Prague – Budapest
When you think of the term ‘small world’, it’s likely you think about all the tiny ways in which people are connected. Everyone’s had one of those moments when you’re talking to someone at a party and realise that their best mate at uni is the boyfriend of someone you used to go to school with, or that you both went to the same obscure climbing centre when you were young.
For me, the term ‘small world’ means finding myself sat opposite my cousin Rona in a small riverside bar in Prague, as she just so happened to be interrailing at the same time as me and our dates just so happened to coincide. We spent a lovely evening sat here and out for dinner, but with her early flight the next morning I found myself solo once again for the remainder of my time in Prague. Bikes aren’t really a good idea here thanks to the cobbled roads and haphazard driving of the locals, so I set off early on Wednesday morning for a self-guided walking tour using the map she’d passed on to me.
The tour began just around the corner from my hostel, in Prague’s famous old town square. I timed this day so that I could begin by watching the astronomical clock here strike 10, although I must say that I found the much-anticipated display that marks the hour somewhat underwhelming, as a series of wooden models of saints were trooped across two window-like openings.
There’s also a famous church in this square – The Church of Our Lady before Tyn. Rona’s boyfriend, Matthew, had something of a funny story to tell about this place. While under construction, it became apparent that the architect had made an error resulting in one of the spires being wider than the other. when questioned about this mistake, he thought on his feet, claiming it he asymmetry was to represent Adam and Eve and their respective differences. So began a trend in the Czech Republic, whereby most churches here now display this difference in spire width, all due to that one error and the quick-thinking architect.
Heading west from here across the river, the route took me uphill to a giant metronome overlooking the city. The views were stunning, obviously, but the walk up was exhausting in the heat, even before midday. Continuing south-west towards Prague castle, I was a little disappointed to find that what was advertised as a ‘free’ self-guided walking tour actually involved large areas of the castle grounds, which are expensive to access. Attempting to walk around this landmark instead, I became very lost once again (this blog is really starting to live up to its name), eventually reappearing around half a kilometre off-piste.
Further along the route, I found myself clambering down the steep hillside paths that wind up the sides of Lobkowicz Garden, Petřín, atop which sits the Petřín Tower, resembling a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower. It was during this portion of the walk, just over two hours in, that I first felt a slight twinge in my knee. Something I should not have ignored, but being the determined creature that I am, turned a blind eye to nonetheless.
Bad idea. By the time I got back to my hostel around 5pm I could barely bend it due to the pain, and it felt incredibly tight and stiff. Now I’m sat here in a cobalt blue knee support; an attractive look, I assure you, and one which will make for fantastic tan lines. I’ll have to take it a bit easier from here on out if I want to be able to complete all the hikes I have planned for the next few weeks.
The remainder of my time in Prague was spent trying to rest my knee, reclining on the grass of one of the beautiful park-like islands that punctuate the river and reading my book, The Handmaid’s Tale. Ice cream in one hand, turning pages with the other. It’s a really lovely city, especially in this glorious weather, and the architecture is stunning – by far the most beautiful buildings I’ve seen so far on this trip. As with Amsterdam, however, the streets are teaming with tourists, and the standard attractions are overflowing at times. I could hardly move on the Charles bridge. It’s worth it though, to see this city, and I would definitely like to return here – although again, as with Amsterdam, I would do so in the quieter months.
So, that was Prague. Apologies if this post seems somewhat boring, but regrettably, I really didn’t make the most of my time here. My injury made sure of that. Hopefully, Budapest will be better – knee support and all.