Gothic spires, majestic castles, renaissance palaces and winding cobbled streets of Prague, the capital of Czech Republic holds an irresistible allure. Czech Republic is a young country (formed in 1993) that had shed its communism in 1989 as a combined Czechoslovakia. As the cultural centre of Europe, its multi styled and layered architectural wonders have withstood turbulent times of the region to have gained UNESCO World Heritage site tag for the city of Prague. Modern shopping and dining options and rich cultural traditions combine to make it a thriving 21st century city.
Old City Town Hall
The old town square was packed with tourists waiting at the clock tower of the town hall on a summer weekend. The crowd cheered when the apostles appeared at the window of the medieval astronomical clock at the strike of the hour.
The procession of twelve wood figures moved out of one window into another.
Simultaneously, some of the sculptures along the clock began to move: the Death held its hourglass and beckoned to the man sculpture, which shook its head in response. There is a man with a mirror and a man with a moneybag, shaking a stick. When the apostles finish their journey, the golden cockerel at the top crows and quivers its wings, the bell rings and the clock chimes the hour. The show ended with the blowing of the bugle at the top observation tower.
The Old Town Hall was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire during Charles IV's rule. It later housed the Government headquarters in 1784, when Prague's all three- the Old Town, the Lesser Town and the New Town (founded by Charles IV) were united into one city. The square is also the amalgamation of many beautiful buildings.
Purchasing a ticket allowed us to take the lift at the town hall, the first lift in Prague, to the observation deck for a bird's eye view of the city. The red tiled roofs with emerging spires and towers makes for a magnificent sight. www.praha.eu
Mihika Powder Tower
Strolling down Celetna Street towards the Powder Tower you come across House at Black Madonna. It is a fine example of cubist architecture developed by Gocar.
Gothic Powder tower is an imposing structure built as part of Prague Castle´s fortification. It was used among others, for storage of gunpowder. It stands as a gateway for the lane leading to the town square.
Walk through the powder tower to emerge at the grand Municipal House. The heritage structure is one of the significant art-nouveau buildings dating from early twentieth century. Built in the place of the former King's Court, the once seat of Czech kings has rich interior and exterior decorations.
Guided tour of the House reveals work of leading Czech artists captured to decorate the circular Mayor Hall, the awesome multifunctional hall. Smetana Hall, the monumental concert hall occupies the central section of the house with several floors high ceiling. You can watch a concert of Mozart or Vivaldi at the Municipal house that has witnessed many prestigious events, concerts, balls and fashion shows. www.obecnidum.cz
Vltava River and Charles Bridge
Prague's beauty partly comes from its setting on banks of the Vltava River. The river divides the Old Town and the Lesser town.
Charles Bridge forms the popular connect between the two towns. The medieval stone bridge with thirty magnificent baroque statues is fortified with towers on both sides and makes for an apt photo spot especially at dawn and dusk. A golden cross is placed at the spot where the saint Jan Nepomucky was thrown down to the river. Put your left hand on it to make a wish. The saying goes that your wish will come true within a year. Local artists and street singers use the popular stretch to display their art to make an earning.
After a day full of walking, hiring a segway from Segway Prague tours for a guided tour is exciting. Pre-orientation to handling of the simple mechanism drives away anxiety of first timers. Motorists wait patiently to give way for segway tourists. Three hour grand city tour on Segway costs 1500 CZK (60 Euro). http://www.segwayfun.eu/
Early morning walk along the Prague castle, the largest (spread on 7.28 hectares) ancient castle in the world is pleasant. 9th century castle was the traditional seat of Czech rulers.
The castle has been rebuilt many times through the centuries and is now the official seat of the President of the republic. The castle square gate with two guards is adorned with sculptures of Titans. There are many important historical buildings in the castle precincts.
The dominant one among those is the St. Vitus cathedral, founded by Emperor Charles IV as a coronation church during the 14th century. There is a royal mausoleum of Czech kings inside and also the valuable St. Wenceslas chapel decorated with splendid gothic murals and semi precious stones.
Walk through the golden lane, a former haven for alchemists and charlatans. Miniature residences now offer an ethnic shopping experience. The terraces of the Baroque gardens below Prague castle are ideal for relaxation before strolling down the narrow, steep streets of the Lesser Town.
Funicular rail up to the Petrin Hill and a further 299 steps climb to the tower offers another view of the beautiful city. 60 meter tall Petrin Observation Tower was built in 1891 for the Jubilee Exhibition as a mini version of Paris's Eiffel Tower. A maze of mirrors is placed at the entrance hall to muse the visitors. Trees surrounding the top of Petrin, made us forget that we're in the heart of a metropolis.
Prague's name is synonymous with crystal. Visit to Moser's palatial flagship store reveals the finesse of crystal making. From its beginning in 1857, the Moser factory has developed a formula for manufacturing glass as hard as rock and as brilliant as lead crystal without using lead. This ecologically friendly composition is perfect for Moser's wonderful engravings. They were official supplier of crystal ware to British crown as early as 1908. Hand engrained light crystal Maharani Collection is named after the royals of Travancore, India who are regular customers. Moser's factory is at Karlovi Vary.
Word 'Dollar' was first coined in Czech. 'Robot' is a Czech word. Famous shoe maker Bata was from Moravia in Czech Republic.
Modern developments in Prague since a decade mean that all amenities are available along with old world charm at a reasonable cost. One can ideally spend two to three days in this enchanting city.
Flight: One can take Oman Air flight up to Frankfurt or Munich & onwards take Lufthansa to Prague.
Useful website: www.praha.eu