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Prague & Český Krumlov - A photographer's dream settings...

Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge panorama at dusk

Prague Castle - Saint Vitus Wenceslas Chapel

I'm not sure what it is about Prague that I love so much. It's a city that's been through a lot, and wears that history on its sleeve in many ways. Yet it's also beautifully preserved, having been spared most of the damage inflicted on the rest of Europe in 20th century wars. Walking around the city there are many "old right next to new" scenes, which makes it especially appealing to the photographer in me. On my last visit to Prague in 2001, I was taken in by both its beauty and its edgy, almost dangerous aura. This trip amplified those prior impressions and augmented them by our long day trip south into bohemian, medieval Český Krumlov.

Tuesday, August 17th - Prague at night

Our train from Berlin arrived at 5:30 pm after a picturesque ride through eastern Germany and northern Czech Republic. After an ATM stop for Czech crowns (while the Czech Republic is a member of the European Union, they don't use Euros yet), we walked a few blocks to our hotel, the Prague Marriott. After unpacking, we walked 10 minutes west to Old Town Square, the center of activity, especially every hour on the hour under the Astronomical Clock (first picture below). From there we snaked through the tiny streets to the Vltava river to catch dusk fall over the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle (second picture below). We had dinner and drinks at the Hard Rock Cafe before winding our way back (third and fourth pictures below).

Chateau Round Tower view of Český Krumlov

Astronomical clock

Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge

Powder Tower at night

Old Town Square at night

Wednesday, August 18th - Prague's Castle District, Petřín Tower & New Town

Forewarned about crowds, we woke early, ate breakfast at the hotel lounge and then took the #22 tram to Prague Castle, where we arrived at Saint Vitus Cathedral (first and second pictures below and large picture top of page left) just as they opened the doors. Sure enough, 30 minutes later, the tour busses had arrived and thousands of people crowded the aisles. We walked around to the right of the Cathedral to the Bell Tower entrance where we climbed the 300 steps to the top (third picture below overlooking the courtyard and all of Prague). Still somewhat ahead of the crowds, we went through all of the Old Royal Palace and Saint Georges Basilica (fourth picture below). Golden Lane was closed for construction as was the Ledeburská zahrada garden, so we doubled back to the New Castle Stairs which we used to descend to the Lesser Quarter. We then walked past Saint Nicholas Cathedral to the base of Petřín Hill.

Saint Vitus facade

Saint Vitus interior

View from St. Vitus Bell Tower


Saint Georges Basilica

The funicular to the top of Petřín Hill had a 20 minute line, but saved us a tough climb. From the top of the funicular, we walked through a serene park (first picture below) and then took the tiny elevator to the top of the tower. The view from the top of Petřín Tower was excellent. That's Prague Castle at the left of the second picture below. There's no elevator down, so we did the 400 steps with gravity on our side and then rode the funicular back to the Lesser Quarter. Continuing southeast, we crossed the Bridge of Legions (third picture below) and hiked south into Prague's New Town at Gehry's famous "Dancing House" (fourth picture below). After some out-of-date map confusion finding the nearby metro station, we headed back to our hotel mid-afternoon for lunch. After some down-time and drinks at the lounge, we walked to the Mucha museum, which was excellent. I first visited this museum in 2001 and have followed Mucha's work ever since. From the Mucha, we walked to Saint Wenceslas Square, did some souvenir shopping and returned to our hotel. We had dinner at a touristy outdoor cafe in Old Town Square right under the Astronomical Clock, capturing video of the crowd and the clock's hourly display. After dinner, we walked west to the Vltava River and took some evening tripod-mounted long exposure shots of the Charles Bridge with Prague Castle in the background (large panorama picture top of page - in my humble opinion, the best shot of the trip) before retiring for the night.

Petřín Tower Park

Panorama view of Prague from Petřín Tower

Bridge of Legions

Gehry's Dancing House

Thursday, August 19th - Český Krumlov

Doing the 100 mile Český Krumlov journey in a day trip from Prague is a stretch by any measure, but we decided we were up to the task. We caught a very early train from Prague to Český Budejovice, connecting there to Český Krumlov. The trains got increasingly slow and bad the farther south we went. On the last leg of the trip, we fully expected people to board with their goats and sheep. The train station at Český Krumlov is downright awful. Arriving just after noon, four hour journey behind us, we walked the mile or so down the cobblestone path to Český Krumlov (first picture below). We were pleasantly surprised at the quaint little town. Český Krumlov is surrounded on three sides by a horseshoe bend in the Vltava. We stopped at the chateau ticket office to reserve our castle tour tickets for a 2:40pm tour in English. We then found a nice outdoor cafe for a leisurely lunch - goulash and beer, of course. The second picture below is the view from our lunch table of the kayakers on the Vltava and the third picture below shows the restaurant at the bottom and the castle and Round Tower above it.


We walked through much of the small town before the tour. The tour was too long, like most guided tours in my opinion, but otherwise okay. After the tour, we climbed the 162 steps to the top of the colorful Round Tower where we got some good overview shots of the town (large picture top of page right). Hiking through the town square, we noticed people walking around with a strange confection that we learned was called a Trdelnik. We found a Trdelnik vendor and did our afternoon dessert like the locals (fourth picture below). Nearing the end of the day, we bought take-away sandwiches at a shop by the river and did the long uphill hike to the train station to catch the 6pm train back to Prague. Arriving wearily in Prague around 10pm, we walked back to our hotel, packed for our trip the next day to Bavaria and retired for the night.

Krumlov view from walk path

Krumlov Vltava kayaking

Krumlov restaurant & Chateau

Trdelnik by the Vltava

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