22 Jan The Spooky City of Prague
Dark, narrow cobble-stoned alleys with marionette puppets glaring at you from behind smoky windows…gargoyles and bats hovering over you from the sides of old buildings shaded black with age…underground passages with bars on windows and lanterns eerily lit leading to secret waterways…an old astronomical clock that chimes every hour with a skeleton pulling the cord…what can be more spooky than this? On my recent trip to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, I was constantly looking over my shoulder expecting to see gargoyles chasing me down the street.
The last time I visited Prague – about 20 years ago – it was spooky for another reason: it was still under communist control. We exchanged money in a bus on the side of the road with a sketchy man who jumped on the bus, exchanged our money, and then promptly raced away. Our passports were taken to be “safely held” at the hotel. Our rooms were bugged. Armed guards patrolled the streets. We were served water, bread, and a few slices of meat for breakfast. Then we dined elegantly at a state-sponsored dinner in the evening. We were told not to go outside alone after dark. The nerves nagging at me overshadowed the gargoyles staring at me.
Prague, with its stunning Gothic architecture and dark history, may be branded spooky in my memories, but I also see its great beauty. It is a city of contrasts. It is intriguing and glorious. It is mysterious and friendly. It is dark and light. It is magical and modern. With a vibrant economy, Prague is a welcoming Eastern European destination. Experience the stunning architecture of Prague Castle with the awe-inspiring Cathedral of St Vitus and the picturesque Golden Lane with its tiny cottages (now the home of many cute gift shops). Walk across the Charles Bridge bustling with tourists and vendors and take in the amazing sculptures from the late 1600’s and early 1700’s. Stop and listen to the street musicians while sampling Trdelnik hot sugar-sprinkled pastries. Stroll through Staromestke Namesti (Old Town Square) at night and take in the Disneyesque-lit spires of Church of Our Lady of Tyn. Visit Czech Tradition and Manufaktura for traditional Czech gifts made by skilled Czech artisans, shop for Czech crystal and, if you dare, bring home a spooky marionette. – Lisa