Nom de Plumage

February 21, 2013

Now Is Not The Time For a Blizzard

That fear about being in an unknown city overcame me again. You would think that after my successful navigation and safe arrival in Prague, that some of my apprehension should have passed? Not really!  The hostel kindly provides free walking tours of the city and that was enough persuasion to make me participate in the adventure. A very young and posh sounding tour guide arrives at 10:40 am with a fellow tourist to collect me. Simon (the tour guide) is from Yorkshire in England and has  that crisp, elegant accent that I admire so much. Coming along for the journey is a lass from Australia named Laura and from word ‘hello’, we become firm friends and spend the day reflecting on home and enjoying each other’s quirky sense of humour.

Our ‘tour’ meeting point, is in the Old Town Square and beneath the magical ‘Astronomical Clock‘. It is a unique piece of craftsmanship and made more admirable when you hear the sad and cruel punishment inflicted on the maker as insurance for his secrecy. This clock is the ‘crowning jewel’ of Prague and was commissioned hundreds of years ago as a centrepiece like no other in the medieval city. Beautifully crafted with precision and dedication, the artist is revered. His reward? The brutal removal of his tongue and sight, that he would never reveal to anyone, friend or foe, how he came to produce such a stunning piece. Thank you very much!Precisely each hour, the clock chimes and in doing so, several male figurines come out and dance, followed by a male trumpeter who plays a few notes and then leaves. The show lasts a mere thirty seconds, but it draws the crowd each time.

DSC00105With the last note played, it signals the beginning of the tour.

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Simon weaves his entertaining stories through the Old Town Square, the Jewish Quarter, over ancient stone bridges, past opera the house and museums, all presented in an informative, entertaining, historical and funny stories. I cannot remember when I have last enjoyed a tour as much. Two-and-a-half hours only gives me a glimpse of what Prague truly has to offer. We could not enter the churches, museums etc because of the limited time, but it allowed me the opportunity to feel and see for myself, the secret splendours that withstood the ravages of war and communism. Prague’s history is as brutal, bloody and historical as any city within Europe. But where we know so much about France, Italy and Germany, so little is known about Prague. I am surprised to hear just how much history has played out in this little city and how thankful it has survived and prospered for tourists, like myself, to come and visit. The city is by no means architecturally splendid as Paris, culturally rich as Rome or beautiful as Vienna, but in saying that, the medieval package, beautifully preserved and restored, unique and elegant, makes for a stunning little gem and one that I am so very happy to have visited.

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Laura and I enjoy each others company throughout the tour and once finished, we decide to take part in another tour which takes in the Castle district on the other side of the Volta River. The weather has throughout the day, progressively gotten colder and the sky darker. It has not snowed, but the cold has numbed our cheeks and hands and this was only the beginning for what was about to get much worse.

Our second tour started at the same place and our guide was an American named Peter. If Simon was funny and entertaining, then Peter can only be described as the exact opposite. Extremely informative and versed in his facts, his love for his new home comes through brilliantly with his stories. But, it is all so boring and Laura and I struggle on this tour. We struggle even more when the temperature plummets and the snow begins to fall fast and heavy. A blizzard like no other hits and this is the first time that I experience such conditions. Every part of our body freezes. No amount of suitable clothing gives relief for what can only be described as unbearable conditions. Peter’s stories get lost in the wind and Laura and I cannot concentrate as our face, hands and feet are numb. We stop at a little café for a chance to thaw and a drink of hot chocolate. Our respite is too brief before we again enter the blizzard.

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How can one appreciate such stunning scenery when every part of their body aches and is numb? Our distress is evident upon our faces and seeing this, Peter relented and cancelled our tour half-an-hour earlier. I really felt sorry for him because he is a lovely man and really excelled in his history and love for the city. But he was kind enough to help us get to a tram and see us off safely. It was early yet, barely 4:30 pm and Laura and I both knew that should we go back to our hostels to warm up, we would not care to venture out again. We decide on going to a restaurant for some warm drinks and then dinner later on.

Having dinner at a ‘tourist hot-spot’ is not recommended because it is well-known that these premises charge top dollar. But when you are desperate, then anything is a blessing. We chose a very typical restaurant, that just oozed all things Czech. We are shown to a table for two by a young handsome waiter, fluent in English and cheekiness. Our priority was to warm up, inside and out. With a blazing fire on our back to warm the outside, I ordered a hot wine to warm the inside. The atmosphere was great and we enjoyed talking with our cheeky waiter. Two hot drinks later, it was time to order dinner. I have no idea what is a typical meal of the region, so how does roast duck with stewed red cabbage and dumplings sound? It tasted delicious and was very hearty in portion. But that did not for a minute deter us from dessert. If the main was delicious, then a bowl of hot liquid chocolate with roast pistachio coated Bailey’s ice cream, was magnificent.

We savoured the evening immensely. Two hours passed slowly and it gave us time to brace ourselves for the quick dash through the blizzard to our hostels. Because we could only glimpse a lot of the scenery, we wanted the chance to explore more of Prague and revisit some of the places, so we decided to meet again tomorrow.

I unfortunately, had a cold shower and cold room waiting for me at the hostel. What a way to end a miserable day.





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