Prague- Praha – It’s a Jungle Out There!
The snow began to thin then disappear as we got closer to Prague (Praha). For the first time we saw animals again grazing in the fields covered only in a thin layer of snow. I spotted a deer hiding in the pine thicket. It would survive long out in the white fields of snow. Lakes, rivers and streams were trying to free themselves from being captured by the winter freeze. Working with the sunlight to escape and once again flow freely probably only to be held captive again further down stream.
The train was full of passengers but it was a quiet and mellow mood on board as it was a late Sunday afternoon. It was a very relaxing train leg. We were met at Prague train station by our Airbnb host which was a bit of a luxury as Rob didn’t need to navigate his way via trams to our accommodation as we had an escort. It is such a small world as it turned out that our host lived in the same neighbourhood as myself in Sydney before returning to care for her mum here in Prague.
Our accommodation was very well situated close to the old town. It’s interior was full of curved arches which was like the old undercover market alley ways. Chandeliers hung elegantly from the ceiling which has been freshly renovated. Our lounge room window looked out onto the American Embassy. We had police guards right outside our front door and any car entering the street was stopped and had to undergo a full security search under the car and under its bonnet (looking for bombs). We took it that we were pretty safe here.
In Prague we stayed here and would also recommend it.
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On our first evening we walked across the famous Charles Bridge. Rob found this quite romantic with its many statues and lamps lit in the cool evening air. Prague was the busiest city we have visited so far. It was teeming with tourists.
We found that that the British influence had definitely infiltrated the shopping malls here. Tesco had a super store. Their baked bread section was astonishing. The bread, bread rolls and pastry section was as big as the fruit and vegetable section. It was amazing how many different ways there are to make simple bread! Bread rolls of all shapes and sizes row after row lay in open divided for people to pick over, cough and spread their germs on. Then you pick, buy, consume and hopefully don’t get sick. If you were not a big fan of Tesco’s there was Marks & Spencer’s who import all their produce and meats from England but of course this up market shopping experience comes with a higher price tag.
Then there was the famous British toy shop Hamley’s which is a great interactive toy store which Rob enjoyed. A big snake for kids to slide down from floor to floor, a beautiful carousel is a great centre piece and how could little ones go past a huge water trough with a fountain, dance piano mats and for the older ones nerf shooting targets and a racing car track. So much free play is there for the taking at Hamley’s for free!!!
On our first full day in Prague we explored the old town with its cobbled streets and beautiful architecture. We were once again disappointed to find the astronomical clock was hidden by a cloak of construction. We wandered past the gothic tower called Powder tower built in 1475 which was where gun powder was once stored.
Many of the statues on the Charles bridge were covered in a black soot from age and pollution. It felt crazy standing on a bridge that was built in 1357. Many artists set up stands on the bridge sketching portraits of tourists. The views of the river were very tranquil with small paddle boats gliding down stream.
The statue art work of Kafka’s head is made out of 42 independently rotating layers which kept you mesmerised as it was constantly changing shape. His head formed on one side and then split and reformed somewhere else. We were happy that we had left minus temperatures behind in Vienna with the snow.
On our second morning to our surprise we woke up to a thick snow fall!! We ploughed our way up the hill through snowy, sloshy streets and slippery ice steps to Prague Castle. When we reached the Castle the snow danced down heavily over Saint Vitus Cathedral giving it a magical feel. The cathedral towers high into the sky making it nearly impossible to take a photo of. Inside the Cathedral showed off its impressive stain glass windows. We cleverly went in to the free section (saving $50 entrance fees).
The view over Prague from Star Bucks near the castle was a panorama of snow covered red roof tops.
Our visit to Prague castle in snow fall was definitely a high light but our ultimate favourite day spent in Prague hands down was Prague Zoo. Rob navigated us to the zoo via a tram and then a bus. Once off the bus you buy your ticket at a kiosk which is not covered in billowing signage, walk through the turn style and you are in. No fancy entrance, no glitter or glamour! If you were standing out on the street you may not realise that you are even at a zoo. Well not just any zoo Prague Zoo is ranked fourth best zoo in the world!! It houses 4,600 animals which includes 680 species.
Being that Prague has cold winter weather a lot of the animals have just divine indoor winter encloses. The African animal section is definitely one to boast about. The giraffe indoor winter enclosures were luxurious with opening glass doors as if you were entering an exclusive shopping mall, warm heating and African hut style housing that was fit for a giraffe along with individual night stalls for quite relaxing time. The giraffes also can roam free with the zebras and antelope out on the plains. We felt like we were in Africa without having to experience the heat. To tell you the truth the hippo pond was totally frozen over and snow covered many enclosures.
Elephant Valley was very heart warming as the youngest members of a herd of around 7 elephants was up to mischief being cheeky trying to squeeze between its mother and a slightly older sibling. The young elephant was enjoying an elephant squeeze then it would drop to the ground and roll in the mud. The mother elephant would constantly tap the baby ever so gently with her foot telling the infant to get up, stop your nonsense and behave. It was wonderful to watch the endearing nature of mother and baby. The bull elephant was in a separate enclosed standing tall with his tusks widely splayed pacing back and forward frustrated from being separated from his herd. The bull elephant was the only thing that made you feel a little sad as nobody wants to feel left out or alone.
Some of our favourite and most endearing animals were the meerkats. Standing straight and tall to attention, ready to listen and wanting to please! Sounds and looks like every teacher’s dream!!!!
There was the jaw dropping endangered salamander. Many animals like the Salamander which was huge we have never seen in reality before.
A few more favourites were the flamingos and prestigious birds of prey like the owls, eagle and vulture.
Interesting in Australia section the emu was the king of the hill his habitat looked out with panoramic views over Prague and the cassowary came close to the fence to greet its visitors. Many German tourists were stunned to see the Cassowary with his armour on his head.
The polar bears were so intimidating with their paws easily twice the size of my head.
Rob was like a kid full of enthusiasm wanting to explore every habitat. Yes he was in charge of the map. We walked around 9 kilometres and spent all day at the zoo. We saw most of the enclosures but we missed the underwater hippos as we were not sure where they had been moved to.
It was a great day out. The zoo really kept us entertained and it only cost $13-00 each to get in and it also had well priced healthy food choices. So just to recap if we went to the zoo at home on the Sunshine Coast and brought a snack it would probably cost us nearly $150-00 but we just went to the fourth ranked zoo in the world and paid around $50 which included tram, bus 2 adult entry tickets, 2 healthy gourmet cakes, coffee, potatoes crisps, a badge and zoo coin. Wow!!!
We were also so impressed by how clean and cared for the animals were. Also 2 CZK of your entry fee is donated to the protection of endangered species like the Mongolian wild horses and gorillas in Africa.
Oh and here is the most amazing thing, it is quite acceptable to take your dog with you to the zoo. I nearly did a back flip when I saw the first family leisurely strolling along glancing at the polar bears. It is a really popular thing to do. We counted heaps of well behaved dogs having a great day out and what’s one more animal species going to do. Dogs go everywhere with their owners. Come on Australia get with the times! Our dogs die of boredom left at home when we go to most beaches, National Parks, shops, use public transport, go out to restaurants and stay in hotels. No wonder Europe’s dogs are leagues ahead of ours because they are stimulated and treated with respect!
In the end I just had to find Rob and we could continue our adventures – off to Munich in Germany! Now I wonder where he is?