At the time we are writing this post, we are heading towards our next destination : Hungary. It is a long bus ride of 7 1/2 hours during which the kids can play video games or watch their favorite show: The Flash. The European transport system is effective and it offers several options of train or bus routes crisscrossing the old continent. We took the train from Krakow to Prague but now it’s the bus that appeared to be the most economical option for us to get to Hungary. With electrical outlets, Internet, water bottles and magazines we are super comfortable and the children are not complaining 😉 It is good to have a relaxing day and be able to enjoy the scenery.
Our week in Prague was wonderful and went by much to quick again. The boys have let us known that they wanted to take it more slowly during our stay in Czech Republic and this is what we did. It is true that so far we have not taken much time to relax and do nothing. We want to make the most of what each city has to offer, but at the same time we can’t do as if we were on vacation and that we will go back home after two weeks. We have to prioritize our activities so we don’t exhaust ourselves and avoid that the children get sick of traveling. But there is so much to see… We will have to find a good balance. We took our time eating breakfast at home this week before leaving our “home” to discover what Prague had to offer.
Prague, also known as the city of 100 spires is one of the most popular destinations in Europe and after wandering in the old town that was literally overrun by tourists, we understood why. The old town is majestic and it’s very interesting to get lost in the maze of medieval streets dating back 500 years. One of the most popular attraction of the old town is the astronomical clock. Dating from 1490, the clock offers a puppet show every hour to the delight of small and big kids. Then you must see Charles Bridge with its 14th century artistic and architectural stunning beauty. It is a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Vltava River. We’ve read that it’s better to go there early in the morning or at the end of day, which of course we haven’t done;)
Apparently, it’s in Prague that we can visit the largest castle in the world, the Prague Castle, another UNESCO site. It was the activity that Kolya absolutely wanted to do after reading about it in his book “The travel book”. On the site of the Castle, we visited the St Vitus Cathedral which is majestic. The stained glass windows inside the Cathedral are breathtaking and it is possible to observed a magnificent Art Nouveau stained-glass window realized by Alfons Mucha. We had previously learned more about Mucha at a Museum bearing the same name. At the Castle, we took the basic tour which included four attractions, our boys preferred the “Golden Lane” that brought us to visit the mini houses dedicated to the defenders and servants of the Castle. There were, of course, an exhibition on weapons and medieval armors to the delight of the boys. The Castle site is large enough and there is enough to do to spend a full day there if you spend some time in the gardens. The entrance on the ground castle is free, but in order to enter any of the buildings, you need to pay a fee.
Near the old town, we took the time to explore the site of Vysehrad Castle. Within its walls, next to the Basilica of St Peter and St Paul, we walked in the Vysehrad cemetery. The monuments were beautiful. It is in this cemetery that is buried amongst others Alfons Mucha. On Vysehrad hill, there is also a park where the kids were able to have a little fun.
After our experience at Auswitchtz, we felt that we were missing a little something. We wanted to see the interior of a concentration camp building and it’s in this context that we’ve headed to Terezin to visit a model concentration camp used by the Nazis to show Red Cross how the prisoners were “well” treated. It’s also in this place where the Nazis have filmed their movie of positive propaganda about life in the ghetto, and sent all the “actors” straight to the death camps right after. The Terezín memorial consisted of two parts. There is the small fortress which is a prison, dating from the 18th century, that served as the Prague Gestapo prison in WW2. The large fortress, was a garrison town until it became the ghetto during the second world war. Today, the city of Terezín is back again in this place. If you ever want to visit, you would really need a full day to go around all of what Terezín Memorial can offer. We took a French tour with an excellent guide with whom we learned a lot about this tragic place. The buildings have been left intact, and while there were no gas chamber at this location, Terezin was the place where political prisoners were kept and tortured by the S.S. We were able to visit the interior of the buildings which made us shivers and left a lump in our throat. We complete our WW2 chapter by watching ” Life is beautiful” (we know it’s Italian) which has aged very well since both our kids adored the movie.
From Prague, we made another day trip, this time to Benesov and visited Konopiště Castle that belonged to the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. It was his assassination that triggered the first world war. Arriving at the Castle, we were surprised to see the price of the tours. It was necessary to pay for each parts of the Castle that you want to visit, We opted for a single tour which was long enough for the children. After watching the Rick Steves video on his visit to the Castle, we decided to go on with the hunting tour. Ferdinand was a enthusiastic hunter and he was recognized as one of the best shooter of the world. We have seen some 100 000 hunting trophies scattered throughout Konopiště Castle as well as his collection of weapons. The site of the Castle was beautiful and had an area of 225 hectares consisting of gardens, greenhouses and Italian statues and we enjoyed a long walk in the shade of the trees. On the Castle ground, for a small fee, it was possible to try “real” weapons and children loved their experience to shoot with bow and crossbow. The only downside about this visit was that there were no French or English tour available at the time of our visit and we had the join a Czech guided tour. We would have liked to learn more… but with all those hunting trophies, we kind of got the point.
We ended our visit to Prague by the activity chosen by Hugo, favorite after boat paddling that the other family members did not want to do, we visited the Technical National Museum. The boys appreciated this Museum and there were a little something for everyone from transportation, architecture to astronomy.
Prague offer several “traditional” Czech restaurants in every districts. We tasted a few times their famous goulash as well as their dumplings (kind of steamed bread). Since the beer market is dominated by the delicious beer Pilsner Urquel, we drank a beer or two pretty much every day, sometimes to save ourselves from the rain and often for fun.
Yet once again, we left an extraordinarily pretty city , still amazed by about we did. All the same, we know that we’ve only touched on a small part that the Czech Republic had to offer. We sincerely feel that we are very lucky and we are grateful to life for letting us have this incredible experience.