Most of Prague is out in the elements, including the pickpockets. Exposed for the entire world to see, when high temperatures reach 7° Celsius, spotting those pickpockets on the Charles Bridge becomes a favorite pastime. Linking Prague’s neighborhoods of Staré Mesto and Malá Strana, the Charles Bridge has its own, built in pickpocket control, countless statues. The shadows created by the statues draw crowds on the 510-meter long pedestrian bridge crossing the Vitava River.
Its construction hails from the 14th century. As legend would have it, it is supposedly so sturdy because the builders mixed eggs in the mortar. Far from walking on eggshells, minus when passing a heavy set man with ski cap who is clearly on the prowl for wallets and purses, it is hard not to enjoy this bridge by day and night.
With purse intact and a new way to find amusement in Prague, I head for the Prague Castle, an enormous hilltop complex filled with churches, courtyards and monuments. The changing of the guards is taking place, more for the tourists than anything else. I watch as a few guards fumble with their marching dance, trying to hide their smiles.
Within the Prague Castle complex is St. Vitus Cathedral, named for the 4th century Sicilian martyr. I am drawn to its gothic construction, even if the façade is its newest addition. The church has stood here in some form since construction began in 926 A.D.
Step right through the doors and a sea of tourists mingles behind the barricade rope. They bump into each other and snap away. I can’t really blame the crowds for congregating here. The cathedral’s stained glass windows put any window to shame. I wouldn’t mind looking through such color each and every day.
Just outside the castle complex is one of my favorite views of Prague. I had thought the crowds would be minimal in the city with such frigid temperatures. However the cold does not deter the countless couples walking hand and hand, observing such a view. The snow almost looks strategically placed on rooftops.
I hole up for the night in Prague’s Malá Strana neighborhood. Quiet and postcard worthy, its name means “Lesser Town”. However none the lesser is this piece of Prague, littered with streets so cobbled, you have to be careful not to slip and fall with its coating of snow.
I duck into a restaurant for some warmth and a meal. I am served the house specialty, Czech beer. The Czech Republic supposedly has the highest beer consumption per capital in the world. The country as a result has produced some of the most famous brews, including the Pilsner Urquell, the world’s first pilsner. When in Prague, drink up.
Perhaps to the delight of my waiter, looking to poke fun at a tourist, he offers me a digestif, an after dinner swig of Czech liquor. Not wanting to be rude, I agree to one of the many bottles he juggles in his hands. Moments later and laughter from the kitchen, I’m served my after dinner drink in a glass fit for a fish.
Home to Bohemian kings, classical composers, Soviet and Nazi invasion, Czech’s capital has seen it all from its 1,000 spires. It is a city for strolling, where the architecture takes on Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau styles. Weather and pickpocket permitting, I could soak up the details for hours in Prague.
Have you been to Prague?