Saturday, November 26, 2011

Eurotrip 2011, Day 6: Prague by Land & River

I have to admit that it was a bit unfortunate to wake up on our first full day and Prague to one heck of a dismal morning. We donned some warm clothes and piled onto the bus with the Natalies, Kiwi Katie and the rest of our tour mates to ride up to Prague Castle. The plan was to visit St. Vitus's and then take a walking tour down through the Little Quarter and across the Charles Bridge.
St. Vitus's
Inside St. Vitus's
View of Prague from the Castle
The thing is, I wasn't too keen on this walking tour. We could hardly hear our guide half the time. We got no time to actually see the inside of Prague Castle - and I really wanted to see the Riders' Staircase. Then we basically ran through the Little Quarter and saw absolutely nothing there. In hindsight, I wouldn't have gone on this tour even though it was included through Contiki. I would have taken the bus up to Prague Castle and made my own way from there.
Little Quarter (told you it was overcast)
These hitching posts (or whatever they are) really amused me
We finally reached the Charles Bridge, and it was seriously as cool as I'd expected it to be. The views of the city, the statues, knowing that it was actually built with raw eggs and wine in the mortar...no wonder everyone who visits Prague flocks to this landmark ;)
On the Charles Bridge
King Wenceslas by the Old Town Gate of the Charles Bridge
After we'd crossed the bridge our tour made its way into the Old Town Square, famous for its astronomical clock and the cafes surrounding it on all sides. As usual we couldn't hear a word the guide was saying, but after viewing the famous clock for a bit we had time to grab an espresso at one of the cafes before heading to our afternoon river cruise. It was a bit chilly still and we were very excited to see that the cafes provide blankets for those who want to sit outside! A very nifty idea, if you ask me.
As you can see, the skies cleared just long enough for me to snap a great picture of the Astronomical Clock!
It was about a fifteen minute walk from the Old Town Square to board the boat for our river cruise, and once there it felt really good to sit down. In the warmth. Our guide continued on the boat with us and this time we could actually hear her talk while we ate a pretty darn yummy buffet and enjoyed some included drinks - one shot of herbal liqueur each, plus two more tokens per person that were good for beer or wine. This river cruise was one of the Contiki optionals and it was absolutely worth the extra cost!
Showing off our shots and drink tokens
There were tons of swans on the Vltava.
Old fortifications along the river
Enjoying our lunch and drinks with the Natalies!
A different sort of view of the Charles Bridge
When the cruise ended we headed back up around the edge of the Little Quarter and crossed the Charles Bridge again. Along the way we ran into an...interesting...little parade.
I don't get it, but these Czechs LOVE their smurfs.
We actually split off from the Natalies at this point, as they wanted to do quite a bit more shopping than we did. Steve and I stopped in a few kitschy souvenir places on our way back to the Old Town Square (and definitely got a bit, err, turned around in those windy little streets), but eventually we made it back to one of those infamous cafes to enjoy - you guessed it - a Pilsner Urquell!
Now, quick little side note - of course you pay a premium to eat and drink at these cafes. That beer that Steve is drinking cost about 80 crowns (at the time, that was about $5 US). Had we not wanted the experience of hanging out on Old Town Square, we could have wandered two blocks off the square and paid about 32 crowns for the same beer. Ah well!

After enjoying our beers for a relaxing half hour or so, we decided to make our way back to the hotel to get ready for a night out. On our way we found the Powder Gate!
Aaaand I had to be super touristy and consult my map to figure out where in the world our hotel was in reference to said Powder Gate ;)
Obviously we found our way just fine, and got to kick up our feet for a bit before our big night out in Prague.

And it was a very interesting big night out...but more on that later.

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