Ahh.. how time flies when you’re having fun. We were already heading to Prague for our last stop of this trip. Prague would be my first Central European destination, which involved a 4 hour bus trip from Munich. If you wondered where I found time to put my blog posts together, it was all done within this single 4-hours bus trip!
Prague was the spot where we celebrated the end of 2013, and welcome the new year 2014. It was our last stop for our European trip before we head home to Singapore. We only spent 3 days here to fully relax and recover from our skiing a few days ago. Just when I thought I can interpret a few German signs and could even recognize and speak a few basic German phrases, the world was completely turned upside down on me when we arrived in Prague. We were back to square one again. The signs were completely foreign, the language completely foreign, currency was Czech Koruna, and the atmosphere was completely….. different…
It wasn’t all bad. Prague is very much part of Europe after all. Our first afternoon was spent strolling around old town, where we saw the ubiquitous Christmas markets (yes it was still open eventhough Christmas was over), with familiar ‘Hot Wine’, ‘sausages’, cinnamon rolls on offer, all in Czech instead of German!
The cuisines, whilst mostly European, does have a slight ‘Asian’ feel to it, with dumplings on offer with its Goulash, and occasionally even rice with its stroganoff! My wife and I both just realised how much we miss rice after a week of bread/ham and cheeses!
The old town, funnily enough isn’t the oldest part of Prague (Oldest part is across the river where Prague castle is). It does feel a bit ‘touristy’ with the medieval streets choked with a ton of souvenir shops selling painting reproductions (mostly fake I think), ‘I love Prague’ cups and t-shirts, puppets and Babooshka dolls. Nevertheless, the old architecture and cobbled stone streets were definitely worth admiring..
Once out of Old town, there’s no doubt that Charles Bridge and the Prague castle dominate the city scape, and you probably can’t avoid it even if you want to. We spent a good half a day strolling through Prague Castle without a guide (audio was sold out, and we didn’t arrive early enough to join a guided tour). It’s the biggest castle in the world! In my eyes, it probably felt a lot more like a collection of buildings put together to then be called a ‘castle’, rather a single building like most castles (e.g. Neuschweinstein castle or Leeds castle in UK). Instead of rooms for different purposes, you essentially have different buildings for each purpose. For example, you have St. Vitus which is itself a full blown cathedral, a basilica, a ‘hall’, and then you have Golden Lane, which is where all the peasants, guards and minions lived, and of course torture chambers which every cool castle ought to have.
The history associated with this castle was definitely a lot more intriguing than the time we have available to absorb it all.
Charles Bridge itself, which links the Old town with the castle, is littered with religious statues, probably felt a little ‘eerie’ at times. The bridge is always crowded with tourists, and you’ll find live bands, and artists selling stuff on the bridges as well.
The former communist city definitely exudes this ‘harsh’ atmosphere, with cold temperatures to add to the rather solemn feel to the city. It was cold, but apparently was not cold enough this year to freeze the river like it normally does every year. Good for us, as we did end up taking the obligatory ‘river cruise’, which wouldn’t have been possible if snow arrived and froze the river.
Our hotel, Mamaison Riverside hotel, whilst not the best located from public transport perspective, was probably a good choice to watch the New Year fireworks in comfort. We were lucky enough to have a room with a little balcony, looking out towards the river.
So when the countdown to the new year was close, we put on our jackets, stepped out, and was greeted with a city lit up with fireworks…
The firework was probably not as fantastic as what you might see in Taiwan, or Sydney for that matter. It was rather spread out, with a lot of private individuals adding to the lit up city with their own fireworks. It sounds dangerous, but probably not as bad as it seems.
We really didn’t do that much else on New Year’s eve night, apart from dining in the hotel and watching the fireworks from our balcony in the hotel. Just goes to show how ‘old’ we are. The night spent in the hotel also concluded our trip to Europe, and back to reality in Singapore. Yes, 2013 had been a very good year for me and my wife. Thinking back, I probably couldn’t ask for more from it. I hope 2014 will be as good, if not better. 2013 and most of 2014 will also be the last year where we get to spend time alone as a couple.. as it will all change from next year onwards.. *hint hint*