Arriving by Train
Prague Old Town
Beautifully decorated for Christmas, the old town square was filled with Christmas market stalls selling food and hot drinks with any kind of alcohol you might want. Prague's Christmas markets are rated as some of the best in the world. We were offered huge chunks of roasted ham, chestnuts and cider or mulled wine (this time with a shot of any spirit you might fancy), just to get you there quicker! Around the square groups of musicians got us all in the festive mood. An old saxophone player mesmerized crowds and a band got people dancing. The atmosphere was spot on!
Crossing the river Valtava, Charles Bridge is probably the most famous attraction in Prague. We headed to the bridge early on New Years Eve and lived to regret it. It seems everyone in Prague had the same idea that day and we met them all on the bridge. Pushing, crowding and cold winds made for a very uncomfortable visit. We resolved to return the following morning before the masses awoke with their sore heads! Second time lucky as we had the bridge almost to ourselves. A low fog hung over the baroque statues giving the bridge an eerie feel. We walked along checking out the artists displays and visiting the spots that had been used in filming Mission Impossible (while we were there like!).
The Astronomical Clock
After the brief show, we knew we needed to lower our expectations slightly. I don't know what we expected from 600 year old moving figures but on the strike of the hour, two small doors open to reveal figures inside moving clockwise and presenting themselves at the window for visitors to see. It lasted a few seconds, the crowds waited a little longer in anticipation of something more - which never came. After a brief pause, we all dispersed laughing at ourselves.
One of the most fun experiences we had in Prague was our brief visit to the ice pub. Tucked away down an ally near Charles bridge, this was one for the bucket list. Visitors are asked to buy a €10 ticket which gets them one free drink and use of a thermal poncho & gloves (essential). In small groups, visitors are allowed to stay in the ice pub no longer than 20 minutes, presumably to prevent the ole hypothermia setting in!! Inside, everything is made of ice – walls, furniture, bar, glasses! It's kitsch but novel. Our drinks were served in ice glasses meaning we could smash them into a barrel when we were done, which turned out to be surprisingly satisfying. We sat on an ice throne and danced around ice sculptures. For those of us brave enough to remove a glove for photos, the results were cool! (lol)
Child of Prague
The statue itself dates from the 16th century and is a representation of Jesus. The crown is studded with diamonds and jewels and the infant is holding an orb which symbolizes kingship. It has been linked with numerous miracles. The superstition that leaving a statue of the child of Prague in the hallway / or outside, the night before a wedding to ward off bad weather has little to do with the history of the statue in Prague. Some Irish people believe that the statue of the child of Prague has to be beheaded and then the head had to be glued back on before it works as a good omen. Us Irish are funny folk. The only links that I could find are fairly tenuous. In 1555 the statue of the child of Prague was given to a Spanish lady as a wedding gift (there's the ole wedding link).
New Years Eve
NYE in Prague old town is not for children or the faint hearted. Restaurants and clubs book up early, cruises on the river are very popular as most people want to be in a prime spot for the fireworks at 12 midnight. In fact, the official city fireworks are not set off until New Year's Day, instead, on NYE various organisation's, families, groups set off their own fireworks and the sky is lit up with fireworks being set off from all over the city. In the old town and on Charles bridge it does get a little unsafe as people in the crowd set off their own fireworks, often aimed at boats or river side restaurants.