Iceland left such a strong impression on us that it was hard to leave. Thankfully, things went very smoothly with our flight to Brussels, the car rental, and our drive to Liers, and we had a great evening to look forward to.
Our friends Alema and Johannes live in a small medieval village outside of Bonn, and it is always a real treat when we get to visit them. The village is in the Ahr Region (named after the River Ahr), and on a popular riding road for motorcyclists (I heard several sighs from Rick while coming across riders – he wished he could ride this road on his Harley). We arrived later than we originally expected – after 5 pm, and came straight to a delicious BBQ dinner. I always feel so at home with them as they are those old friends that you might not see for years, and you can just pick up where you last left off. Those friendships are priceless.
The following morning we were treated to a delicious breakfast with traditional German Brötchen (buns that are just sooo delicious and can’t be found anywhere else), and we set off for Bonn to visit my sister (my sister has recently moved to Bonn for a fantastic new job with Deutsche Telekom – woot, woot). We had a quick visit with her and her family as we had to make sure they were all doing well and were settled nicely (we came for a longer visit with them on our way back through Europe).
Then, we set off for Prague. It was a very long drive (arguably too much time spent in the car), but so worth it. Prague is an absolutely stunning city. As I spent most of my teenage and university years in Zagreb, Prague felt very familiar (the history of belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the post-World War II dominance of the socialist/communist ideology is shared between the two countries). At the same time, partially due to its geographic character (the natural elevation of the Prague Castle, and the impressive width of the River Vltava which flows through the city centre), and partly thanks to its historic importance (the power seat for Bohemia and Holy Roman Empire, as well as the oldest university city in Central Europe), Prague is just so much more grand.
Here come several things that we just loved about Prague:
1. Staying in the Old Town of Prague
Our Airbnb apartment was at the end of one windy and dark passage, a dark courtyard, and then another smaller dark courtyard in the very centre of the Old Town. It was tricky to get home late at night, and absolutely impossible to park our car anywhere near the apartment, but we were so close to all the action, that the car was not needed. We parked the car in a parkade close to the Czech Philharmonic House Rudolfinum, and we spent the following two days – until we were ready to leave Prague – on foot.
2. Charles Bridge (Karlův most)
Charles Bridge is one of the most visited and most popular destinations in Prague. It is the oldest bridge in Prague: commissioned by King Charles IV in 1357, it replaced the old Judith Bridge which was damaged by a flood. For a long time (until 1841), it was the only bridge crossing Vltava River and connecting the Old Town and Prague Castle.
All sorts of legends, stories and myths are linked to Charles Bridge – one of them being that if a couple kisses on Charles Bridge, their love would be sealed forever. We did notice that there was a number of couples taking selfies on the bridge, but we unfortunately, did not know about the magic powers of the bridge until after our visit. If you ever go to Prague, try not to miss this unique opportunity!
3. Works of Alfons Mucha
Alfons Mucha was a renowned Czech Art Nouveau painter and graphic designer. He had a very distinct style which he considered simply as the product of himself and Czech art, but the world has learned to identify with Art Nouveau. I’m a fan, so I was very excited to see his original work. Seeing his art up and close made me very nostalgic as I used to collect stamps as a child, and was always greatly impressed with the art work and intricacy of stamps coming from Czechoslovakia. Alfons Mucha was actually the designer of Czechoslovakian stamps (as well as the bank notes) between 1918 and 1992, so it is no wonder that Czechoslovakia had the most beautiful stamps. I saw Mucha at the Gallery of Art Prague because it’s conveniently located at one of the corners of the Old Town Square, but you can see a lot more of Mucha’s work at the Mucha Museum.
We also really enjoyed just walking by the river, eating at restaurants we discovered along the way, and coming across random gems – Prague is full of them. Overall, Rick was surprised that Prague was inundated with tourists, but I was pleased to see that. It is such a lovely city, and I am glad it is well visited.