Saturday, July 12, 2014

[PRAGUE] Thou Shall Not Skip Prague

So I’ve heard you are going to Central Europe for a holiday? I have three words for you: Prague, Vienna, Budapest. If you are the type who easily gets impressed by the awesome photo-ops a place could offer, then these three would just be the perfect combo for you. But yeah, of those three it was in Prague where I came this close to running out of phone memory because, to reiterate, each time you round a corner, there is a photo begging to be taken. The place is photogenic like that.

Coming out of Palladium with a full stomach, I was contemplating on going back to the hostel to sleep, which I thought was a stupid idea because if I wanted to sleep I could have just stayed in Vienna and avoided the expenses I incurred for this trip. So no way, we are taking a stroll, my friend. I first had to take in the scenery and digest everything. Yes, this is not a dream. We are in Prague. Hooray, me! Around me, a good mix of buildings both old and new beckoned to have their photos taken.

The thing about Central Europe is that they have a lot of these fancy buildings left and right, and at the end of the day you just appreciate them for what they look like and forget to inquire what they are actually used for. Perhaps it is safe to assume that most of them are commercial spaces, although I have seen many similar structures in Vienna which are used for residential purposes. You remember when someone told you that Europe is one big open air museum? Prague further reinforces that claim.

I could see domes from afar as well as tourists multiplying. Not having a map in places like this is not really a problem, for getting lost and just following the flow of pedestrian traffic would suffice to bring you where you really have to be. The particular journey that afternoon culminated at the Old Town Center which is without a doubt the center of all things touristy in this city. But of course, we pass by interesting sights before we get there.

There is this building which has a big fresco underneath its green dome. The place is called PROMS, and I don’t have the slightest idea as to what it really is. It is also near this building where you see a bust of Fryderyk Chopin pinned on some random wall and staring catatonically at you. There is also this tower thingy which serves as the entrance to an alley where most of the souvenir shops and tourist traps are. It is also where you find some high-end shops like Swarovski.

Perhaps there are cheaper places in Prague where you can buy souvenirs but I have this bad habit of getting them at the first souvenir shop I encounter. Hey, I just want to make sure that I have my mom’s souvenir plates secured. I could be forgetful at times. By the way, do not be surprised if the tourists suddenly start multiplying. Speculating that they lay super saiyan eggs that hatch into full grown tourists in minutes is plausible, but a simpler explanation is that we are getting closer to the Old Town Square.

One indication that you have finally reached this tourist hotbed would be the twin towers of what seems to be a church; that and a pizzeria in front of it. Once you reach that point, you'll then a have a full view of the town square if you take a few more steps forward. You'll be seeing another tower straight ahead. That is where the giant clocks are located. But before you go there, why not explore the immediate surroundings first?

I’m not sure if it only happens on weekends but there are circus acts aplenty across the Old Town Square. The first one I saw was a clown masquerading as a baby in a stroller. It'd have been freaky if the setting was different but that clown seemed popular with the children on that sunny day. You also have men dressed up as moving statues. Of course, the lineup would not be complete without musicians giving you an impromptu concert. Bohemian it is.

The square is small and you could easily see its entirety regardless on which side you find yourself. The centerpiece is a collection of statues of people who must be relevant to Czech history and society. Why put them there otherwise! It's easy to get a good photo of those statues with any of the churches as the background. The main obstacle you'll have to face, though, are the other tourists. Given Prague’s popularity, perhaps it is an everyday thing.

Aside from churches, you'll also see a lot of restaurants which would obviously be overpriced because of the clientele that they serve. I'd take advantage of the throngs of tourists too if I had a restaurant in that area. Imagine all the customers you could get, all of them tired, hungry, and seeking temporary refuge from the sun. Ka-ching, ka-ching! Those who are not lucky enough to get seats would be resting on the pavement in a drastic attempt to relax.

That church I told you about earlier, it is a famous tourist attraction because of the astronomical clock gracing its façade. Aside from the castle as viewed from the bridge over the river, this astronomical clock is perhaps one of the most commonly used backdrops as far as Prague selfies are concerned. Good luck finding a spot to call your own.

The city also has working trams, which reminded me a bit of Lisbon. Don’t you just love how trams lend that old school kind of flair to cities like this? But then again, these trams are outside the Old Town Square. If you want to go on a ride at the plaza, they do have horse-drawn carriages for your convenience. But yeah, I bet they are also overpriced. Just walk! This city is best enjoyed on foot, believe me.

Wandering around various alleys and main roads would lead to finding more hidden treasures mostly in the form of buildings which serve as a good reminder of Old Bohemia's glory days. Loitering at the Old Town Square is not really recommended unless you love being surrounded by swarms of tourists. Get lost, and enjoy being lost. This is Prague, dude. There is something magnificent at every corner. Or if getting lost is not your thing, then you could always go to the castle.

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