Usually on a short break, you get a glimpse of a place – a view the city sets up for all tourists. The tourist attractions are there to hold you back, the food and the beer to charm you and getting lost in a city is the highlight of a weekend. Prague was all about that and a lot more. Which is why I wanted to spend a few more days.
It all came down to two sporting events which probably increased the appeal of the city. Prague was hosting the marathon and while it is not as popular as NY or London marathon, the city in many parts came together to cheer the participants. There were stands at each corner where local bands entertained the crowd of supporters.
It was also hosting the International Hockey Tournament. I am not a fan of the sport but there were many in the hostel who were passionate fans, well mostly Canadians and they knew how to support their team.
I joined Sandeman Tours (highly recommended) and the guide Michael took us to the old town where he enriched us with the history of the city in his own unique German humour. The city has a rich history and while it has had its fair share of darkness, recently under the Nazi rule and then under communism, it felt that the city has also grown from it. It has embraced democracy but the ill effects of capitalism has hit the country quite badly (it doesnt feel like that in Prague but I was told that in many parts of the country unemployment rates are quite high). One of the highlights of the tour was this old clock. It is beautiful and the elements of zodiac signs, the astronomy signs and the human elements make this clock unique and special. It (for me) symbolizes the coming together of new and old ideas.
Other highlights are the scenic views one gets of the city from many lookout points. I spent a great deal of time walking through the city and more often than not, the views were the reward. Prague castle is quite beautiful but the architecture around the city is stunning – that is another reason why the city won me over. In many European towns, modernism has led to a mismatch of new concrete building in the heart of old stone buildings. Prague, it seemed, made the effort to preserve history. I learnt that the Nazis loved Prague so much that they were ordered not to destroy it unlike other cities they destroyed as they were defeated. It probably helped preserve the old architecture but the city felt old with a new charm and I loved it.
I would go back to Prague and spend more time there. I havent explored the classical music scene. I did not explore the theatres there. I want to spend more time in the country and get to meet people from other parts where the perspective might be different from those who live and work in Prague. Someday I will be back to embrace the charm of this city once again.