I can’t speak for everyone but, not many Canadians know European geography very well. I have to say that before I moved to Europe, I didn’t know much. I have just returned from Prague, which is the capital city of the Czech Republic. Not Czechoslovakia. The Czech Republic and Slovakia are separate countries and neither of them are part of Russia. The Czech Republic shares its western border the Germany, its eastern border with Slovakia, its southern border with Austria and Hungary, and its northern border with Poland. Now that we know where it is, I can tell you about my trip to this Eastern European country.
Entering the outskirts of Prague by car, I got the feeling of being in Central Europe. The power lines overhanging the road, the many billboards and other advertisements in the Czech language, small older cars and the red trams rolling by. Looking left and right, I could see Prague’s breadth. The sunlight illuminating the brightly coloured buildings. Pink ones, peach ones, pastel green and blue, they all look like doll houses. I immediately felt cheerful in Prague which is so colourful and bright compared to the grey Brussels. I realized that I hadn’t seen the sun in a few months, luckily I’m not one of those people who gets depressed from not seeing the sun. Seeing it again and feeling its warmth was an extra little present.
Being an almost seasoned traveller to European cities, I didn’t marvel at the grandness of the central square with its tower and old church. I couldn’t fully appreciate its beauty because of being accustomed to the layout of European cities. But I did gaze at the astronomical clock which is itself a piece of art so intricate in its details. It was dark when I arrived in the centre. There happened to be a wine festival and luckily I got to taste the Czech “donuts” and other goodies like fire roasted potatoes and a glass of red wine. I ate more and tried more things in the Czech Republic than on any vacation I’ve taken so far. I’d have to say that the definitely have great food and it all has a very homely feel. It’s like eating traditional food made by someone’s grandma. The really good stuff.
I sat inside the Saint Nicholas Church, which was truly beautiful. Its sky-high ceiling was painted with pastel colours and the oversized crystal chandelier hanging down over the wooden seats was like a dream. A happy place to be with the organ music in the background and everyone admiring it quietly. The Notre Dame churches and other cathedrals I’ve visited in Europe so far have been cold and dark. To me this church felt Godly.
After the calming experience in the church, I walked down to the Jewish area. Seeing David’s star in the windows of shops and I peeked into the window of a synagogue. It looked like an older house on the outside and the inside, the part that I could see, was like a cave. I noticed that in this part of Prague the buildings were even more decorated and elaborate.
I walked back towards the centre to make my way to the Charles Bridge. Coming up the hill I could see the bridge tower and once I got to level ground, I could see the curve of the cobblestone bridge and the hoard of people. What I didn’t understand is why it was so crowded with tourists in November. I thought it would be much quieter like the serene photos they have on the internet with the pretty fog.
I walked up to the Prague Castle, which isn’t actually a physical castle as I have seen in other European countries so far. The Prague Castle is actually like a closed-off village. It has the St. Vitus Cathedral, which is what you see from the distance. Luckily they allow you to enter and see the immensity that is the high ceilings and the stained glass windows. It is known as the largest castle in the world.
I walked down Golden Street, with its brownish-red walled buildings and beautiful wall lamps. I walked down from the Cathedral so I think I missed the upper half of the Castle. But I hope that I will return to Prague one day and I will see the rest.
The most overwhelming part was my visit to the Strahov Library. The hike up the hill to the Strahov Monastery is part of the experience and adds to the excitement. The street is a postcard at sunset. I entered the library to find that one of the main halls was under construction. However, I still got to see the book shelves with book covers made from tree bark and the pages were made of very thick wood-paper. The books looked white. Maybe because of the type of bark used for the covers or because they were so old. I stood in front of the the other main hall of the library. It was unreal to see the dreamy painted ceilings and the expensive wooden bookshelves. The shiny globes and the open books. The cool air and blueish light enhanced the feeling of awe.
Prague is the city to see. Its the Queen of Cities. Even though it doesn’t have the massive Grote Market seen in Brussels or an actual castle, its unique charm, architecture, and the great food is something not to be missed. This European city definitely has its own flavour. I’m very happy I visited it in November (wintertime) rather than in the summer. I think Prague is meant to be explored bundled up in a scarf and hat.