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Quote of the Day - I flew in from Prague and in the end it wasn't so bad. Now that I'm here I love it, I absolutely love it. - Liev Schreiber
MIPTC's Travelogue: Prague, Czech Republic - Day 1
From SNA to ATL and then on to PRG via Delta Airlines: it's a long, long overnight flight with wonderful service and almost lie-flat seats that practically allow you to fall asleep, but not quite. Enough, however, that a 11:30 a.m. arrival in Prague brings a breathtaking view from just below the clouds right before landing.
There's a stately river flowing and bending through what is obviously a very old city where most buildings appear no taller than five or six stories with red-tile roofs, all packed tightly together in twisting, turning and very narrow streets. It's a small city by US standards, just over one million inhabitants, but with a much longer and older heritage than we can imagine in our comparatively young country.
First things first after a check-in at the beautifully charming Alchymist Hotel, founded in 1517, just slightly more than a hundred years before the Pilgrims thought about stepping on Plymouth rock, just to give a comparative historical prospective. It's time for an overview city tour, which we accomplish largely by walking, with a little help from trolleys and taxis. We discover it's less than fifteen minutes to walk anywhere in the Centrum.
One of our first treats is the astronomical clock on the Old Town Hall, built in the middle ages. Modern clockworks have nothing on this gorgeous masterpiece. In fact, I can't find a present-day clockmaker, watchmaker or software program that can reproduce a working replica of this complicated and historical clock.
Pictures do it justice, but can't communicate the feeling of the crowd as we gather to watch the every-hour-on-the-hour show, which features wooden figurines of the twelve apostles who appear from behind leaded windows, gliding and turning, acknowledging the faithful. The lower marionettes on the clock delight, as well. The skeleton with an hourglass nods his head, telling the others it's time to meet the grim reaper, while the very-much-alive Turk and wise man shake their heads in disagreement. The brief, 46-second show ends when the golden bird above the clock crows his signal, and all become silent for another hour.
We get a brief view of the remainder of the city, but nothing as stunning as nightfall from Havansky Pavilion, built in 1891 and continually used since then as a restaurant perched on a hill high above the river and city. Luckily, we had window seats as the sun set and dusk enveloped the town. Lights slowly illuminated the city, but the Centrum remained dark, as it was hundreds of years ago. Indeed, we counted only seven neon lights visible from this point, a compliment to a people who respect their heritage. Dinner at the small, circular ironwork-decorated Havansky Pavilion was a sumptuous treat of typical Czech food known for its flavorfulness, certainly a portent of things to come in this wonderful city.
As dusk turned inky black, we headed back to the Alchymist, just comfortably across from the United States Embassy for some of our own much-needed-after-a-long flight, inky-black shuteye.