Today was a big day for us….we got a lot in, not to mention we walked 28,000 steps (over 5 miles). So prepare yourself people, this post is going to be epic in length!
This morning we were up early for a trip to Karlštejn Castle. I would like to know in what countries do people actually eat hot dogs and baked beans for breakfast?
I love that our hotel has a free breakfast included in our stay and all, but I found it a little strange that hot dogs and baked beans were even an option for the morning meal….but others didn’t because a lot of other guests were eating them. I opted for scrambles eggs and cereal instead…..plus large amounts of coffee since I only slept intermittently for a grand total of about 5 hours all together.
We booked a few tours through Grey Line Tours, which is the same company we used in England and we had positive expierneces with them that time so we went with them again. I will say we had an equally good experience this time with them as well. They are affordable, nothing fancy but their tours get the job done.
They were to pick us up at our hotel at 8:30 and were right on time. As with most cities in Europe, the driving is absolutely terrifying. I decided it’s best to not watch and distract yourself by looking at your surroundings otherwise you might have a heart attack.
We meet our tour guide at the tour company location and soon realize that it’s just Sam and I going to Karlštejn Castle with the driver and our guide. Which on one hand is pretty cool but on the other it means we felt like we had to carry on a conversation. Our guide spoke English marginally well, was knowledgable about the history, and very sweet.
As we drove through the countryside to Karlštejn Castle, we were reasonably sure they meant us no harm but what do we know, we are tourists in a car with 2 perfect strangers driving to some remote location…..we don’t speak the language and we don’t really know where we are…..so basically we are vulnerable and have powerful imaginations. By the end of the drive we are sure they are taking us to either kill us or sell us into the sex trade. Fortuantely for all of us we arrived safely in one piece at the base of Karlštejn Castle.
Our driver dropped us off at the base of Karlštejn Castle and our guide hopped out and said it was about a 7-10 walk up to the castle. Now keep in mind this lady is NOT young by any stretch who is wearing a low heel, and this ‘walk’ was more like an uphill hike….on a trail…..with no hand rails…..with loose gravel and stones.
Sam and I had no problem and shockingly neither did she. Sam, always the gentleman, was following behind her ready to catch her if she slipped…..thankfully his services weren’t required.
Interestingly enough, we didn’t pass any other tour groups going up…..or any other people for that matter but when we arrived at the entrance there were others there. There was clearly another entrance where one could drive up to the top….or closer at the very least. So I am still not sure why we had to go for a hike on this fine freezing cold morning.
It was about 30 degrees out and had been the coldest day all month, not to mention it was windy….but I had my heavy jacket and was ready to brave the colder temps.
A little background on Karlštejn Castle….it was built in 1348 by Charles IV to basically house royal treasures like the jewels and holy relics. It was later reconstructed in 1480 in the late Gothic style and later on reconstructed again in the Renaissance style during the 16th century.
A lot of the actual original items in the castle were on display at the National Museum in Prague, so there were a lot of replicas…..which I liked that the guide in the castle told us what was original and what wasn’t so we wouldn’t be thinking that we were seeing ‘originals’. Anyway, one of the most unique things we saw was the original wood paneling in king’s reception room.
Not only did the paneling keep the room warm, it was also decorative in nature. There were some portions that had been reconstructed but there was also an original section from the 1300’s. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside but here is a picture I found of the reception room on the internet.
Our trip to Karlštejn Castle was only 4 hours long and cost $41.00 per person which included the ticket to the castle but did NOT include admission to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. This wasn’t even an ‘add on’ option for us when we got their due to time constraints of the tour itself, so that was disappointing.
I wish we had been able to stay longer and see other sections of the castle both interior and exteriorly. I had hoped we would walk down a different way to see the castle in all its glory from the other entrance, but we ended up going down the same way we came up which was also disappointing The trip was ‘alright’, I don’t know that I would classify it as amazing but it was worth the $40 to see, I just wish it had included the Chapel and an alternative exit.
When we arrived back in Prague, it was about 1:00 so we basically had the whole rest of the day free…..and we did everything. We began exploring right away! Our tour dropped us off near Wenceslas Square, which had quite a few food carts. We picked up the most delicious pastry ever which we ate just about once a day…..sometimes more…..trdelník.
Trdelník is a traditional Czech/Hungarian pastry rolled in cinnamon and sugar and roasted over an open fire pit. You can pick one up just about anywhere in Prague (just look for their life size trdelník signs) for about 50-60 CZK ($2-2.50).
After a snack we sampled some hot wine (not a fan, but then again I don’t like wine either) and Sam had a traditional Czech sausage which he said wasn’t bad……and that’s about all the traditional Czech food we got. Sorry, we just aren’t big sausage or goulash fans!
So, from Wenceslas Square we wandered a short distance to Old Town Square where there was a huge Easter bizarre going on. At the Easter market, there are all kinds of items for sale….hand painted eggs, lace items, wood carvings, souvinears…..all kinds of trinkets.
We looked around at the carts and then headed to the Astronomical Tower. I honestly still can’t figure out that damn clock but it sure was beautiful to look at! There were of course hoards of people around the clock (especially when it struck the hour). So after gazing at the clock for a while we noticed we could climb the Astronomical Tower for gaze over Old Town Square.
You do have to pay to go up the tower but it’s worth the 120 CZK ($4.75 per person) to have a look over the city. This was one of the only ‘towers’ that we visited that offered an elevator so I recommend taking it. Sure it doesn’t seem like a lot of steps up but hey if it’s there why not take it! We rode the elevator to the top and enjoyed a beautiful view of Old Town Square……and hello, a shit ton of people.
It was unbelievably claustrophobic at the top of the tower. There was complete chaos at the top, people were going in an out and crammed onto this little tiny ledge to snap pics of the views. It was so tedious and I literally wondered how in the name of God all these people were able to cram on to this tiny ledge! UNREAL.
More than once I thought I was going to fall to me death simply because someone next to me wanted to take a selfie. After taking in the beautiful views of the city we took the elevator down and wandered around the square some more, taking in all the magic of street performers, baked goods, and holiday items for sale.
The street performers were interesting. We saw some very talented people and others that were just plain creepy. I think my favs though were the medieval band that performed some rather upbeat music. Before leaving the square, I really wanted to see if we could tour the inside of the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn. We walked around that entire church (on multiple days mind you) and we never did find a way inside!
So we thought we should start making our way back toward our hotel room since we basically had no idea where we were at or how to get back to our room. I knew from studying the maps before our trip that if we followed the Vltava River to the Charles Bridge we should be able to find our way to our hotel.
We easily found our way to the Charles Bridge, but it was so early (2:30) that we didn’t feel like wasting the ret of the day in our hotel, so we knew that St Nicholas Church was on the same side of the river as our hotel so we thought we would see if we could tour that church while we were there.
Apparently there are two St Nicholas Church’s in Prague….one in Old Town Square (which is under construction but you can still look inside) and one in Mala Strana (Lesser Town). The one you want to tour is in Lesser Town.
St Nicholas Church is said to be the finest display of baroque architecture in Prague. It was built in the early 18th century. The organ was played by Mozart in 1787 and his master piece (Mass in C) was first played in that church as well.
The church is impressive. The ceiling is painted in the baroque style and is a stunning display of opulence and grandeur. We did not have to pay to visit this church either, it was a welcome jewel to see on our first day exploring the city.
Touring the church didn’t take long. It’s not guided and there are no audio guides so basically you are on your own to enjoy all the sights…..though unless you know a lot about central European history, you will probably not know the significance of what you are looking at but hey it’s beautiful all the same.
After leaving the church we still had plenty of time to wander and enjoy more sights. On our way back toward our hotel we saw signs for the Alchemy and Magician Museum. So we thought…..why not? Prague is the original city of magic and witchcraft so how could we NOT visit this place?!
The admission is 190 CZK per person (about $8.00) and they offered a bundle with the Ghosts and Legends tour since they are part of the same company for 350 CZK (about $14.00). The museum is actually in the old Faust House and includes admission to the Kelley Tower. According to legend, Doctor Faustus lived there and the Devil took him to hell through a hole in the ceiling.
After looking around the Faust House, we met up with our tour guide at the Kelley Tower where we climbed 60 steps up to the tower where Edward Kelley kept his lab. The lab had been set up just as it was when Edward Kelley was using it.
I don’t know that this museum was really worth our time. I mean I am glad we did it because there were some cool things but I didn’t think we really got our money’s worth when it came to the tour part. The whole thing was definitely not worth $8.00 to get into…..$5 maybe but not $8.00.
Our guide spoke English but the tour group we were in wanted German so the guide did the whole thing in German and gave us a paper translation of the tour in English and said to read a long and as if we had questions. So basically we just looked around and didn’t get any info from the guide other than the one page hand out. There was hardly any light in Kelley’s Tower so we couldn’t really even read the hand out. But when it was all said and done it was ok. So we left and continued making our way back to our hotel.
By now it was about 5:30 and we were getting pretty hungry considering we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Since we have already established that Czech food was out, we decided to try the pizzeria across the street from our hotel…..by the way there are pizzerias all OVER Prague. How can one screw up pizza or pasta? You just can’t so we figured that was a safe bet.
Sam has the 4 cheese pizza and I had the spaghetti aglio olio. After stuffing our faces, it was almost dark (sunset is about 6:30), Sam wanted to walk off all the carbs we just ate……and why not we had been walking all day whats a few more steps! We thought we would just walk down to Charles Bridge and take night pics of the Castle from the bridge. Well…..a short walk turned into basically retracing our steps from earlier in the day.
By now it’s f-ing freezing out! And I only have this light weight hat. We get down to the bridge and take quite a few pics and Sam looks at me and is like are you tired? And surprisingly I wasn’t! So we walked to some of the shops close by the Charles Bridge where I promptly bought a heavier hat since my head and ears were freezing.
We made our way back to Old Town Square and photographed the tower and churches at night. After spending a good solid 2 hours doing all that we figured it was time to make our way back to the hotel since we had another tour the next day.
But before we left we decided to get some hot chocolate to warm us up. We stopped at an off the beaten track coffeeshop and when I asked for hot chocolate what I got was chocolate on a stick with a cup of hot milk.
W.T.F.?!?! Since when does hot chocolate come on a stick?!?! Apparently you put the stick of chocolate in the milk and let it melt. There are a bunch of different flavors too……the whole thing seemed weird to me but it was good so one can’t complain too much……I just thought it was totally strange and well……completely random!
After walking 13 miles, we returned to our hotel room and both Sam and I looked at each other and thought…..well for 13 miles of walking our feet sure aren’t sore! Little did we know what future days would bring us!