Overseas2023: Prague

Charles Bridge

Having enjoyed almost unbroken great weather in Scotland, Friday 23 June was a miserably cold and wet day to be leaving Edinburgh bound for Prague. I guess this turn in the weather reflected my mixed emotional state, once again leaving family and friends, but with a couple of life long ambitions ahead – visiting Prague and Barcelona.

The whole day was spent travelling. The first leg to Luton was the opposite of relaxing with a very loud rugby team seated directly behind us, however the second leg was much more pleasant. I have more to say about the flight, but that will wait until I write my final post reflecting on various aspects of our trip.

As you will read, we covered a fair bit of ground in Prague, meaning that I took a pile of photos. It has been exceedingly difficult selecting images to include in this post (and indeed in the next two posts covering Salzburg and Barcelona). Hopefully those I have selected will give you a flavour of our experiences.

Our first night

Arriving at Prague airport, our pre-booked driver was waiting to take us firstly to pick up our apartment key and then onto our home for four nights. The second floor apartment, serviced by a lift, was located round the corner from the old town square – ideal for accessing the main tourist attractions.

We went out to buy a few snacks and got totally ripped off at a small local mini market – no prices on anything, obvious tourists …. Lesson learned; we didn’t use anything like that again. After a take away pizza, it was off to bed ready for our next day’s activities.


I had been receiving emails in German about changes to our train journey to Salzburg. Despite knowing a bit of German, I could not understand the text, so we walked to the train station first thing to clarify the issue. Unfortunately, we drew a blank, only learning that our scheduled train was leaving as planned.

On the way to the station, we stopped to admire the Astronomical Clock and a couple having their wedding photos taken under it. As it was still well before 08:00, it was very quiet – we subsequently learned that later on one could hardly move due to the number of tourists.

Passing the tourist information, we picked up a map and a few ideas about what to visit. On our way back to the apartment we diverted to the Municipal House, a grand old building that survived numerous conflicts and the two periods of the Czech Republic being joined with Slovakia. Opened in 1912, the building contains numerous halls and rooms contained in the male and female wings, and includes the main concert hall.

This looked like a tour not to be missed, so we decided to head back to the apartment for lunch and return for the 14:30 tour which did not disappoint.

Examples of the Municipal House interior

On leaving, we noticed that the theatre across the road was presenting the ballet, Swan Lake, that evening. On enquiry we decided to buy tickets for the 20:00 performance. We already had a booking for an 18:00 music recital, so the timing was perfect.

After an early dinner in the apartment, we headed round the corner to St Nicholas Church, located on the corner of the Old Square. The recital was a mix of short pieces by Handel, Bach, Mozart and Vivaldi – the acoustics and the surrounding made this an amazing experience.

St Nicholas Church

The ballet, however, was a bit disappointing. All ballets that I have had the pleasure of attending in my life were accompanied by a live orchestra. There is something about the build-up of anticipation as the orchestra tunes up and starts into the overture. Unfortunately, there was none of that as the music was pre-recorded. The ballet performance was OK, let down by occasional lack of coordination. Despite being very critical, I did not let that spoil the evening’s enjoyment – we both walked back feeling very satisfied.


Charles Bridge with Prague Castle on the hill

We planned to visit the Klementinum (library), but on arrival, realised that it was closed due to it being Sunday. Having already visited Charles Bridge, we paused for a while listening to beautiful choral music drifting out of the open door of the church adjacent to the library.

Taking in a circuit through the Jewish Quarter, we found a small café where K indulged in a pistachio coffee before returning to the apartment for an early lunch and being picked up for our afternoon tour to Kutna Hora.

There were only six of us on the tour guided by our driver, Martin. He confessed that he was not a tour guide (they are in short supply in Prague), but would be able to get us there and back safely and relate a few stories in the meantime. In fact, he did a really good job and was very entertaining.

Kutna Hora is a medieval town about on hour drive from Prague, its success being the result extensive silver mining. The mines and the resulting revenue were controlled totally by the church. This in turn resulted in the construction of a number of churches and monasteries and the creation of a wealthy town.

Our tour took in three churches: St Barbara, Sedlec Ossuary & the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist.

St Barbara features an unfinished elevation – when being constructed, the end of the building started to subside due to the mine workings below, so it was quickly shortened making it look a bit odd.

The Sedlec Ossuary interior is decorated entirely by human bones. The plague of 1318 and the later Hussite Wars resulted in 40,000 corpses being buried in the cemetery. In the 15th century, the bones were exhumed and piled into pyramids that lay until 1870, when a master builder used the bones to decorate the inside of the church. Photographs were not allowed inside, but check out this video: https://www.sedlec.info/kostnice/#Sedlec%20-%20Kostnice%20video.

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist

On returning to the city, Martin took us for a quick drive passed Prague Castle, our destination for the next day.


Another early start to beat the tourists. We walked across Charles Bridge to the Funicular railway that took us to the top of the hill from where we walked down to Prague Castle. Views across Prague as we walked were magnificent.

At the castle, now teeming with tourists, we decided not to buy entry tickets to the various buildings, rather we walked through the Royal Gardens to the Summer House and then back into the castle square. On the way we stopped for a coffee and a local delicacy, honey cake, at the riding school – a quiet oasis amid the chaos of tour groups.

On the way through we experienced the magnificence of the cathedral and the other amazing buildings that comprise the extensive complex of the castle.

Back down at river level, we booked a tour of the library for later that afternoon before returning to the apartment for lunch and a rest.

The library tour included a view of the Baroque Library and a climb to the top of the Astronomical Tower. It was rather disappointing due to the guide having poor command of the English language and a strong accent, so a lot of the history was lost on us.

We were only able to view the library from the doorway without having much time to really experience it due to the number of people on the tour. Nonetheless, it is quite an interior.

The climb to the top of the tower comprises 172 steps and well worth the effort for views across the city, including this one to Church of Our Lady before Týn in the old square.

The tower was used for various astronomical investigations in the past, so it was a bit of a shame that we didn’t catch it all from our guide.

As this was our last night in Prague, we treated ourselves to a delicious Goulash dinner at one of the old square restaurants before packing ready for an early start the next day.

To Salzburg

The weather during our visit continued to be hot (30 degrees) and sunny, so our early starts were an advantage. Prague was our first introduction to European tourism, a subject I will return to in a later post. In the meantime, we had to drag our 20kg suitcases 1 km across cobbled streets to the main railway station to catch our train to Salzburg. This was to be a relaxing three hour trip, until we discovered why I had been receiving those emails – all will be revealed in the next post.

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