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Ah, Praha. Once a chic stop on a European itinerary directly following the end of the Cold War, Prague is now a regular stop on the majority of European holidays–and for good reason. While the city can be bursting from the seams with tourists in the summer months, there are many sites around the city to spread out the crowds and create some breathing room in this magnificent capital of the Czech Republic.
Visiting in the dead of winter, I was actually hoping for a fresh snowfall to grace us with a frosted version of the city, however we were just left with the cold air and wind whipping up a chill. Regardless, the charm of the city was able to radiate though the brisk temperatures.
I have to say that my favorite site in all of Prague is the Museum of Communism, which many are quick to point out is located directly across from a McDonald’s. This museum gives the visitor an in depth look at life under the Communist regime, with the theme of the establishment being “Communism: The Dream, The Reality, The Nightmare”. Incredibly interesting and a fascinating way to spend a couple of hours. Well worth the price of admission.
After visiting Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle of its kind in the entire world, we hoofed it across the Danube via the stunning pedestrian and musician thoroughfare of Charles Bridge on our way to the packed Old Town Square to catch an hourly glimpse of the famous and overwhelmingly intricate Astronomical Clock. Named the Orloj, every hour massive crowds gather in the center of town at the base of the clock and wait for the clock to strike 12. When the show finally begins, 12 apostles emerge from their hiding spots within the clock and traipse their way across a mechanical track, each bearing their own respective personal belongings. Simultaneously, two other clocks are moving about mimicking the natural cycle of the moon, sun, and stars tracking across the sky. All of this from a clock that has been standing at the center of Old Town Square for over 600 years. A cheesy tourist attraction, but pretty cool stuff nonetheless.
A treat for me while in Prague was I got the opportunity to play some tennis on an indoor red clay court against a local teaching pro named Petr. Perhaps the best part of it was simply getting outside of the tourist district of the city and back in to the residential sector with all of the working class Czechs. After a two hour hitting session, myself and Petr went out for some pivo (beer), and he regaled me with the realities of life under a Communist regime. While he had lived in Prague his entire life, he had only left the country one time on a holiday to Turkey, as to do so while under the grip of Communism was strictly forbidden. It was pretty humbling to think that I had been to more of the countries surrounding him than he had ever had the chance to visit. Petr also told me how he dreamed as a kid of being a ski instructor in the Czech mountains, but the “damn global warming” had robbed the slopes of most of the snow. Sorry Petr, thanks for the pivo, but I can’t help ya out there.