My first encounter with Prague was short, dazzling, and remarkable.
You could say it was love at the first sight.
It was summer, and I just had my first taste of solo-traveling. I remember arriving at Hlavní Nádraží with an overstuffed suitcase, my wonderful Airbnb host already waiting at the other end of the escalator.
He took me to the local favorites around Prague. A cozy local pub, a few hidden corners in the city that tourists might have overlooked, and a beautiful park on a top of a hill. When he was working, I explored the city on my own, and it wasn’t long before I fell even deeper for Prague.
When it was time to leave, I reluctantly said goodbye. I made a promise to myself that I would be back someday, to this city of the thousand spires.
That ‘someday’ finally happened, more than 5 years later.
We arrived in Prague at the peak of the tourist season. It was 4 days before Christmas, so it wasn’t the best time to enjoy some peace and quiet. For my part, I was longing to experience a full-blown Christmas, so Prague seemed like a good idea.
And what’s a better way to start than going to the Christmas market at the Old Town Square?
The locals might avoid this place during Christmas, but it’s a magnet for tourists. The smell of delicious trdelník and grilled ham wafted from every corner, luring us to try these delicacies. A huge Christmas tree stood proudly on one side, in front of the towers and spires of the Church of Our Lady before Týn.
But it wasn’t long before we found ourselves longing for a quieter place. With the intention to walk away from the crowd, we went to Wenceslas Square. Alas, this place was no less crowded than the Old Town Square.
Soon we would know that as long as we were in the Old Town, there would be no escape from the crowd.
The Vltava River
One of my favorite moments of this trip was our morning stroll along the Vltava River. It was still quite early, and while there were some tourists already, it was far from the mass we usually encountered during our stay.
I will never forget the first sight of the other side. The view the castle, the spires, and the terracotta-colored roofs will forever be etched in my mind.
We went to the other side, and it wasn’t until I saw it that I remembered, the castle side actually had a better view of the city.
We went to the Clementinum on Christmas day. The only thing I wanted to see was the Baroque Library Hall, but I was glad to learn more about this place and the history. The Baroque Library Hall was beyond my expectation; grandiose interior, stunning fresco, and books stacked from the floor up to the ceiling. To my disappointment, we were only allowed to have a look at the door, but even from there I could see the magnificence of this library.
I also enjoyed our tour guide’s explanation about Prague’s best scientists, and it blew my mind that they were so advanced beyond their years. We were shown the equipment they used to measure time and observe the sun, and all the while, I kept thinking, ‘Where did they get the idea?’ Even a practical thing like a ladder was brilliantly amazing; it was a ladder that could be turned into a shelf, a chair, or a table. With that ladder alone, a scientist was quite well-equipped, furniture-wise.
I was already satisfied with this visit at this point, but it wasn’t all. The best surprise awaited us at the top of the astronomical tower: a 360-degree view of the city.
After battling in the bloodbath that was the Old Town and the Charles Bridge, seeing the city from here restored my fondness of Prague. The wind was no joke though. We had to half-shout to talk to each other, but I felt peaceful nonetheless.
Prague from Above
From the castle
Since I’ve covered most of the touristy bits in my first trip, I was more laid back this time. We went up to the castle just for the view, and it didn’t disappoint.
We stumbled upon this lady on our way up to the castle. She was playing the harp softly, and there was something in her voice that stunned me. For a few minutes, I just stood there, listening to her and feeling a lump in my throat.
Another pleasant surprise from Prague.
From Letná Hill
I was lucky to have come here with my good friend Maša, who had lived in Prague for a while. On our penultimate day, she took us to Letná Hill, which promised a spectacular view of the city. We got to the park on top of the hill, and after huffing and puffing (the steep hill made me realize I was so out of shape), I finally took out my camera to take (many) photos.
It was freezing that day, and the early morning mist still surrounded the town, making it look even more whimsical from here.
What a beauty.
All the monuments and renowned old buildings were quick to catch people’s attention, including mine. The exhilaration upon seeing medieval remnants made me overlook some of the more modern – but no less interesting – objects. It wasn’t until my second day that I started to notice a few quirks that this city had to offer.
I found a lot more quirky things in Prague, but unfortunately, I didn’t take any photo (why, Dixie? Why?). But I hope these 2 pictures show my point.
The Colorful Walls
You might have noticed that I have a penchant (borderline obsession) for colorful walls. Well, Prague was full of it. It made my Prague folder a lot more eye-catching, and my heart a lot happier.
Prague at Night
Prague at night was just as stunning, in a different way. The yellow lights shining on the old buildings almost made it feel like we were back in the old days. The atmosphere was warm and friendly. The twinkling Christmas lights adorned the trees, the chatter and clinks from breweries and pubs nearby added to the lively vibe of the town.
There was one night when we wandered around quite late (around 11 pm), and the place was MUCH nicer without the crowd.
In my second visit to Prague opened my eyes to a few less-than-ideal things about the city, among them were the taxi scams and the grim vibe of some suburban residential areas with the utilitarian buildings and Soviet remnants. Prague during Christmastime was certainly pretty, but less enjoyable with the crowd. The Charles Bridge from afar looked like there was a commotion going on there, and walking on it was definitely no picnic. I found my energy was drained mostly from walking through the crowd and avoiding selfie sticks who were always dangerously too close to my face.
Would I go to Prague again?
Yes, but next time I’ll probably avoid Christmastime.