Thursday, 30 June 2016

Prague

Czech Republic, 24th - 26th June 2016


Mala Strana
 
Our main reason for fitting the Czech Republic into this trip was to go to Prague, as it was a place we wanted to visit at some point and it had also been recommended by friends. We’d been enjoying the rest of the country with some interesting towns, being able to spend time sat out in the hot weather on cheap campsites, and the cheap beer and food. Now it was time for the main event though as we were nearing the capital city. Temperatures were soaring making it hotter than ideal really for exploring a large city but we stuck at it and enjoyed our couple of days here. It’s a nice city with a gothic, gritty feel and is a lively place with lots going on and plenty to see and do which kept us busy. Costs are reasonable for a capital city although more expensive than the rest of the country, roughly 50% more for camping, drinks and ice creams for example, but some lower priced places can be searched out.

After getting involved with watching and reading about the EU referendum outcome in the morning after it was announced we were a bit later than planned setting off to drive into Prague, or Praha as the Czechs call it. We arrived late morning to our chosen campsite out of many in the area. There were a couple of main areas we considered, one was the closest site on an island spithead in the Vltava River south of the centre, and the other was the Troja area to the north of the city where there are lots of small campsites that are essentially gardens of the large houses that have been converted. As we read the river can be noisy at night with party boats passing we opted for the Troja area which is only slightly further out, and selected a site based on price, reviews and photos. Camp Trojská (GPS: 50.11686 14.42771, 420 Kč/€15.30, Free WiFi & showers, Elec +80 Kč & water +50 Kč) is a very tidy well-kept site with about ten pitches and was a good choice. After being shown around by the elegantly dressed helpful English-speaking lady manager we bought a city map (25 Kč) and two single 30 min public transport tickets from her (24 Kč) with the plan to buy 24hr passes in the centre for 110 Kč each, which pay for themselves in five journeys. By getting about on foot the first day we ended up buying the 24hr tickets just before travelling home so they then lasted us for all the next day too.

Camp Trojská
Lots of campsites along here

After a quick lunch we walked the 500m to the end of the road to the tram stop and caught the number 17 into the centre which is only about a 15 minute journey. Temperatures were the hottest we’ve had this summer so far at around 34°C so I was already sweating by the time we got off the tram. The stop was near the Charles Bridge, one of the most famous monuments of Prague, so we headed here first and crossed over with the many tourists between the artists and stalls at the sides. We then spent this first day at the other side of the river. Walking around the streets of Malá Strana we were ready for our first cooling down of the day so found a cheap bar that was out of the main tourist thoroughfare and had a small pivo (beer) for only 22 Kč (80 cents/65p). Refuelled we went uphill to a park where Petřín Lookout Tower is located which is an observation tower that’s a small copy of the Eifel Tower but we didn’t go up as it was quite pricey. Instead we walked through the trees and looked at several viewpoints over the city.

Charles BridgeOne of the embassies
From one of a few shops in Malá Strana selling them, we sampled a Trdelník, a traditional Czech doughnut formed into a spiral making a tube/cup shape, and got ours filled with ice cream which was nice. Up at the castle we wandered around looking at the cathedral and more views out from here. Earlier I’d seen a sign advertising Happy Hour cocktails from 6-10pm for 79 Kč which is only about £2.40 so we searched the place out and refreshed ourselves again with a Mojito for me and a Cosmopolitan for Jo. Back at the campsite we got the chairs out and got online to look at the latest referendum news with a beer, before making use of the showers to remove our sticky coatings.

Charles Bridge and the Vltava river

Jewish cemetary
The next morning with another very hot day we got into town by about half 10 on the tram again and looked around the Jewish quarter (Josefov) with its synagogue and cemetery. From there we went into the Old Town Square where there were lots of Segway tour touts hanging about and a large group of people gathered by the Old Town Hall. It turned out we were just in time for the astronomical clock, the third oldest in the world and only operational one left, to chime its routine, then unusually the people applauded it afterwards. We walked through a market selling very expensive punnets of mixed fruit deceptively priced per 100g with probably 300-500g in each, no doubt catching a lot of people out when they pick them up to buy and find out it’s significantly more than expected. Taking a metro we looked at the unusual huge shiny rotating statue of Franz Kafka’s head, a writer that was born in the Jewish Quarter, got ice creams then another metro ride to Wenceslas Square by which point we were ready for lunch. Spotting a KFC we went in and gorged on a bucket of chicken and filled our refillable drinks several times, plus had to pay an extortionate price (10 Kč/30p!) for ketchup sachets.


Crowds at the astronomical clock


Making use of our travel passes again we got over to Vyšehrad, a tenth-century castle ruins with another park area within it, where the weather turned and we had to shelter under a tree from a big hailstorm and rain downpour that came down for a while. Once cleared we made our way to and along the Náplavka Riverbank with drink stalls along the walkway and party boats lined up, past the Dancing House and across the river onto Střelecky Ostrov island. There was a music festival going on with Jazz on one stage and rock on another that we walked through and saw a stand-off between a dog and a swan with the swan winning scaring the dog off with its widespread wings and hissing. On Kampa Island there were more stalls for the music event, then nearby we eventually found the John Lennon wall, a wall covered in graffiti. This goes back to the communist-era where residents looking for freedom of speech wrote messages after John Lennon’s death, and since layers of paint have built up as graffiti is continually added. A Chinese lady was painting on the wall, there were a lot of younger tourists here, and a guy playing a guitar singing Beatles songs. Sharing a whippy ice cream we walked to Wallenstein Garden, an early Baroque garden with geometric design with hedges and a large fountain, and some peacocks roaming around.

A grill party boat!
The Dancing House

The tram ride home was eventful as it terminated early pulling off the line into a side area, something the lady at the campsite had warned us happens sometimes with this service. We jogged over to the tram stop to catch the next one which we saw arriving, then after 5 minutes or so I noticed we passed a boat on the river I’d already seen, we’d got on the tram going back the way we’d come! After getting off and a wait at the next station we got going back the right way eventually. There was loud music coming from an event near to the campsite but later in the evening a lightning storm and heavy rain appeared which must’ve put a stop to it as it was quiet again and we had a good night’s sleep.


We got packed away and paid up just before the early 10am check out time and decided to head to a campsite not too far south of Prague by the Vltava river which should’ve been equivalent to around €7.50, to catch up on some blog and our diary writing, and rest after a tiring couple of days. This didn’t materialise in the end though! The site was more for a hotel block, camping huts and tents, along with an activity centre. There were no other motorhomes or caravans, there were lots of people about playing games on the camping area, and the WiFi didn’t work away from the building so we decided to give it a miss and try a ACSI site just along the road instead. At Camp Matyáš (GPS: 49.93207 14.37223, ACSI €13 +€0.80 Tourist tax) there were a lot of vans, almost all Dutch, and it looked a nice spot. Unusually for a Czech site it included everything; electric, WiFi, showers, service point, and water, although it is one of the more expensive ones we’ve stayed at.

Náplavka Riverbank
With there being a cycle path following the river all the way into Prague we decided to get the bikes out and go some way along it. There were lots of cyclists and skaters on this A2 cycleway. We kept going and going and ended up going the whole 20 km into Prague after we thought we’d seen the last of the city. At the Náplavka Riverbank again I got a grilled hotdog from one of the stalls then we went to a gelato shop which where we got some very nice gelato. By the time we’d got back and had a beer it was dinner time so that was the day gone so we still had some catching up to do.

Camp Matyáš overlooking the Vltava
We liked the kitchen cabin that was good inspiration for a tiny house

From here it was time to continue west with a couple more places to see before leaving Czech.

- Matt

Prague old town square

1 comment :

  1. Beautiful pictures and great information ☺

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