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Posts tagged ‘hotel josef’

czech nouveau riche

FINALLY…. writing something new… have been travelling a lot so definitely more to talk about – and had enough time to find the Prague photos!

As already noted, Prague has come a long way, baby… Luckily, there is still plenty you can do on a budget but, if you have a little more money to blow, it’s even more enchanting.  There are now boutique hotels and one of the best is Hotel Josef.  You can walk to many attractions and there is a metro stop a couple of blocks away if you want to do something more adventurous.  Included in the price of your room is a sumptuous breakfast.  On the plus side, you will likely do plenty of walking, some of it uphill, so you can indulge without guilt.

worth the walk

A great journey is to walk through the Old Town over the Charles Bridge (or a less famous one if you don’t like crowds) to Malá Strana.  It’s the baroque neighborhood near the castle.  It’s worth checking out St. Nicholas Church but even more interesting is just walking the medieval streets.  Nearby is Hradčany, the homeland of the support staff for the castle in medieval Prague.  The castle is the obvious draw but it’s also worth checking out the Loreta.

It’s a baroque place of pilgrimage.  It’s modelled on the Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy.  The Santa Casa is

how the aristocrats live

supposed to be the home of the Virgin Mary.  Dorothy wasn’t the only one to have magical journeys.  The Santa Casa was moved by angels to Croatia when the Turks threatened Nazareth.  When the Turks got close to Croatia, the angels delivered the house to Italy, finally landing in Loreto.  There are some impressive frescoes and a spectacular treasury.

One of the reasons Prague has become such a popular destination is that there is gorgeous architecture from all sorts of periods, especially older periods when elaborate, unnecessary details were standard fare.  This architectural splendour extends beyond tourist attractions.  The night I arrived I was dining alone and didn’t know the neighborhood yet so spent quite a while wandering the streets and was starting to worry there might not be a seat for me so decided I needed to make a decision.

art deco extravagance

Then I saw it… a stunning art deco building that looked to have empty seats.  Francouzska Restaurace.  The space is sublime.  The staff were friendly.  What was most impressive though was the food.  An exquisite meal at a great price, including foie gras terrine with chocolate, lobster bisque and champagne!  It was so fabulous I made a second visit with my Toronto friend.  He was equally impressed.

If you are more into beer than champagne, Prague is also wonderful.  Czech beer is world famous and they didn’t need to wait for the craft beer movement to start making great beer.  There is actually a place called the Prague Beer Museum, which is highly recommended.  Most fun is to do flights so you can try different styles before committing.

There is definitely nightlife, although a lot of it is low key and sometimes quirky.  In one nightclub, they showed a ski movie as part of the entertainment and the crowd was really into it.

artistic cerny

Quirky is definitely part of Prague’s character.  One of the best ways to experience that aspect of the Czech

not your average sculpture

identity is to seek out David Cerny’s sculptures.  I didn’t see them all.  An excuse for another trip to Prague?

There is no question Prague is a destination where one visit doesn’t seem enough…

 

prague – the original :)

beautiful even in the rain

beautiful even in the rain

I’ve now sent you to several other places to get a Prague-type experience.  I was incredibly lucky to be living in Germany as Prague began to blossom as a tourist destination so I got to see it in a very virginal state from a tourist perspective.  It has always been in my top ten travel experiences.  Service was pretty terrible and a lot of the city was full of ugly Soviet-era architecture but there was much to admire about the culture and there was also beautiful baroque architecture.  There were quirky things to do like attend a black box theatre experience or climb to the top of a hill in search of witches.

Since then, I have traveled a lot all over Europe and kept meeting people complaining about how crowded Prague is.  It kept dissuading me from a return visit but then one of my friends got invited to a conference in Prague.  We live in different cities so I don’t get to see him a lot so an opportunity to revisit Prague and hang out for a few days post-conference was too enticing to resist.

The first time I had stayed in cheap B+B type accommodation in an ugly Soviet-style apartment block.  This time I decided to go larger and stay at the Hotel Josef.  It was an excellent decision.  It is moderately priced, right in the middle of all the tourist action and there is a metro station nearby if you want to explore beyond the typical tourist sites.  Breakfast is included and it is exceptional.  Luckily, there is lots of walking to do post-breakfast to wear it off 🙂

http://www.hoteljosef.com/

I thought October might offer some respite from the tourist masses.  The weather was definitely cold but that did not stop the tour buses.  I would definitely advise visiting off-season as it is hard to imagine the main square could hold many more people!  The tourists tend to flock only in a few super famous spots so you can get away from the crowds by being intrepid.

The Old Town is small so the best way to begin is to wander aimlessly through the cobblestone

not your ordinary bridge

not your ordinary bridge

streets and get a sense for the place and imagine you are in an entirely different century.  Eventually make your way to the Charles Bridge so you can join the tourist throngs snapping photos and check out the wares of the merchants littered chock-a-block along the length of the bridge.

You will now be in Malá Strana where it is easier to escape from tourists and get plenty of exercise climbing the steep streets.

a beautiful way to tell time

a beautiful way to tell time

There are very few places in the world where you can feel like you have wandered into a real life place that would be the perfect setting for a fairy tale.  Be sure to stay for a few days and get up really early at least one morning so you can see the Old Town Square and the phenomenal Astronomical Clock while the other tourists are still sleeping.  That’s when you will feel you really are a 16th century prince or princess – with a great 21st century camera 😉

 

 

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