Prague (2012)

A Walk and Visit to Prague

We walk through a forest and end up on a riding school. A day later we visit an escalator in Prague and then melt away.

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We choose not to do a lot on Sunday, but instead enjoy the summer weather. As the Netherlands’ previous summers have occasionally been warm, they have generally been without any sun (and often without both), we rather enjoy this Czech summer weather and so lavishly bask in it.

We do explore our surroundings in the afternoon, and supplied with water and apples we set out on foot towards the next village, Lužce. But even before we left our own one-fork-in-the-road-village, it became clear that we would not be arriving in Lužce as our first stop of the day. Yes, we took the wrong way at that one fork in the road. But, as a wise Chinese philosopher whose name I can conveniently not recall, said: “if you take a wrong turn and find all sorts of suprising things on your path, was it really a wrong turn?” So, after taking exactly the right turn, we pass by Vysoký Újezd’s enormous and brand new golf resort. Of course, golf resorts do tend to be pretty sizeable (unless it is a midget-golf resort on a camping, of course), but this one was really large. A signpost from the developer indicated that Vysoký Újezd is looking at quite an expansion: on several sides plots have been allocated for building free-standing houses. Presumably it is to be a rather upclass village with the golf resort as its main attraction.

Across the road from the golf resort we find a small artificial lake, in which a few locals are swimming—we will have to remember that for later. A little further down a path leads away from the road into a forest. Adventurous as we are, we of course immediately follow the path and a little while later we find ourselves on a bridleway through a Czech forest. Halfway we find a series of small numbered houses, and we guess that they either belong to a scouting group or some sort of cult, although we do not see anyone. We carry on and when we exit the forest after some time, we find ourselves right in the middle of a riding school. A Czech-with-horse seems only minimally surprised to find encounter random people there, so it must not be the first time tourists come stumbling out of the woods, although I cannot imagine it to be daily event.

He directs us across the riding school grounds to the entrance, from where we can follow the road and continue our walk. This time we do head for Lužce, which incidentally is now also back in the direction of the pension. It turns out to be quite a long climb back up along the road which is lined with apple trees—always useful, since they supply both food and juice if you get lost and did not bring any, and at the same time they provide a sheltering shadow against the burning sun. After a thorough walk we return to our rooms by dinner time and can enjoy a refreshing beer and a tasty soup. The menu for the next day, features something different however: Prague!

We climb Prague under hot conditions…

It could come as a total surprise what we did yesterday, but since it was pretty much the plan and I just gave it away anyway: we visited Prague. A bus to Zličín and a metro ride of slightly under half an hour and we were in the centre of the city. As soon as we get out of the metro, we encounter the first attraction: the escalator up. The station is located quite deep underground and the escalator goes up quite steep and at a good pace. Standing in such a steep tunnel with billboards hanging ‘crooked’ on the walls, every possible point of orientation is gone and halfway up I was forced to turn around and check how many Prague grandmothers who were used to these escalators I would be taking with me if I lost my balance and rolled back down like a bowling ball lost in the bermuda triangle. Of course, that did not happen and a short while later I arrive at the top, where Vonne too admits to being willing to trade her kingdom for a horizon.

A shock reverberates through the hall: my lower jaw has dropped to the floor in amazement.

The nauseating feeling is more than made up for as soon as we step outside and are greeted by the beautiful monumental buildings of Prague, the soft lapping of the Vltava river and a cheerful morning sun. We gently stroll alongside the river in the direction of the Charles Bridge (gathering point № 1 for tourists) to cross it and reach Prague Castle. We follow the path up from the river valley and notice signs indicating a monastery and park on that side of the bank and decide to check those out. The road up to them turns out to be quite long, and the cheerful sun slowly turns into a fiery menace, whose rays burn down upon us without mercy. By the time we reach the top, we are drenched. However, we have conquered Prague and the view is magnificent.

We find a stall with bottles of cooled water and stock up. Through the park we head towards the monastery, where quite a few people take refreshing advantage of the sprinkler systems keeping the lawns moisturized. We find a place in the shade to enjoy a sandwich before heading in and exploring the monastery. Or rather, what there is to explore, for it turns out only a small portion is accessible to the public. A hallway with several bookcases, a collection of boxes disguised as books, each containing a leaf, twig, the intersection of a branch and a seed or nut for a specific type of tree, and several cabinets filled with dried fish, stingrays, a snake and an unidentifiable animal that Vonne taxonomically classifies as “a monster”. Which indicates the charm of the creature in question. What justifies the effort of coming out here and purchasing an entrance ticket, however, are the two enormous and beautiful libraries. As soon as we set sights upon the first one, a shock reverberates through the hall: my lower jaw has dropped to the floor in amazement. After picking it up, I utter to Vonne that we need to get a house with a room like this, but she immediately claims it as her personal walk-in closet. Sigh.

…and we descend for refreshments

Once outside we descend a little and once again enjoy an amazing view over Prague from the park. The “unique” thing about the view from the terrace of the restaurant above must be that that one also offers a view of the tourists in the park below, but other than that it is equally grand. The way down is considerably easier and more pleasant than the way up, even though it is still scorching hot. We find a solution at a strategically located ice cream store and two scoops each further, we continue our descent. Across the statue-, tourist- and artists selling their paintings and posters or drawing portraits and caricatures-lined Charles Bridge we head back into town.

We pass by the Old Town Square to view the Astronomical Clock, the most famous time-telling device in Prague and surroundings, and have a drink on one of the many terraces. The choice between a coke and a beer is easily made when it turns out that a double amount of the latter actually costs less than the former. Even by Prague standards, it must be a warm day, as soon a big orange truck turns onto the square, slowly driving around in circles while spraying water over the many people following it to get a much needed cooling down.

By the end of the afternoon we pass by the Powder Gate and Town Hall, before looking for a restaurant. A few side streets from a main thoroughfare we find one with a quaint terrace and sit down for an excellent and well-deserved meal. After having a bit of a search for a metro station—the nearest one according to our map turns out to be in the middle of a large construction zone—we take the reverse route (hurray for another trip down escalator heaven!) back to our pension, where we drop into bed and fall asleep quickly.

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