Airport Rating *****
Reception of locals ***
Known as the city of a thousand spires, Prague has taken on a new meaning in the minds of twenty something travellers from England, that as a stag city, and it was in preparation for a wedding of one of my Singh friend's that we headed off to this central European city.
The sight of 15/20 brown people walking through the streets of Prague must have been quite unique for the locals as we got a lot of curious stares, but for the most part the city was very welcoming and friendly. They have no idea what a Sikh is - some thought we were Turkish, others thought we were Hindu and even if you try to explain what a Sikh is, they still don't understand, but its not altogether surprising as there are only a handful of Sikhs in the Czech Republic.
The Old Town is a name given to the Medieval settlement area of the city. The Old Town is now almost completely surrounded by the New Town, but has some phenomenal pieces of architecture.
The Old Town square is the centre of the settlement and is surrounded by grand buildings, mostly built in the Gothic or Baroque style. Two of the most famous landmarks in the area are Tyn Church and the Astronomical Clock.
The Tyn Church (Church of our Lady before Tyn) is an impressive 14th century Gothic Church with spires that rise up to 80 metres. Of all the buildings that I saw in the city, the Spires of this were easily the most impressive thing. It looks like a mix between something you'd find in Disneyland and somewhere you would find Dracula. The only shame is that the perimeter of the building is completely built up so you can't really get a view of more of the building than just the Spires, and this is especially true from the Square itself.
Across the Square, facing the Church is the Orloj, or astronomical clock. Built in 1410, its the oldest working astronomical clock in the world. The clock is composed of three main components; the dial, representing the position of the sun and the moon in the sky, the 'walk of the Apostles' an hourly show involving the Apostles and the figure of Death striking the time and a calendar dial representing the months. The detail and intricacy of the design and mechanism is incredible, especially considering how old the clock is.
On the edge of the Old Town, separating it from the New Town is the Powder Tower/Gate, a large 15th century gate, again built in the Gothic style. The Tower got its name as it was used to store gunpowder in the 17th century, but the construction of the gate dates back to 1475. The gate caught me off guard as I didn't realise just how big it would be in real life and it does stand out considerably in its surroundings in both its colour and size.
Centred around Wenceslas Square, the New Town isn't all that new, in fact it was first settled in the 14th century, its also the area where we stayed. The streets around the Square are almost constantly busy, no matter what the time and a lot of the city's nightlife operates around this area, although some of the larger clubs are on the other side of the Old Town.
If you think Amsterdam can be seedy, then be prepared for Prague. Almost every other person is trying to sell something morally questionable and nowhere is this more apparent than the New Town.
A tram system criss-crosses its way through the city centre and adds a unique charm to Prague. There's something about the trams going through the old buildings of Prague that is quite special, especially when you think this is what would have happened in the city 100 years ago.
One of my favourite activities in Prague was touring the city on a Segway. It takes a fair few minutes to get used to riding them but once you're good to go its a fantastic way to see the city as it allowed us to explore much further than we would have on foot.
The one hour tour took us through the Old Town and NewTown as well as across the river, taking in the magnificent Charles Bridge which began construction in 1357. During the tour we also took in the Jewish Quarter, the John Lennon Wall (which is essentially a large artistic wall where buskers play songs), Malostranska Square, Municipal House, Republic Square and the National Theatre (which is an incredibly beautiful building). Some of the sights were impressive, others not so much, but riding on the segway was definitely a lot of fun.
Prague is infamous for its nightlife however I was a little disappointed, especially when compared to other cities in Europe. Sure there are bars and clubs everywhere, but they don't seem to have the character or atmosphere of bars in other places. It was during the night that I'd get a few more shoulder bumps than usual, although nothing more aggressive than that. Its difficult to say how much of the unease was from locals and how much was from other European tourists. That being said, its a long time since I worked behind a bar and I'm at that age where I don't particularly enjoy going out too much either. My friends, mostly Singh's didn't seem to have such a bad time though so perhaps I'm a little harsh in rating the nightlife. The city at night is quite beautiful though, people on the streets everywhere and the positioning of the lights give it a very medieval feel.
There are a lot of places to go, and like the nightlife in southern Europe, everything starts a little bit later. We had quite a nice apartment and one of my favourite moments was looking out of the balcony at the New Town early in the morning, watching all the revellers walking/stumbling home.
The cost of living in Prague is substantially cheaper than other cities in Europe, and a night out is the same. Unlike most other continental countries, the Czech Republic still has its own currency, the Koruna, which a lot of people tend to forget, so make sure you don't purchase Euro's.
Prague is a strange city. There is a definite seediness about the place that is somehow more overt than even Amsterdam, but there is a lot to see and do and the architecture of the city is extraordinary. As a city in the heart of Europe it has a lot of history, but even then, its popularity with stag parties and the fun I had with my group of friends means that it is more than just a city that has a successful past.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.