Tuesday, 24th September 2019
After travelling for two days, today is a day based in one place only – Prague.
It is an early start this morning because we are first going to Prague Castle, which is notoriously busy. I have been to Prague previously, on a trip with my wife, and we never ventured into the castle complex because the queues were so long.
The coach, along with our guide, collect us from the hotel at 08:15 and we head off to the castle. The drive has us skirt round the centre of Prague as coaches and other vehicles are not allowed in the central area to allow space for pedestrians.
From the coach we have a 15 minute walk down to the castle where we join the queue to enter. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the front of the queue, with the queue getting longer and longer as we wait. I am glad we got here early.
The castle is, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest ancient castle in the world and occupies nearly 70,000 square meters of area. Originally built in the ninth century it was last rebuilt at the end of the 18th century.
Hitler stayed here in 1939 when he forced the Czech President to hand over the Czech nation to the Germans. During the war it was used as the headquarters of Reinhard Heydrich. An old Czech legend says that a usurper who places a crown upon his head will die within a year. True enough he was assassinated by British-trained Slovak and Czech resistance fighters within a year of him becoming the Protector of Bohemia. In line with the same legend his eldest son died the following year.
It is now the seat of the president of the Czech Republic.
The first building that we visited within the castle complex was St Vitus Cathedral, the largest church in the country.
The current cathedral is the third to be located here. The first was built by King Wenceslaus (think Christmas carol) in 930. The current building dates from 1344.
The next part of the complex that we visited was the Old Palace.
The main large room in the Old Palace is the Vladislav Hall. Built between 1493 and 1502 the room has a complex stone vaulting system spanning 16m. The hall was used for banquets and coronations, but its most unusual use was for horseback jousting, which explains why the staircase we entered by had shallow, deep, wide stairs to allow the combatants to ride in on horseback.
St George’s Basilica is the oldest surviving church within the castle having been rebuilt in 1142. The facade is from the late 17th century.
We leave the castle complex via an unusual street called Golden Lane. Originally built in the 16th century it is a series of small brightly coloured shops and houses built against the outer wall of the castle.
After leaving the castle we walk down the hill to the famous Charles Bridge that crosses the Vltava River. Construction started in 1357. The bridge has large towers at each end for defensive purposes.
Following the three hour walking tour we take in lunch. I have one of my favourite Eastern European dishes – Goulash soup served in bread.
Following lunch there is a moment to watch the Prague Astronomical clock chime two o’clock. Installed in 1410 it is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one which is still working.
A quick look at the grand central square of Prague.
From here most of the group decide to return to the hotel by coach, a few stay to wander the city on their own.
Once I have returned to the hotel with the main group I leave them there and head back in to the centre myself on the underground. I do a scout around the main railway station to familiarise myself with the best access routes for tomorrow’s onwards journey to Budapest. I then walk back into the main square to have a brief look around on my own.
Back at the hotel a buffet dinner is served and then off to bed.
Great Railway Journeys Tour Map:
Video of the day:
Selfie of the day:
- Welsh Highland Railway & Caernarfon
- Ffestiniog Railway & Portmeirion
- Passau and Home [via Köln]
- London to Munich [for Oktoberfest]