Prague

The time came for another classic solo Begley excursion. Earlier in the year I took it upon myself to go on a city break outside of Europe and went to Toronto (I meant to write a blog post about it all but now we’re six months on it’s unlikely to appear) but this time I decided on a city break to Prague.

I worked backwards here – saw which destinations EasyJet flew to from Stansted, which has a direct train from my hometown, and plucked for Prague having heard good things from people I follow on social media. So off I popped for three days, Wednesday afternoon to Saturday afternoon.

img_20161001_214722Two things: It’s a very compact city. Although there is both a metro and tram system, everything is so close to each other I walked everywhere. Also: it’s incredibly cheap if you’re not an idiot and stay away from the tourist spots (eg near the Charles Bridge). I took £170/5000CZK with me as pure spending money. That £170 ended up paying for my accommodation as well as all my travel expenses with a fair bit left over too. If you’re holidaying on a budget you could do much worse than Prague.

Prague, in true Hunger Games style, is made up of districts. The suburbs and newer ares are numbered and then in the centre of the city you have the Old Town, the Jewish Quarter, the New Town etc. I was staying in the Old Town which was roughly a ten minute walk from the Charles Bridge.

There’s a great mix of architecture in Prague and this is really apparent in and around the Old Town Square. They’ve respected their history here and the buildings appear well preserved.

The Charles Bridge is of course rammed – initially I went in the middle of the day so this wasn’t exactly unexpected. However, there’s one attraction that was completely empty when I went. The Charles Bridge has two towers either end. The tower on the Cathedral side of the river is a viewing tower where you can pay £2 and climb the rickety stairs to the top. It offers great views of the Cathedral quarter, castle and over the river from a height that few realise exists at that location. There’s a lot of hills around Prague, with the castle perched on one, so walking up to those offers good views anyway but this little known tower which hundreds of people walk past everyday is worth climbing. It almost felt like my secret when I was there!

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The Lennon Wall is just round the corner. Obviously, there was a busker there singing Lennon songs.

And then wandered up to the castle and Cathedral. Having done some googling I decided not to pay to enter the castle grounds but walked through the gardens instead which are a little hidden round the back. I was oddly impressed but also unnerved that these public gardens had military guards on entrances.

There’s also a huge park nearby, complete with a beer garden that overlooks the city. I stumbled upon this makeshift swing that had been drilled into a tree branch and fully embraced my inner child. What could be better than swinging on the edge of a hill overlooking the Charles River?

I also walked up to the exhibition centre. Although mildly impressive in its imposing nature (note the fact I took this photo at ‘happy-time’ aka 13.50) it appeared really run down, alongside the buildings surrounding it. There was this bizarre funfair behind it which looked so depressing I thought it was abandoned.

Other things…

  • The Museum Of Communism was a bit meh. I was unimpressed but I heard good things about the KGB Museum. I didn’t go myself, but a fellow traveller told me about it and it sounded intriguing. It was run by this incredibly enigmatic Russian guy. Expensive but apparently worth it.
  • The DOX Modern Art Gallery is a fair walk from the main spots but I enjoyed looking around it. Admittedly there was a sport theme for the Olympics throughout the place for my visit but I appreciated it none-the-less!
  • There’s classical music at the Municipal Hall every night. Tickets are fairly cheap.
  • Bohemia Bagel did good food, and I also had breakfast one morning in the imposing Café Savoy.

P.S Prague has embraced segways as a tourist mode of transport. They are everywhere. Watch your toes!

Tempelhof

IMG_20140727_145042Ages and ages and ages ago (July 2014) I was in Berlin, alone, with time to spare. I heard about this tour you could do of the now abandoned Tempelhof airport which is right slap bang in the middle of the city. I have a fascination with pictures of abandoned places (Abandoned America is well worth a look), in particular places that were once bustling with people – theme parks, airports, shopping centres. I know that in reality this isn’t *quite* on that level given the place wasn’t crumbling at my feet, but there’s still something oddly eerie about the place.

They’ve turned the taxiways and runways into a public park and there were plenty of joggers making use of the facilities when I went, but a lot of the main airport is closed off. It also turns out that airports, even small city centre ones, are really quite large and I essentially got lost trying to find the meeting point for the bloody tour. I asked this woman at an ice-cream stall and she said “turn left!” so I did but it transpired she actually meant “turn right!”. Bollocks. I had all but given up trying to find the meeting place when I saw a gaggle of people in the distance and managed to get there in the nick of time as the tour began.

Here’s a collection of amateur photos on my phone. Apologies for the crap quality.

Bored passengers could go in the airport bar, restaurant (with great views of the airfield and no doubt their waiting planes) and a museum of flight.

Not only was Templehof a working commercial airport when it closed, it was also the home of the American air force in East Berlin and had a bowling alley, burger bar and basketball court as a result.

There were nuclear shelters deep underground with bizarre illustrations on the wall of God knows what. I assume they probably told a story?

And this huge hall, above the main entrance. I think at one time it would have been one room but the entrance was renovated and this part left to rot. A real shame because I imagine it would have been quite the sight and ornately decorated once upon a time.

Other bits and pieces: