We chose to go on a 4 day city break to Prague, and a few weeks beforehand decided to cancel our flight home and extend our break to another 4 days in Krakow, Poland. My grandfather was originally born in a small village in Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) before moving to the UK and so it was a place I had always wanted to go, and Aimee wasn’t gonna turn down the chance to tick another country off the list. So Czech Republic it was.
Our flight from Edinburgh to Prague was delayed by a couple of hours, meaning
I got to drink more Staropramen it was dark by the time we got to the hotel. We stayed in Design Hotel Josef, which was really nice btw, in Prague’s Old Town. After checking in and dumping our luggage we decided to go on a wander around the Old Town and see where we were in relation to the Old Town Square (5 min walk) and Charles Bridge (10 min walk). Perfect. We stopped at Hard Rock Cafe for a bite to eat.. I know, I know! We usually try to sample as much local food as we can and avoid big chain restaurants when away but getting a HRC magnet is a bit of a tradition for Aimee, and she’ll go into it a bit more later on, and we were pretty tired and hungry by this point. After our frowned upon, but still tasty, chain restaurant burger we walked to Charles Bridge, it was dark and very busy but we knew we’d get a better view and photo ops another day anyway. We went to the Ice Bar, which was cold but I got another beer so was quite happy. If you’ve never been to one then it’s quite cool (pardon the pun!) but a bit of a gimmick and not exactly a ‘must do’ if you go somewhere with one. You’re just having a drink in the cold and have 20 mins to drink it really. Then walked back to the hotel, with a stop off to take in the charm of the Old Town Square and Astronomical Clock.
We got up early for breakfast in the hotel and then made our way to the ‘Powder Tower‘, so called because the Nazi’s used to store their gunpowder in it during the war, which was the meeting point for the first of our 2 walking tours for that day, World War II in Prague. (As you will come to realise when you read our posts a LOT of our travelling in Europe will revolve around learning more about WWII in some way.) We’d also researched a bit of history in Prague before and visited a memorial site to the Czech Resistance against the Nazis during WWII. This is where 2 Czech patriots, responsible for assassinating Reinhard Heydrich (The Butcher of Prague), lost their lives at the hands of German forces in the crypt of a church. You can still see the bullet holes round the window to this day!
We then stopped at a quaint Czech bar on the outskirts of the old town for some local delicacies before our next walking tour at night time, a ghost tour in the underground vaults below the main square. Not as interesting as the WWII tour but still quite informative and fun to do. We also went to a funky, little underground Reggae Bar and then back to bed as we were shattered and had a lot planned for the next day.
Up early again to go to the train station to pick up our hire car for our road trip to the Czech countryside. The rental company got the booking mixed up, so instead of the VW Golf we’d reserved we ended up with a Skoda Citigo.. But we got free Sat Nav and didn’t have to fill up the tank before handing it back so it worked out alright. Also, as if the Hitler didn’t do enough bad s**t back in the day, we also found out it was he who changed Czechoslovakia’s roads from the way we’re used to in the UK to driving on the opposite side. Nice one, Adolf. As if dodging trams in my glorified go-kart wasn’t tough enough I have to do it on the opposite side of the road cause of you!
We made it out slowly but unscathed and set the Sat Nav for the tiny village of Minkovice about 2 hours North of Prague in the Visnova region, and just 1km from the Polish border. Along the way we stopped at some of the places my father told me were his father’s favourite to visit when he was younger. These were Frydlant Castle (Zamek Frydlant) and a restaurant called Obri Sud which literally translates to Giant Barrel and you’ll see why from the pictures. Not realising quite how small a place Minkovice was (just a few dozen houses and there wasn’t even a local store) we didn’t spend too much time there, although we did stop at the house where my grandfather was born and grew up which was the main aim of my journey to this country.
Our last day in Prague began with another walking tour, this time learning more about communism in the Czech capital and going away from the main tourist attractions of the city centre to venture into an underground nuclear bunker which was so cool, and we’d definitely recommend it. On our return to the centre we trudged the steps up to Prague Castle which is a little bit of a trek but definitely the best way to see it and you get some great views over the city on your way up, and getting there feels that bit more rewarding. I dunno why, but I really like looking out over the orangey coloured rooftops that a lot of European cities seem to have and it makes for some lovely looking photos!
Afterwards we went to a medieval themed restaurant near the castle called Krčma U sedmi Švábů (Tavern of The Seven Swabians) for our last traditional Czech meal. The walk down from the castle was much easier than the way up, even with a full stomach! Once at the bottom we made our way to the John Lennon Peace Wall, and thought it’d be rude not to go into the John Lennon Pub close by. Gotta make the most of the last drops of genuine, local brewed Czech beer since it’s the last time I’d get it for a while!
We got up waaaay earlier than I would have liked, 4.30am to be precise, but we had a train to catch to begin the next leg of our journey. However there was a plus side to getting up as this ridiculous time in the morning, and that was getting to see sun rise from the Charles Bridge as well as getting photos of this and the Old Town Square with next to nobody else about (except the stragglers that hadn’t quite made it home from the night before.. I salute you!)
We hurried along to the train station, getting lost en route (too early for us!) But we made it and boarded the train to take us on the next stretch, heading for Krakow in Poland.
Czech Republic, you were a blast. A beautiful country, bursting full of tradition and history, stunning architecture and there really is something for everyone. It’s somewhere we are 100% going to be returning to in the future… Once a few more countries are ticked off ‘the list’.