I saw the first visuals of Prague in M F Hussain’s film ‘Meenaxi – A Tale of Three Cities’. Where Prague along with Jaisalmer and my current home Hyderabad forms the backdrop of a painting like a story. From the time I saw the film, I wanted to see Prague. As luck would have it, it was my first port of landing for European Quartet trip. Making it the city that created first impressions of the region.
Though I spent only two days in the country, I got introduced to many unique facets of it including some interesting traditions. I have always said that places that have been inhabited for a long time get a character that comes only with time. And a soul speaks from its alleys that even the casual visitors can feel. I discovered that history of Prague goes back to pre-historic times. But the first fortification came in early 9th century.
What makes Prague unique is the fact that this old city has never faced any destruction. Despite being in central Europe and despite Europe having seen two world wars in last century. This means that this city has evolved over a period of time, gradually, absorbing the ethos of all eras that it has seen. Making changes and adjustments for the new things while keeping the aura of a medieval city. It had the honor of being the imperial capital of Holy Roman Empire during the 14th century. People here believe Prague is the center of Europe.
Prague Old town
When you walk in the old town you are transported a few centuries back. When you look at Baroque architecture you are somewhere in the 1600s, when you take a train you are boarding a few decades old mode of transportation, when you drive around the tall and old chimneys you see the industrial era, when you check into your hotel you are in the lap of modern luxury. And when you look at the bridges across Vltava River you see a thriving city around it and someone who has been a witness to the journey of this city. There are pieces of medieval and modern art spread across the streets of the city, looking at you.
There are buildings that have seen different avatars during different eras. And today are more than just monuments e.g. Current Day National museum used to be a radio station, a hospital and were a corn storage area, to begin with. Various modes of transport criss-cross each other sometimes sharing the same road and sometimes smiling on their exclusive ways.
Musicians and other performing artists entertain you at various tourist attractions, making the cultural ethos of the place come alive. Best way to establish a relationship with the city though is by walking around it, and most parts of it allow you to walk comfortably. If nightlife is what appeals to you, go out and see the action around midnight, when a part of the city comes alive.
City offers you an option to explore it on vintage cars and be completely soaked in the old world charm. We tried this on an original (yes, there are fake copies too) 1920s open car. It was fun to go through the streets. Incidentally, it rained and we got to know that the cars could be covered too or you can still enjoy the rains with an umbrella on your head. Though the Indian population in the Czech Republic is very small, there is no dearth of Indian restaurants that serve all kinds of Indian food. I had the pleasure of eating North Indian food at Jewel restaurant in Oldtown area.
People of Prague take pride in Charles University that is oldest in the Central Europe. And when people take pride in their educational institutes it shows how much they value the education. I have never seen India showcasing its educational institutes though we are a country crazy for education.
Recommend you read following travel blog posts on the Czech Republic.