This is my first attempt at a blog, I don't think of myself as a blogger and I am by no means a writer however I love to travel and I love to photograph, obsessively photograph! Over the last 12 months I have been incredibly blessed to be able to combine my three great passions; my job as a costume standby, traveling and photography. It is upon reaching this point in my life and through encouragement of friends that the idea for this blog was born. My aim; to share my travels and experiences through my photography. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy putting it together.
Prague is a magnificent city steeped in rich history. Around every corner you are greeted by an ornate doorway with a story to tell, a street overlooked by grand buildings dating back numerous centuries. Under communist rule for 41 years until 1989 and having escaped the heavy bombing endured by may other European cities during the second world war the architecture in Prague's city centre remains as it was 100's of years ago. Prague orloj the astronomical clock in the Old Town Square still chimes every hour the same way it has done since the 1400's, Prague Castle still dominates the skyline overlooking Mala Strana 'Little Quarter' and the Charles Bridge, the National Theatre a testament to Czech construction and design still stands in full glory on the banks of the River Vltava.
If you want to enjoy the Czech capital at a leisurely pace then 4 days is the perfect amount of time. I was staying with a friend in one of the many beautifully renovated buildings on the west bank of the River Vltava at the edge of the Smichov district, an easy walk to the city centre and all the main tourist attractions. Across Europe we were experiencing an unusually mild November, the city was bathed in glorious autumn sunshine for most of my stay, living up to it's name "Zlata Praha" Golden Prague and providing the perfect light for photography.
It is easy to understand why Prague is named one of the top European cities to visit year after year, it's 1100 years of existence combining architecture from many influential periods in history have earned it a UNESCO World Heritage listing and keep it protected despite the hoards of tourists that visit all year round. It has endless museums and art galleries from those documenting the history of Prague to the chocolate museum 'Choco Story' - the ideal remedy if you are feeling a little cultured out and in need of a sugar fix. Plus the food and beer is pretty good too....
Here are a few snippets of my trip and my recommendations if you find yourself in that part of the world.
Charles Bridge is of course number one, not because many blogs and travel guide before me have given it the top spot but because it is just as wonderful as you are led to be believe, exceeding expectations in everyway.
It was in a somber mood that I took an early morning stroll along the river banks to this iconic bridge, commissioned in 1357 by King Charles IV. it was November 14th, the previous night Paris had been subjected to series of coordinated terror attacks with many people killed and injured. I had visited Paris earlier in the year, fallen in love with the people, the city, it was as heartbreaking as if it had happened in my own country and left me needing some time to reflect. Prague was blissfully quiet that morning, I walked through parks full of autumn leaves, passed early morning dog walkers and keen photographers, the tranquillity only interrupted for a short time by a welcomed comical moment; some rather drunk Czech young men sailing up river, one standing on the bow wrapped in nothing more than a blanket whilst attempting to play a trumpet. As I approached the Charles Bridge the golden glow of the early morning sunshine bringing to life the 30 Baroque statues that guard it, I felt hugely grateful in the wake of the Paris events to be surrounded by such peace and beauty.
2. PRAGUE CASTLE
As it turns out Prague Castle isn't a single building but a castle complex and one of the largest in the world at that, this is worth keeping in mind when planning a trip and I recommend putting aside a full day to see all it has to offer. From the incredible Gothic spires of Saint Vitus Cathedral that give Notre Dame a run for it's money (although I wasn't brave enough to climb to the top), to the various churches, palaces, museums and galleries including the 'Story of Prague Castle' permanent exhibition, it really is a culturefest. But my real favourite was Golden Lane, this quaint street was originally inhabited by soldiers, servants and tradesmen and occupied right up until Word War II. The small houses are intriguing, offering insight in to the way it's residents lived, house located at the end of the lane is particularly interesting with it's homage to old home cinema. In addition there is a fascinating armour museum, some of them so extravagant it's hard to believe they were ever functioning pieces.
3. petrin HILL
I stumbled upon Petrin Hill quite by chance, I had noticed a block behind the apartment sat a hill with a prominent monument and decided on my first morning to get up early, climb to the top and get an early morning view of the city. It didn't disappoint, well renowned for spectacular vistas, parkland and the observation tower Petrin Hill is a favourite with locals and tourists alike. Although it was the wrong time of year to see the rose garden in full bloom and its was too early for the cafes (coffee was needed) or observation tower to be open, the opportunity to see the Church of Vavrinec, it's pink exterior glowing in the sunlight and the spectacular views were worth the early start and steep walk up the hill.
From the top of Petrin Hill I strolled down through the orchard towards Strahov Monastery, an impressive structure with Baroque and Gothic influences and an equally impressive panorama over the Lesser Town and Castle. It was so incredible I returned a few hours later to have lunch at lovely little place I'd spotted earlier. Q15 is a real gem, it has an award winning chef, exquisite food, wine and wonderful service. To enjoy a lunch of pan fried venison with figs, pomegranate and parsnip puree topped off with a glass of Czech white wine (frustratingly I didn't get the name or grape as it was delicious) combined with arguably the best viewpoint of Prague was one of the highlights of my stay.
4. Allow yourself to get a little lost
The wonderful thing about getting a bit lost is not knowing what you are going to find around the next corner. By not having your face buried in a guide book, map, google or fixating on how to achieve the perfect selfie in front of various iconic tourist attractions it will free you up to see and experience so much more.
Not all cities are safe enough to wonder around in such a way but Prague I'm glad to say is. There are so many things to see, I came across breathtaking buildings with extraordinary architectural design, contemporary and historical sculptures and artwork, observed local people going about their daily business and ate hearty and delicious Czech food. It is one of my favourite European cities and I intend to return again and again.