The afternoon quite laid back, moving around the square on a bright blue afternoon, sitting at a restaurant sipping beer or wine, listening to the live street bands that performed there, was yet another vision of the glorious past that was no longer there. Surrounded by the Tyn Cathedral, the Church of St. Nicholas, the Jan Hus Monument, the square was reminiscent of the St. Marks square in Venice, where one could simply while their day away, provided one had time. Narrow alleys, with tens of souvenir shops, restaurants, traders selling their wares, artists providing their skills, before one knew it, we had managed to finish off a couple of hours there, the only grudge being aching leg muscles and a groaning back.
From the old town square, I headed off to the Charles Bridge, as the message was, a visit to the Old Town Square and Prague was not complete without visiting the bridge. I say, I, as the rest of the gang was nearly dead beat after the Old Town Square walkathon. With a self belief that I could walk on for hours, headed to the bridge.
The first look at it, and was thoroughly satisfied with my decision to do it alone. A bridge originally going back to the 12th Century, that crosses the Vltava river in Prague and of course, built under the reign of King Charles IV. Nearly 600m long, the bridge has an impressive span of around 30 statues, most going back to the 1700’s. The statues on the bridge all belong to various saints and patron saints that were revered at the time, with most of these being built by various prominent sculptors of the time. As I inquired more, was interested to read that almost the statues are all replicas of the originals, which were removed and are under an exhibit in the National Museum. The bridge at any time of the day is an impressive imposing structure, yet another display of a monument, where one can spend hours on it, just whiling away time. Musicians playing their tune, day sellers trading their wares, people sitting in the shade of the imposing statues, reading a book, children feeding the sea gulls, all aided by the fact that cars were not allowed on the bridge and with the weather beating in nicely, one could be forgiven for not wanting to go back.
Go back I did and that is where the second part of the fun began. Underestimating the distance back to the Hotel, I walked back. Not that I cannot, but when the route is unknown, even a 25 minute walk seems equal to two hours. Add to it, if one has been walking all afternoon. The journey back was absolutely impressive to state the least, as one realizes what one misses when travelling by bus. The day to day street life, people in their element, one realizes as a tourist, life goes on the same everywhere.
The evening continued post the massive walkathon with another show at the Folklore Garden Restaurant. This was another traditional show hosted by local artists followed with a traditional dinner. A song and dance program is always a sure shot way to relieve your stress levels no matter how hard and long the day has been. Going through this, I could not but help wonder, as to how many of us actually within our countries see our local traditional dances unless we are on tours. For sure many are commercialized and the charm for many of these artists wanes with diminishing interests, and most are done only for visiting dignitaries or as part of tour groups, it was worthwhile thinking as to how many would survive or continue if there is no local patronage or an interest by private patrons and would the succeeding generations even know anything about this?
The evening ended with another visit to the Charles Bridge, as had heard that the night scene was not to be missed either. Heading back through the Old Town Square, the evening view was even more memorable than the morning one. What added to it was the square that was still packed even at midnight with people still lounging on the streets, having a bite, busy in a chat, simply talking or just sitting around. Yes, one did see the oddball begging for alms, but what was noteworthy and worth praise was the absence of beggars who one would be so used to seeing back home, coming from nowhere or even the unsavoury elements that would haunt our cities back home. It did seem bliss, however for sure there would be some places where these would exist.
With the Charles Bridge done, the day or rather the night finally came to an end and groaning muscles unwillingly hit the bed. Time seemed to be the only short factor in a city so rich with history and modernity both walking hand in hand. Last day tomorrow, it was to be a Spa Day.3