This post is a continuation of the series documenting our travels across a small part of Central Europe. We were now in the Czech Capital of Prague. We had just seen the magnificent Prague Castle in the morning and were now hungry after the morning’s sightseeing. (Prague, Part 3 – A Morning at the Prague Castle)
We had researched about the places to have lunch near the Prague Castle and settled on the Klasterni Pivovar just opposite the Strahov Monastery Library entrance. It was supposed to have great food and beer at reasonable prices. You can’t really ask for more! So we walked from the Castle gates towards the Strahov Monastery. There were great views of the Little Quarter roofs and the Castle itself from the little path towards the Monastery and obviously I had to take a photo or two.
As expected on a hot day at Lunchtime we reached the Klasterni Pivovar (Pivovar is Beer House) & it was packed with people enjoying a cold beer. We were asked if we minded sharing a table and we obviously said we didn’t mind! We were then guided to a table where an American couple were enjoying their lunch and beer, we smiled and joined them at the table.
Lunch for the better half was a huge farmers omelette and I had my standard Goulash with dumplings. If there is anything I loved as much as the excellent beer in Central Europe it was the equally good Goulash with different types of dumplings. Had it in three countries and it was the best in Prague. I had the home brewed Pale beer and the better half had an apple drink. It was a great meal to cap off a morning full of good sightseeing!
After finishing our lunch we decided to walk around Petrin hill for a while before returning for the Strahov Monastery Library which was closed for lunch. As we started climbing towards Petrin hill we started hearing lots of noise of construction machinery. As we got more and more closer to the tower the noise kept on increasing. Most of the park near the tower and the maze (which are the two paid attractions in the park) was dug up. Nothing we could do about that, so we just took photos of the tower and the entrance to the maze with its long line before moving on.
We had neither the time nor the inclination to climb another tower as we wanted to climb the town hall tower the coming day and we had already seen great views of the little Quarter for the much less crowded Vrtba Gardens the previous evening. (Prague, Part 1 – Trying to avoid the crowds of the Golden City of Spires!) So we moved on to the actual park where there were hardly any tourists. (My kind of place!)
The park had trees in bloom and well manicured lawns with just a few people enjoying the shade under the flowering trees. We walked through at a leisurely pace taking a few photos along the way.
As we approached the exit back to the crowded part near the tower I sighted something in the tree nearby. It was an Eurasian Jay hunting for his afternoon meal. The light was excellent and there were hardly any people (except us!) to disturb the bird. So I knew it would come down to the ground to search for worms. Sure enough it obliged and I got some really good photos of this beautiful bird.
After a good ten to fifteen minutes of watching the Jay flutter around catching worms we decided to leave it in peace and move on. Since I had the 300mm on anyway now and there were a few magpies in the park I decided to stalk one across a lawn till I got close enough for a decent photo.
Some of my friends say that I find birds anywhere. When they are so beautiful, am I supposed to ignore them just because I am in Europe? Being there on Petrin hill and the park was good enough but getting those bird photos made it great.
We then walked back to the Strahov Monastery Library and bought our tickets to go in. There is a separate fee for photography in the library and it is very strictly enforced. You wear a sticker which says “PHOTO PERMISSION” on your person and click away to glory ( The Sticker is now permanently on the back of my Guide book now – Free souvenir!)
The Strahov Monastery library is one of the most photogenic libraries in the world. It has a huge collection of ancient texts which is totally out of bounds for the routine tourists. So you just get to see the two massive book filled rooms from the entrance of the room and take photos from there. That means that the photos you get will be almost similar to the stock photos online, no chance to get creative. But the rooms are filled with eyepopping colours and even a kid would get beautiful photos of the place!
The huge Philosophy hall had a superb ceiling painting that I would have loved to photograph from the centre, with divine providence in the centre and philosophers from the world all around. Sadly I would have to be satisfied from doing that from the entrance. So it isn’t symmetrical.
After staring at the amazing ceiling for a few minutes we moved on and out of the Strahov Monastery Library. A short but memorable visit owing to the the sheer spectacular nature of the rooms themselves.
We then returned to our hotel by the 22 number tram and the metro from Malostranska to Staromestska, the closest stop to our hotel. We rested for 2 hours in the afternoon when the old town is the most crowded.
After recharging our batteries in the comfort of our room and having a delicious black coffee in the lobby of the hotel, we set out for our evening round of sightseeing.
The place we were headed to was the other Castle in Prague called Vyšehrad. It was a 15 minute metro ride away from our home stop of Staromestska on the other end of town. Vyšerhad is not on the tourist map and it caught my eye when it was covered by the “Honest guide” channel on YouTube.
We walked to Staromestska and I got the opportunity to photograph the beautiful metro stations of Prague. Clean, elegantly decorated and cheap – All that a Public transport stop should be.
A quick change later we were at Vyšehrad metro station and we followed the map to the Castle. Vyšehrad doesn’t have any blockbuster sights like St Vitus. Most of it was burnt down and the surviving structures are not that grand. There is a typical Romanesque Rotunda of St Martin which is a simple limestone dome , the cemetery which would be closed by the time we reached and Basilica of St Peter and St Paul a Gothic Church. But the main USP of Vyšehrad is no crowds.
We walked through the Castle doors past the Rotunda of St Martin to the walkable Ramparts of Vysehrad.
The Ramparts provide a different view of Prague since it is at the southern part of Prague. We sat down on the walls and enjoyed the views without any crowds to bother us.
The Castle had a lot of trees in full bloom. Everywhere we had been this trip we had seen trees and meadows in full bloom. It had vindicated my decision to travel to Europe either in the spring or in autumn when the trees are full of colour.
After walking the entire walkable part of the ramparts we walked past the statue of St Wenceslas ( Who else!) and towards the Basilica of Sts Peter and Paul.
It was too late for us to go inside the basilica so we had to be satisfied with the facade itself. Typically gothic and older than the one at St Vitus it made for a pretty picture.
The better half was in the mood for a dessert and I was always in the mood for a beer in Prague. So we sat down at a cafe just opposite the Basilica and had a delicious Chocolate Crepe with whipped cream and a tall glass of Pilsner.
It had been an amazing day of sightseeing. We had seen two castles each vastly different from each other, gawked at an ancient library and even done some bird photography. Adding the delicious food that we had devoured made it a spectacular day in an beautiful city.
The night and its lights still awaited but that is topic for another post, some other day, some other time.