There’s no doubt that Prague is a proud city.
Look above the stores and offices at the grandeur of the buildings in faded pinks and greys and greens; their delicate filigree balconies; some glinting with Art Nouveau gilt.
Walk over the Charles Bridge on a chilly January day like today, the weak, wintry sun sparkling on the magnificent Vltava River. Catch the mesmerising silver Kafka sculpture; all 42 mobile tiers of this 39 ton marvel, moving in sequence. Proud, and stunning.
Alongside the pride; there’s wealth. A cab ride from the airport whisks you past gleaming supercar showrooms. Not just for show either; they’re selling. In the city, you hear the five litres of lucre throb past you before you see it. Maybe the city hasn’t reached the wealthy heights of La Belle Epoque, but you definitely get the feeling that this city is thriving.
There is a hint of bleakness, though. Did it come just from the biting chill of a two degree day? Or, just maybe, the ghosts of the nation’s oppressed past haven’t quite all departed. But, with only one day to experience Prague we focus on its best bits … warming, comforting coffees; steaming, tender goulash served in crusty loaves; street performers in the Old Town Square and the breathtaking city vista from the castle after a similarly breathtaking 200 step climb.
We spot a five Trabant convoy, which puts a smile on our faces. As does a colourful and frantic brass band competition – where the winners must be judged on enthusiasm, rather than necessarily musical skill. It’s also Presidential election day and we see loads of cardboard cut outs of one of the candidates proudly protruding from litter bins.
Short of time before our bus, we jump in a taxi to spiral us back down to our hotel. January’s quiet here; but you sense the visiting party people are never far away. A girl holds her friend’s head still while she fixes a garish, fluffy, hen-party tiara in position. Whilst that young lady embarks on her journey to build her nest, for us empty nesters, it was a glorious 4-mile stroll around the highlights.
We’ll come back to Prague soon, to give it the time and respect it deserves. But for now, it’s time to board our bus.
Southern Bohemia beckons.
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