© 2012; 2003-2004 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Melody Moser. Information
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Connecting in Prague Part 2 – A Solo Travel Report

By Melody Moser

Sightseeing Solo in and Around Prague

Prague Castle: I took tram 22 up Hradèany Hill to Prague Castle high above the Vltava River. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it is the largest ancient castle in the world. It took me a whole day to see this huge complex of houses, towers, churches, gardens, and monuments

Vladislav Hall is my favorite room in the Old Royal Palace. Serving as the seat of Bohemian princes, its vaulted ceilings oversaw many royal banquets, coronations, and even jousting contests – of all things! That explained the Riders’ Staircase (Jezdecké Schody) leading into the room. Wide, shallow steps made it easy for knights on horseback to negotiate the stairs. I followed in their footsteps down the stairs and outside to see St Vitus Cathedral.

St Vitus Cathedral is the dominating feature of Prague Castle and of Old Town, its many Gothic towers adding to the city’s spire-studded skyline. The kings of Bohemia were crowned and buried here, and it houses the crown jewels and the tomb of “Good King” Wenceslas. The church is so richly decorated with Renaissance paintings, gold, jewels, and priceless artworks, you might find yourself overwhelmed by extravagance and prefer, as I did, to leave it behind for a stroll down Golden Lane.

Golden Lane (Zlatá Ulicka): No rosy cherubs, statues, or vaulted ceilings here. Miniature cafés, shops, and cottages line the lane. Less luxurious but just as reminiscent of a fairytale setting as the Castle itself, this dead-end street dates to Rudolf II von Habsburg’s reign (17th century). A strange recluse, he is said to have dabbled in the science of alchemy. In fact, alchemists who fell out of favor were imprisoned in the White Tower that guards the lane’s west side. More recently artists and writers lived here, including the existentialist writer Franz Kafka who stayed in number 22 from 1916-1917.

Charles Bridge: Dating from the 14th century, Charles Bridge connects Prague Castle and the Little Quarter (Malá Strana) to Old Town (Staré Mesto). Legend says that it withstood wheeled traffic for 600 years due to its mortar being mixed with eggs. Pedestrianized since WWII, the bridge is always busy with strollers admiring its baroque towers, statues of saints, city views, or browsing among artists who sell their work along the walkway. Under the bridge, Kampa Island sits peacefully. Sometimes called “Prague’s Venice,” you may see canoes here in good weather but no gondolas.

Wenceslas Square (Václavské Námestí): A 10-minute walk from Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square in New Town (Nové Mesto), originally a horse market, now has modern shops and, in December, a Christmas market.

Jewish Museum in Prague: I haven’t yet found the time to tour these Prague “must-sees,” but they are certainly on my list next time. Exhibits are located in six historic sites in the heart of Old Town: Maisal Synagogue, Spanish Synagogue, Klausen Synagogue, Pinkas Synagogue (under repair after 2002 flood), the Old Jewish Cemetery dating from the 15th century and adjoining Ceremonial Hall.

Day Trips from Prague

Karlštejn Castle about 40 minutes

Founded in 1348, Karlštejn Castle stands upon a crag overlooking the Berounka river and the town of Karlštejn. You may tour the king’s audience hall, bedchamber, and the Marian tower where you'll see a replica of St Wenceslas' crown. Take the train from Prague's Smíchov Station. The castle is a two km walk uphill, or take a horse-drawn carriage ride from the parking lot.

Kone prusy Caves about 90 minutes

The largest system of caves in Bohemia, created by the impact of water on Paleozoic limestone rocks. They contain 600 meters of passages open to the general public. Take a bus from Prague's Radlicka Station.

Karlovy Vary, 2 hours, 20 minutes

Surrounded by wooded hills, Karlovy Vary is one of the largest and best known spa towns in the Czech Republic.Twelve healing springs cure metabolic disorders. They are also used for inhalations and baths. Bohemian porcelain and Moser glassware are produced here, and the town hosts theater, musical events, and one of the world's oldest film festivals in July. Walking paths traverse the hills. Take a bus from Prague's Florenc Bus Station.

Ceský Krumlov, 3 hours, 30 minutes

Hugged by the Vltava River, Ceský Krumlov is one of Europe's most beautiful towns. Its château is the second largest in the Czech Republic. Choose among five sightseeing routes in the château; also visit St Vitus' Church, and some of the town's museums. Take a bus from Prague's Roztyly Station.

Kutná Hora about 1 hour

This silver mining town was the most important town, after Prague, in the 1200's. Visit the Czech Silver Museum in Hradek (The Small Castle) for an interesting illustration of the town's history. You may put on period miners' clothes and descend to an underground silver mine. Also see the Italian Court, a former royal residence, and the Jesuit College. Take a train from Prague's Main Railway Station (Hlavní Nádrazí).

Konopište Château, 80 minutes

This château was built more than 700 years ago as a fortress modeled on French castles. Five sightseeing routes lead through the château, shooting range, Baroque Rose Garden, and English Park. See a falconry display, or take a horse-drawn carriage ride. Keep your eye out for the ghostly figure of a white lady and a dog. Take a bus from Prague's Roztyly Station to Benesov, then change to the bus to Konopištì. Or take the train from Prague's Main Railway Station to Benesov, then the bus.

Krivoklát Castle, 2 hours,10 minutes

This castle originated as a hunting lodge for the monarchy between 1240 and 1270. In the 16th century it served as a prison where the alchemist Edward Kelly (who failed to deliver the recipe for turning base metal into gold) was locked up by the Emperor Rudolf. Visit the chapel, Knights' Hall, Royal Hall, the Fürstenberg library, dungeon, and museum. Don't miss the great views from the Huderka Tower, or the surrounding walking trails. Take a bus from Prague's Hradèanská Station.

Slapy about 45 minutes

The Vltava River’s cascades were first mentioned in the Bohemian King Charles IV's memoirs. A dam built in Slapy in 1954 created a popular recreational area where a lake with romantic bends and beautiful scenery is a haven for water-sports lovers. Walking along trails surrounding the lake makes a nice day away from the city. Take a bus from Prague's Na Knízecí Station. Or take a steamboat from Rašínovo Quay.

MM

See also: Connecting in Prague – One Enchanted Evening
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