It was the day we wanted to utilise fully and Mohammed and Christo arrived as appointed at 9.30 am. Breakfast was done early and we set out on a walking cum tram tour of the city. Christo led and we followed. It was to be the Petrin Tower first. We bought a day pass which entitled us to travel the multi modal public transport network of tram, bus, metro and the funicular railway. From the Lesser Town station we took a steep ride up the Petrin Hill by the funicular railway. One can also climb 299 steps to reach the top of the Hill from where Snezka, the highest peak in the Czech Republic can be seen on a clear day. The Petrin Observation Tower, an Eiffel Tower miniature at 60 metres, was built in 1891. Since the Tower sits on a Hill the view of the City of Prague from the 50th floor of the Tower is awesome. The surrounding areas is set in landscaped gardens and well laid out lawns. The irror Maze is another attraction in the premises. We walked down to the Nebozizek funicular station on the way down and took the funicular to the Lesser Town station.
We walked across the Charles Bridge, which was a different experience from the one in the night, to the Old Town. On the way we sauntered through the Film Special Effects Museum, admired the statue of Charles IV and got fascinated by the details on the Crusader’s Church and the St. Salvatore Church. The Old Town is the oldest settlement in Prague which gained its prominence in the 13th century. The Town was initially separated by walls that were eventually dismantled; they can still be traced by the manner in which the streets are positioned. The Old Town became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire when Charles IV transformed Prague into a medieval architectural city. The Old Town Hall became the seat of Government when the towns in Prague and the surrounding areas were brought together. The Jewish Quarter, or Josefov, is situated between the Vitava River and the Old Town Square. The Jewish Museum and Synagogues are much visited tourist attractions in Prague. We walked through the Old Town.
The main attraction of the Old Town is naturally the Old Town Square which has been most popular since the 10th century. Today the square hosts many concerts and is busy with milling visitors and the talents on display. Particularly captivating was a group of musicians playing Bolivian music. The bagpipes and the tune still haunts after many days. Many youngsters do tricks with football and at amazing speed. The cafes and restaurants in the square provide customers with a wide variety of cuisines and local drinks. I gravitated towards a stall that was selling smoked Ham and local bread. We sat in the small park in the square and tried to do what we could do with the huge portions. In the end we shared the meal with a hungry person who happened by.
Popular attractions in the Old Town Square include the Tyn Church, St. Nicholas Church, the tower of the Old Town Hall and the Astronomical Clock. The last mentioned is mounted on the wall of the Old Town Hall and is one of the icons of Prague. Visitors throng here every hour to view the special effects of the clock’s chime. The dial of the clock has three components; the astronomical dial displays the astronomical details including the position of the Sun and Moon, “The Walk Of The Apostles” shows the movement of the 12 Apostles passing through two windows and a Calendar dial that depicts the day of the year. Being one of the most identified tourist spots in Prague newlyweds come to this attraction for special photo sessions; we were witness to one.
Christo took us to the Church of the Infant Jesus of Prague, which is known worldwide for miraculous powers. The Church was originally built by the Lutherans before 1620 and over a period of time it got transferred to the Carmelites. The exceptional building houses the small statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague. After prayers Christo introduced us to Fr Victor, who hailed from Goa and had been in Prague since 2000. Fr. Victor gave us the unique opportunity and blessing to hold the statue of the Infant Jesus. He blessed us in a special way and gave us a gift of a painting done by a Czech artist. Butterfly wings have been used to create two parrots sitting on a perch. The message and attestation are added features of the gift.
The New Town, or the Nove Mesto, comprises of buildings of the 19th and early 20th century and feature some of Prague’s legendary attractions. Three large market squares dominate this part of the town that was destroyed in 1875 but was reconstructed without losing its original flavour. The Wenceslas Square is a traditional setting for demonstrations and celebratory gatherings. The vibrant night life and entertainment here gather visitors in large numbers here. This has also developed into Prague’s main shopping spot with international shops situated all around the Square. We walked from the Square to the imposing National Museum. It is one of the biggest museums in Prague and a great hit with tourists. The Museum was built in 1818 and reportedly houses over 14 million pieces of art, natural history and architecture. That brought to an end our sightseeing tour of Prague for the visit. Christo had conducted us around professionally and did the best within the short time available to him. Thank you, Christo and Mohammed.
In the morning, while waiting for the Funicular I contacted the Indian Embassy to check if I could meet with the Ambassador. In fact, I was in Prague only because the Ambassador had replied to my mail to him about the trip. I rerouted to Prague instead of going off to Slovakia via Ostrava. I was connected to Venu by the Embassy exchange. He identified himself as a person from Ottappalam in Kerala. I immediately handed over the phone to Lal for he lived there. As fates would have it two friends were reunited over the phone after three decades! Venu soon laid out an elaborate plan to meet in the Embassy in the evening. He would not be dissuaded from a dinner engagement. Accordingly we landed up with Christo – Mohammed joined later – by tram. The meeting in the Embassy with all the staff except the Ambassador, who was away in Burma, lasted close to two hours. The informal exchange brought out the Czech character and economy in greater detail. The Second Secretary hosted an elaborate dinner at an Indian Restaurant, a short distance away from the Embassy.
Once we took leave of the Embassy staff and boarded the Metro – the Hradcanska station is supposed to have the steepest escalator in Prague, save another – Mohammed and Christo confirmed that they would join us in the morning for a ride to Brno, where Mohammed was working. Accordingly we fixed up to meet in the Hotel at 7 am the following morning. It is tough taking leave of people you meet, even if it for a short while, for bonds develop quickly and emotionally entwine you. Moreover, Prague is one of the most beautiful cities I visited during the journey and I understood that the City had to be given at least a week to explore and study. Must do it sometime later, I mentally noted.