This is perhaps the first time that we've actually starting travelling and exploring the nearby countries and cities. It was decided on a whim that we should go out and get out of the country. Being in one place for a particular time usually leaves a frustrating effect on me, especially after knowing that so many beautiful cities are within reach and we were doing absolutely nothing about it. So, a little bit before eating lunch, I casually asked whether or not I could propose a proposition. I requested if we could go somewhere for the weekend. In Europe, it is vastly popular to go somewhere for the weekend, especially with the distances relatively small. The questions came rolling: Where can we go? How will Esther (my youngest sister) handle it? And so on and so forth. Can we go to Budapest? ("No, it's too early to go".) Can we go somewhere in Austria? ("No, the drive is a little far and we want to stay relatively close".) Do you want to go somewhere in Romania? The response was infinitely unanimous: "NO! WE WANT TO GO SOMEWHERE THAT IS NOT IN ROMANIA!" The truth was that we wanted to see something that was not in Romania (as that was the point of the trip). It was not that we don't enjoy Romania; we simply wanted to see different sights.
Thus, the next couple of hours, we began packing and the next morning, we were on the road en route for Prague. Being in a car for 8 hours straight has become somewhat the norm for us, since we have been on the road since we've come to Europe, whether driving there or here. With small breaks in Hungary and Slovakia (since we had to past through Bratislava), it was interesting seeing how utterly different the scenery, the people, and the progression appeared in Romania, Hungary, and now Czech Republic. Driving through 3 different countries and observing 3 different cultures and a way of life. It was mind boggling yet particularly fascinating all at the same time. For more reasons that I am at liberty to say, this weekend getaway was truly a much needed breath of fresh air. When we arrived at the apartment we were staying at, the only thing we wanted to do was stretch our legs after a long haul in the car with a small child and limited space. Relaxing and letting our feet breath before a long day of walking through Prague.
We first started walking towards Rock Castle, or Vysehrad, strolling along the long fortress and enjoying a scenic view of one of the many faces of Prague. With lush colors and vibrant buildings, it was truly a sight to behold. Anywhere you looked, bright pops of colors on the buildings, rivers, and bridges became ubiquitous in addition to being a staple of the city. Once we strolled the entire line of the fortress, we came across a lovely cathedral with beautiful ornate detailing and opulent Gothic architecture, permitting us a perfect opportunity to stop and take a breather. However, it was at this time that Esther, my youngest sister, wanted an ice cream (one of many). Thus, we relaxed while she ate to her heart's content. It just so happened that the cafe vis-a-vis of the cathedral had the best latte I have ever tasted in my entire life. Segafredo, you are the coffee empire I will devote to. It was so foamy, and tasty, and aromatic, and all in all, very flavored. I have also realized, in this slight tangent, that I have become a coffee drinker due to the fact that the coffee here tastes delicious. I simply may just continue drinking as much coffee as I can while I remain in Europe before I return to bland, overly flavored coffee that has no taste (no offence...). It was also in that moment that I was drinking my latte that I realized the vast differences between North American and European culture. But that may be a different post for a later time...
After our brief coffee, ice cream, and sparkling beverage break, we set out towards Prague Castle, one of the famous sights and attractions of the city. While making our way towards the Castle, we crossed one of the bridges, which strangely reminded me of the Seine, in Paris (a city I have not visited, yet). With the Danube flowing through Prague, it was fascinating crossing from one area of the city into the old city. After crossing the bridge, we came across a small park while stumbling into the Before I Die... wall, where visitors, tourists, and residents alike can write their bucket list, their ultimate wish they aspire to accomplish before they die. I decided to add a wish to the long list of aspirations on the wall. The feeling of writing something that people all over the world have written is a special feeling. It is akin to participating in something much bigger than myself, including myself in the large scheme of things. And, all in all, it felt pretty darn cool. Afterwards, we ventured towards Old Prague Square, part of the old town section of town. It was also at this particular time that we stumbled into hoards and hoards of tourists. They were nowhere near the other places we've been to up to this point. It was like they just sprung out of nowhere. All of a sudden, Americans, English, and Asian tourists decided to overwhelm the old Prague Square, letting everyone know with their flip-flops and Nikon cameras slung around their neck that they are most definitely tourists. I mean, I am a tourist, but I like to think of these moments as a WWAHD? What would Audrey Hepburn wear? What would she wear whilst she is exploring and touring Prague? Before this point, it was relatively quiet, with the exception of the impromptu concert on the bridge, with citizens of Prague going about their day. The moment we hit Old Prague Square, there was a sudden burst of energy, volume, and people. After getting over the sudden wave of people, I resumed admiring the city and location. It was lovely, with its antiquated architecture, bright yet muted colors, and long lines of cobble streets. We walked a bit around the square, before realizing that the famous castle was over yonder. Trudging up the steep hill, the narrow streets, and stone walls, we arrived at the top of the hill with a spectacular view. Spanning into a beautiful panorama, the sensation was akin to being a movie, with the lens panning on me and then fading out into the background, capturing the picturesque background. Another cool thing is that a couple recently got married and the bride and groom decided to take their wedding photography at the Prague Castle. Needless to say, they will have very enviable wedding pictures. Entering the castle leads to St. Vitus Cathedral, an old Gothic style cathedral that bears great resemblance to Notre Dame in Paris. Love, beautifully old and opulent, and profound detail makes it so grand and old yet remarkably gorgeous.
At this point during the day, we have probably walked near 8 km and have been on our feet for 6 hours walking throughout the city and on hills. Once we finished exploring Prague Castle and crossed over the famous and renowned Charles Bridge, we had stepped into Prague Square, where it consisted of many outside terraces, cafes, and excitement. There was movement everywhere; people were constantly moving, there were citizens playing some sort of instrument (electronic piano, cello, jazz bass, and some sort of banjo), and hippies blowing bubbles with small children (yes, you read that right). We also saw the Astronomical Clock, an attraction in Prague without even realizing it. I was taking a picture of a cool tower and building after realizing that the brochure I read in the morning mentioned the Astronomical Clock. The city square is phenomenal; there is so much energy and life to this city. However, with intense pain in our feet in addition to my father holstering my youngest sister on his shoulder since lunchtime, we were all tired. But we were on a mission: to get to C&A (a popular chain department store in Europe). Venturing through the streets grumpy and in pain, we finally reached our destination, after inquiring many retail workers who did not speak English and we didn't speak Czech. Unbeknownst to us, we happened to enter a massive mall in the middle of Prague, called Palladium. Even though we were in tremendous pain from walking, we still managed to go shopping. Women. After grabbing a couple (or a couple of more) fashion pieces from Prague, it was imperative, nay, necessary, that we should sit down and relax. That moment when you sit down after a long day of walking...sigh. We sprinted to nearest cafe to sit down. Fortunately (or is this everywhere in Europe), we sat at a delicious patisserie, with yummy tortes, cakes, and pastries. Munching on a scrumptious lemon tort and drink a 7Up, I realized that I must have been living through a movie. Spending the whole day exploring the city and the sights and attractions then afterward doing a little shopping and taking a little pastry and beverage break seemed like the perfect day. In addition to seeing beautiful sights, it was absolutely spectacular. Prague is an absolutely remarkable and beautiful city that compels me to feel guilty for having excessive uses of the word beautiful, but really, there are not many words that fully capture the essence of the city other than beautiful, energetic, and lovely. I would visit Prague again over and over and over again.