. George basilica|
|St. George crypt decor|
|Ceiling in side chapel at St. George basilica|
|Let sleeping ducks lie|
Day 2: Charles Bridge; River cruise along the Vltava/Moldau; Old Town birthday dinner
|The birthday boy got up early and went for a bike ride|
|Meanwhile, Elias tended to his mosquito-bitten feet|
|Tourists appreciating the Pietà on the Charles Bridge|
|Unexpected (and consequently breathtakingly shocking, when I saw|
it) view of the Old Jewish Cemetery through the bathroom window at the
Design Museum where we ducked in for coffee. See Day 3 for more info.
|Charles Bridge from boat|
|Dancing house row|
|Another scenic view...|
|Our boat passed the Kafka Museum. The day before was Kafka's birthday.|
|Old Town art nouveau door...|
|Holding up a snake and windows|
|Stunningly tasty Ristorante Casa di Carli|
Day 3: Jewish quarter; Design Museum (no photos allowed, of course, except if you sneak them through the bathroom window or the front door); Old Town Square
|More Old Town Art Deco|
|Dvořák conducted here: the Rudolfinum, home of the Czech|
Philharmonic. Alas, the Philharmonic was on tour--in Bavaria.
|Jewish quarter: organized tourism has helped restore all of Prague's|
synagogues. Photos were not allowed in any of the buildings.
|Grave stones. Cemetery space was limited, so generations were buried atop|
one another. There may be as many as 100,000 burials here, in the space of
a large city block. Old tombstones remained as new tombstones were added.
|Bodies were prepared for burial here. The cemetery was used|
for burials between the 15th century and 1787.
|In business since 5760|
|Prague is Kafka Central. His admirers know what to eat.|
|Kafka statue near the Spanish synagogue|
|Adjacent pages in Prague tour guide: Highlights for Children...Kafka|
|A hint of the ornate luxuriousness inside the Design Museum|
|Old Town Square: Church of Our Lady before Týn. Tycho Brahe is buried here.|
|The famous astronomical clock. It even tells you if it's|
night or day, in case you can't tell from the sun.
|Jan Hus attempted to reform the church 100 years before Martin Luther.|
|Good Duke Wenceslas I of Bohemia|
|Trdelnik for the tourists: grilled dough with cinnamon, sugar, and nuts|
|...and their happy mom|
By Day 4, I felt like I was stalking my friend Christie, who had visited Prague the previous summer and had posted online a hundred or so photos of her trip. "Oh yes, Christie was here;...oh, and she was here too. Oh, and she saw that statue too, and she must have taken that picture from this spot right here..." Of course, there are about a bazillion tourists in Prague every day, and they pretty much all visit the same destinations; but it still felt a little weird to retrace a friend's photographic steps.
|Memorial to the victims of Communism|
|Big bubbles at the top of Petrin Hill|
|Climbing the observatory tower|
|My inner acrophobe was roused from its sleep|
|Not as tall as the Eiffel Tower, but tall enough|
|Funky perspective: the buildings in front are much smaller than the ones in back|
|Zoom lens view from the top of the observatory tower|
|We took a funicular train up, walked back down|
|View from a coffee shop, recently reopened after major flooding|
|Freaky squashed-faced giant babies, a.k.a. art.|
|Maybe these babies are related to these babies.|
|Nothing says eternal love like your lock hanging with hundreds of other locks|
|Scenic Černý Vůl|
|Helen dozed on the veranda of our vacation rental, so we put a bottle of Slivovice on her and took a photo.|