We arrived in Prague the evening of the 20th after brief stops in Potsdam and Dresden along the way. What should have been a half hour drive to Potsdam from Berlin was triple that due to traffic, so we fell behind schedule already in the morning and were in a bit of a mad race the rest of the day trying to cram things in. When we do have full days in any given place they have been long in our effort to try to take in as much as possible, and, while we are not complaining, we found ourselves quite exhausted the other night with various body parts protesting. Yesterday, however, we noticed our bodies seem to be adapting, and we also finally had a chance to slow down the pace after relentless speed-walking through places, and it was nice to enjoy lingering in the atmosphere at an outdoor café.
Prague is a dreamy fairytale in spite of the tourism run amok and circus-like commercialism that overwhelms the Old City, where you join the herd of tourists going down the main drag, hustled by shopkeepers, and encountering street musicians of every genre every few feet - and if you've ever wondered what happened to the Hare Krishnas, they're alive and well here parading on regular rotations through the Old Town. Arriving at 7:00 p.m. the other night to our hotel in the picturesque Lesser City; however, we noticed only the breathtaking beauty and charm, and, forgetting our tiredness, were walking Charles Bridge still at midnight completely spellbound. There could hardly be a place more romantic than there under the moonlight gazing at the baroque backdrop of the Lesser Town with the majestic Prague Castle as its masterpiece.
Our room is extremely spacious and decorated in an antique style, as well as being ideally located in proximity to all the major attractions - a 10 minute walk to Prague Castle or Charles Bridge; 20 minutes to the old town, but in the peaceful setting of narrow cobblestone streets winding amongst buildings many centuries old. Again, this is less than what we paid for the hovel we stayed at in Copenhagen, and includes in-house parking, buffet breakfast, and one dinner for two with a (surprisingly decent) bottle of Czech wine.
Crass commercialism is, unfortunately, the plague of most of the world's loveliest cities, and even those not so lovely are, it seems, all trying to peddle something to bring in revenue - Billy the Kid, for instance, seems to have his resting place in many sorry looking towns we noticed as we travelled across the U.S. Here, we noticed upon crossing the border from Germany to the Czech Republic an immediate stark difference with small towns alongside the highway looking as if they had remained untouched for all the progress of time - where dilapidated buildings and ancient farmhouses spoke of the past - where a meal could be expected to be authentic and life going on as normal. Our shortage of time for our previous two stops that day left us reluctant to pull over to explore, but I hope we will have a chance to do so somewhere along the way before entering into Austria.
Weather-wise, it has been very warm, with only short sleeves needed even at night, and during the day yesterday about 28 degrees. We've had a few rain showers, but have escaped indoors during those times (usually morning or evening) for the brief time it has taken for them to pass, and the sun to come out again. Tuesday, as the morning weather was iffy we spent a few hours exploring the massive Prague Castle (know as the world's largest) dating to the 9th century A.D. In the evening we caught the funicular to the top of Petrin hill and went up the tower for magnificent views. Yesterday, we spent the day ambling around the old town. We have encountered oddly surly staff in many of the sights we have stopped at - in some cases it's the brush off, or flip answers to questions, but most surprising has been the actual shouting out of commands. All taken in stride, however, as it's very bizzareness makes it hard to take seriously.
Now we are off towards Salzburg, with a pitstop in Cesky Krumlov.
*In hindsight: the obvious thing that comes to mind is that this city, which has for over a thousand years retained it's historic culture, has suddenly in a scant couple of decades since the velvet revolution seen all the worst aspects of westernization and tourism en masse move in. One can hardly blame some disgruntlement amongst the natives.