A train trip from Koblenz took us to Frankfurt where we had an eight hour wait for our overnight bus to Prague. Frankfurt is also known as "Bankfurt" as it's the banking capital of europe, and certainly has some impressive skyscrapers. It appeared to be a cosmopolitan style city but still retained some impressive old style buildings, most of which had been destroyed in the Allied bombing raids in 1944. We followed a couple of English guys for a while. One lived there and the other was visiting and getting a free tour from his friend, so we managed to get an overview without being "found out"!
We dumped our bags in the 24 hour train station lockers for a small fee and went for a wander. It was a beautiful day although we did nearly get caught out later when a thunderstorm came out of nowhere! We took refuge in an old church in an attempt to stay dry. We were very impressed by the Frankfurter Dom - the coronation site of Holy Roman Emperors from 1562 - 1792. Its feature is the 15th century Gothic tower, one of the few structures left from the raids in 1944. We enjoyed a picnic of french stick with cheese & a bottle of wine in a beautiful park, then slowly made our way round to collect our bags, paid 70c each for a wee (rip off!!) and head to the bus pick up point. Suprisingly, our bus was on time...and we were soon on our way to the Czech capital of Prague.
As we have experienced in the past with overnight buses, they are not at all comfortable, and we got very little sleep. This was made even more unpleasant by various smelly men dotted around the bus that kept letting of foul smells! I had also taken some anti travel sick pills which made me incredibly drowsy. So, when we arrived at 6am the next morning in a very strange city with a language we couldn't even decifer, it was tough going! Thanks to a very helpful Lonely Planet guide book we found where to buy tram tickets & where to get on and off for the campsite. Prague is the only city so far that charged half fare for a large backpack or suitcase, so we had to buy three tickets between the two of us.
Just after 7am we rocked into the campsite recommended & asked for a pitch. Luckily they had one available, as people don't usually get there that early. We set up as quick as possible and had some well earned breakfast. Gathering all our dirty clothes together we headed back into the city to locate a laundrette as the campsite didn't have one. This proved a little more difficult than we expected. Starting at the Tourist info we got sent to two dry cleaners...not really what we had in mind. Trying a city centre youth hostel, we got directed to a mall that had a self service laundrette, so got there and they were due to close for lunch in 5 minutes. I have never loaded a washing machine quite so quickly in all my life! That done, and hoping the washing would still be there when we got back, went in search of food before we starved to death.
We kept seeing people wearing Iron Maiden t-shirts around the city, so stopped one guy and had a chat. Turns out they were playing that evening! It was the same tour we had seen in Australia though, so decided to give it a miss. Picked up our washing after doing some food shopping for the evening and headed back to the campsite for an early night. We were both shattered by this point & really couldn't appreciate what we were seeing, definately in need of sleep!
The next day we woke up feeling refreshed & ready to venture out into Prague to see what it really had to offer us. Had a shower in the amenties block, that I can say was the worst shower I have ever had...and I've had some bad showers in the past! It was cold the water only stayed on for 2 seconds & then you had to push a button again. Ah, the joys of travelling! Gotta take the rough with the smooth.
All the main sights are in central Prague & seem easy to reach on foot. So we trammed into the city & set about walking. Heading straight for the number one attraction - Prague castle & the changing of the guards at noon. Prague castle was from the 9th century and was the original house of princes & kings of Bohemia. Being skinflints we didn't pay to go in, but rather had a look around the outside & watch the changing of guards procession. It was good, but not as good as Buckingham palace!
From there we went to the Cathedral which is spectacular! We had to join a queue to get in, and noticed how the carvings on the outside of the cathedral were all sorts of evil creatures, while inside seemed a haven of peace. I guess it was a visual metaphor of how inside the church there should be peace & love, and outside there has always been evil & hatred. Wow, now I'm just going way too deep!! After this we took a leisurely stroll through the palace gardens and came across a falconry display. The lady we chatted to had 9 different birds on display ranging from an eagle owl, golden eagle, buzzard & falcon. It was awesome to see them so close! After that we got ourselves a bacon & cheese roll from the bakery. They really make the best bread I have ever tasted here in Czech republic!
We had a wander round to the Karluv Most (Charles Bridge) which finished construction in 1402. It has many baroque sculptures on it mostly from the 18th century and is fortified with towers each end. Very impressive!
In the Old Town we saw the Astronomical clock on the old town hall. On the hour you see 12 apostles appear parading around & a bell ringing skeleton. There is also a zodiac calendar board. This was located in the square of the old town. Full of impressive Baroque style buildings and crowded with cafes full of people drinking and eating! Prague has such a wonderful atmosphere, it is certainly a must for every traveller to Europe, or even a weekend away. We found most people speak English & if in doubt, sign it out!!
Lager beer was originally invented in 1842 in Plzen and is now the home town of Pilsner Urquell (the worlds first lager beer). We didn't get to Plzen, but instead tried this drink and can confirm that it puts most other lagers in the shade! Apart from Castle lager & Stella Artois of course! This Bohemian beer is probably some of the worlds best and in Prague there are no shortages of opportunities to taste this marvel! We discovered that if you walked about 3 blocks from the city centre or any tourist attraction you would find a local bar that served half litres for 30Kc instead of 75Kc!! Quite a saving when you're on a budget.
The next day we packed up as early as we had arrived & headed back to the bus station to get a transfer to Vienna in Austria.The Czech Republic is such an exciting country seeing as its officially only been around since 1993, most of the history is from the ancient lands of Bohemia & Moravia. Go there to experience it for yourself though!