Our hotel in Prague – Hotel 16 – is worth a mention because, so far, it has been one of our favorite hotels. It's a small place with 14 rooms, so it felt a bit more like a B&B. The hotel offers a great breakfast and free snacks and drinks round the clock which was a nice touch. Our room was nice and fairly basic, and the hotel was located about a twenty-minute walk from the old city. However, the people who run the hotel were some of the friendliest and happiest we’ve met so far on our travels. We arrived mid-afternoon on a hot day and were immediately welcomed by the enthusiastic guy and girl working the desk, with some cold water and juice. After chatting with them a bit, they provided lots of recommendations and introduced us to the local Czech drink called Becherovka. We later met several other people who work there, all of whom were really great people who were always smiling, happy and went out of their way to give us great tips and recommendations about their city. When we left they even gave us a couple of mugs as keepsakes.
The Golden City
On our first afternoon in Prague, we spent a few hours walking through Wenceslas Square (main shopping area) and around the old city. We tried to grab a drink on the rooftop of the U Prince Hotel in the old city. The views were spectacular but it was just too hot to stay for a drink. Had we not have been in the midst of a heat wave, this place would have been an awesome way to spend an evening! We finally made our way to Letna Park at sunset, where there is a great beer garden. We grabbed some beers and 2 massive pork gyros from a stand and enjoyed the watching Prague turn to gold under the setting sun.
The next day was Friday, and so we decided to visit the Jewish quarter, called Josefov, since it would be closed on Saturday. Prague is unique among cities that came under Nazi control during WWII, as it was one area where the Nazis did not destroy all Jewish property, synagogues, and artifacts. While most of the former residents of the area sadly perished during the Holocaust, many of the important buildings and sites in the neighborhood remain intact, as they were pre-WWII. The Nazis wanted to preserve Josefov in order to use it for a planned Exotic Museum of An Extinct Race. This means the Nazis gathered Jewish artifacts from all over Europe to display in Josefov, since, in their vision for the future, Jewish people would cease to exist.
Many of the items stored in Josefov during the war form the basis for the Jewish museum, a collection of several sites throughout the neighborhood, each containing a variety of important relics used by the Jewish people who called this neighborhood home over the centuries. Today, the museum tells the story of the people who lived here, what their lives were like, and interestingly, their relationship with the government and the rights afforded to them – or lack thereof – during the various stages of Czech history.
As you can imagine, the Jewish Museum is a mostly sad and somber experience. After we were done, we decided to start our evening off with something low key. We went back to our hotel to freshen up, and then we headed up to Riegrovy Sady, another park and beer garden overlooking the city. This area was much more laid back than where we were the previous night, with lots of local residents sitting on a big grassy hill overlooking Prague and its beautiful sunset. We picked up some snacks on the way there, as well as some beers and bubbles, and had a nice picnic. This was a great suggestion from our hotel and we got to enjoy another view of the city from a different angle!
We next moved on to an outdoor café where we met up with a large group of Scottish guys on a stag party. While they were already well ahead of us in the drinking department, we had a lot of fun hanging out with them and spent the next several hours having fun, laughing and singing (these guys loved Neil Diamond). Like any good Scotsman, they were really into Scotch. When I told them I didn't drink Scotch, they were a little upset, but not surprised. They bought us each a glass of their favorite Scotch (I forget the brand) and proceeded to give me a lesson on how to properly drink it. I took a sip, followed their ritual and told them it was better than my past experiences trying the liquor. I then secretly handed off my glass to Chris:)
The next day, we checked out more of the old city, heading over to the castle district, where Prague Castle is located. Within this castle are several interesting sites, including Prague’s largest cathedral, St. Vitus, several royal palaces and residences including a large indoor hall where jousting tournaments were held, and a small ‘city within a city’ called the Golden Lane which shows what life would have been like here centuries ago.