Czeching It Out.
As February half term approached more and more countries were relaxing their COVID releated entry rules making travel easier. Unfortunately we had tickets for the Eurostar to Brussels and Belgium was one of the countries that was still insisting on a period of quarantine upon entry, and that effectively meant that the majority of our trip would be spent within our hotel room. Luckily Eurostar were one of the better transport companies when it came to amending bookings and so we were able to push the Belgian trip back to October. But now we had to decide on an alternative. The starting point was to look at entry restrictions on a country by country basis and from this a short list was drawn up before the final decision was made, a long overdue revisit to Prague. We’d only previously had one night there on one of our grand European Road Trips so it was about time we spent a bit longer exploring (drinking).
We arrived at Prague Airport mid morning, and as we weren’t in a rush we picked up a 3 day travel card from the Tourist Information desk and then caught a bus and local train in to the city followed by a short walk to our hotel. We arrived well before the designated check-in time but luckily they said that they had a room ready so we were able to relax a bit after our early start and make a kind of plan for the rest of the day. On our previous visit we had done the main sites so the approach to this trip was mostly to wander around from bar to bar and see what we found. As with my previous report about Kyiv I will do a separate post detailing the bars that were visited.
We decided to head out to visit the brewery tap that was top of my list of bars to visit and then see what else was in the area. It was a short tram ride, but unfortunately it was then a longer, uphill, walk to our initial destination. Luckily on the way up Mrs MusingAnorak spotted a few pieces of street art that she was able to photograph. Following a leisurely lunch in the brewery tap we took a short stroll through the back streets to visit the next bar that I had identified. Opposite the bar was a most impressive church. Well, I say church, in reality it looked more like a massive clock that had just happened to have had a building grafted on to it’s bottom. Beyond that was what I presume is the main TV tower for Prague which had a load of human sculptures attached to it, allowing to see just how good the camera zoom is on my newish phone. The second bar was one of the best of the trip and quite some time was spent here. We then retraced our steps to visit a bar that was closed when we passed it earlier and after a couple of beers here the early start to the day caught up with us and saw us head back to the hotel. However, I managed to find the energy to head back out to check the bar around the corner, a pattern that was to be repeated on subsequent nights.
The next morning Mrs MusingAnorak had identified something cultural that she wanted to do and, given that most of our trips are dominated by my bar visits, I was in no position to say no! It was a glorious morning for wandering the streets of the Old Town as we made our way to the Speculum Alchemiae Museum which turned out to be excellent. Tourism was still recovering from the pandemic so everywhere was a lot quieter and it meant that there was only 4 of us on the tour of this tiny house that was the centre of alchemy in not only Prague but pretty much all of Europe given it’s geographical postioning. It’s when you head through the secret door that you get the real wow factor as you head down in to the catacombs that housed the workshops, and was the centre of a series of tunnels to other parts of the city.
We emerged from here and decided to make our way up the hill on the opposite side of the river that just so happened to be where a monastery with a brewery was located. What are the chances? We continued wandering the Old Town to get to the required tram stop and then rode up just short of the summit from where it was a short walk to the monastery. Brewing was taking place and the smell was incredible. We worked our way through the beer list and ate far too much excellent food, the pickled sausage was particularly good, before emerging to discover that the sunshine had given way to light drizzle. Undeterred we proceed in to the park behind (and above!) the monastery, walking for about 15 minutes to the next highlight. Prague funicular! You all know how much I love a funicular railway. We descended back down in to the city and spent the rest of the evening visiting several bars. I know. We were surprised too.
Our final day was just going to be another day of mooching, with possibly some bar visits. Unlike a lot of cities around Europe Prague doesn’t have a reputation for having lots of street art, a particular passion of Mrs MusingAnorak, in fact the only real place listed is the John Lennon Wall, so that is where we headed. Now I’m not a particular expert on the subject but I have seen some pretty spectacular street art on my travels to various cities. This wasn’t one of those examples. It’s basically a wall where anybody is free to some and scribble whatever they want. We didn’t linger. Instead we visited a cute little coffee shop/bar hidden down an alley. Whilst there Mrs MusingAnorak announced that a particularly specialist pencil company, based in the Czech Republic, had their main shop a short walk away. So that’s where we went next. And it was a short walk. A short uphill walk. I reminded her that it was her choice to visit. For those interested the company is Koh-I-Noor.
After a lunch break at a brew pub we strolled across the Charles Bridge, still very much devoid of tourist crowds. At this point some confusion kicked in. I wanted to visit a bar called Prague Beer Museum, and we followed Google maps to find ourselves outside Beer Museum Prague. We thought we were in the right place and so I was confused that I had to pay an entrance fee. After I had paid I realised my mistake! At least the price included a tasting of four beers so we figured we drink those and then try and find the place we really wanted. As we were leaving the man in charge literally chased after us and begged us to at least take a look at the museum. We did. It’s not very good. Luckily we found the correct bar, and from there spent the rest of the evening visiting bars in another district of the city.
And that was Prague. The next morning we headed to the airport for our flight home. This should have been routine, except that it happened to be the day that a storm was battering the South of England. As we approached Heathrow I was looking out of the window thinking we are far too high at this point, and indeed it was the precursor to my first ever go-around! The turbulence was, unsurprisingly, the worst I have ever experienced. The next twenty minutes, as we circled around for another go, was to the accompaniment of screaming children and people being sick. Amazingly, given the circumstances, attempt two turned out to be the smoothest landing I have ever had. Chapeau to the pilot! We got home and found that BigJet TV were having their best day ever streaming all of the “action” live on YouTube. I watched for a while and then scrolled back through the timeline where I was able to watch both of our landing attempts, and it confirmed what I thought at the time, our actual landing was textbook, amazing in the conditions.