First Visit - 2005
Visiting Prague was an after thought, but turned out to be one
of the most interesting and intriguing of all the European cities
we have explored so far. There is magic there, some kind of
spirit that is missing from the more staid capitals of Western
Europe. Perhaps it comes from the post war period when the
country to which Prague belongs was tethered by the Soviets or
perhaps it is in the nature of the people of Czechoslovakia who
have longed for the freedom and independence that was never quite
arranged while she was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Whatever the reason this spirit is quite obvious in the peoples
faces, in the entrepreneurial diversity of the shops, and in the
relaxed ambience of her cafes. The people here can still remember
what it feels like no to be free, and so with freedom comes joy
and energy that spills out at almost any time in the form of
laughing, romancing and enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
We crossed the Austrian-Czech border on our way north from
Vienna. At the border we enjoyed a little laugh along with the
border police when they noticed that an American and a Russian
were sharing a ride together. The guards, clearly amused waved us
through without a check. So it goes, the cold war formalities
have all disappeared. The drive to Prague was uneventful and even
stopping to fill up the car was about the same as in the rest of
Europe except for the use of plastic money which is just
beginning to become a possibility in the Czech Republic outside
of the larger cities.
Driving through the towns on our way to Prague it was clear that this country was lagging in economic development behind the western European nations. Like Spain, the Czech Republic still shows how economic isolation and government policies restraining trade are usually counter-productive. That's beginning to change now and it is quite obvious in Prague, which is thriving. In the densely packed streets near the Karla bridge (center of town) there are hundreds of little shops selling nearly everything imaginable and the prices seemed low and quality high, always a good combination. The street hustlers were even actually cordial, something not often found in most tourist areas. The Karla bridge and Hradcany Hill, which is full of medieval palaces and the famous St. Vitas cathedral, are definite must-sees. Check out this website for more tourist information:
If you are making a travel itinerary for Europe, Prague must be listed. In terms of pure enjoyment and touring value this city is unparalled. It is here that one begins to see the definite change in cultures west to east. Like other eastern European cities, Prague is on the frontier. You can sense something, which is quite different from her Germanic neighbors in the look of the architecture, the spices in the food, the Slavic folk dances and faces of the people. The language is more like Russian than German. The Czech Republic is now and will always be a buffer between eastern and western Europe and a delightful experience for the traveler.
Second Visit - 2010
Anya was studying and living in Prague on a university extension program from the State University of New York, Empire State College. I was working in southern Germany near Ulm. In the Spring of 2010 I visited her in Prague. The photos in the lower table originated from that visit. The weather was cold and windy but we still managed to get out and see some of the more interesting places in the city the first evening. Next day we ventured out to the edge of town to a palace with a vineyard planted on a hillside above the Danube. Try as I might I cannot find or remember the name of this place. While we toured around we had a chance to talk about her plans for the future. At 20 it's not so easy to know what you want. Still a lot of unknowns in life. I sensed that she had not really focused on the type of work she wanted to pursue or just how her schooling would be completed. In any case we had some good time together and the visit gave us both a chance to know each other more. This was the first time I had spent any significant time with her alone.
Here is a link to a really useful interactive map of Prague http://www.aviewoncities.com/maps/prague.htm
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