On waking up at a fairly early hour, I noticed that the sky was mainly blue, which was a very promising sign. I had a quick breakfast and headed out camera in hand. I did think about Metro and tramming my way up to Prague Castle, but I decided I'd be happier walking in nice weather.
I managed to get there in an hour and half, passing through quite a bit of the Old Town on the way, one of my first stops was to admire the Cubist Building with the Black Madonna.
Then along to Old Town Square which mercifully at that hour was still mostly devoid of tourists, I looked at the impressive church, admired the Astronomical Clock at the Old Town Hall and the facades around the square without too many people in range.
Looking at the time, it was still quite early, so I foolishly decided to wander around some of the interesting alleyway at the west of the Old Town Square before heading for the River and the Castle. There were a lot of nicely decorated buildings of various styles there and a lot of cafes and bars that were just starting to open. The area around the Bethlehem Chapel was particularly attractive and I turned roaming on my iPhone for a couple of minutes in order to map the position of one bar where the Villa match would be shown later.
I decided not to cross via the Charles Bridge, but walked around the Clementinium to the Rudolfinium taking in a cup of coffee on the way and crossed the Vltava a little to the north of it. I liked the large amount of variation in ornamentation of the predominately Biedermeier styles of that bit of the Old Town and resolved to have a further poke around the next morning. I then made my way to the base of the Castle Steps, took a deep breath and fought my way up them through the crowds of tourist coming down. Bad move, Yanto, I should have gotten a tram up to the top.
Needless to say, when I got up there, the Castle was chokka with tourist groups. Not really my idea of fun, I took one look at Golden Lane which was wall to wall Japanese groups and wandered off to what I thought would be about half an hour around the Royal Gardens. It wasn't, I was seriously entranced by these, not only were they well maintained, with some interesting public art, but the tree collection was vast and each type of tree had a very good small information board by it in Czech, German and English. I walked all the way to the end, taking in the view of the Castle and the dry moat and then back up to the castle past the Presidents Summer Residence.
By this time, it was heading up to lunch time, the area around the front of the Castle was all blocked by the many, many vans of a film crew, which was a bit of a shame, so I walked up through Hradcany and then down the hill again admiring the view of the Petrin tower and the wooded parks surrounding it. On consulting my trusty Time Out Guide, I noticed few recommended options for eating in the area, although there were plenty of tourist
I ended up at At the Seven Swabians which was described as an atmospheric cellar restaurant. It certainly was, it was very dark and mainly lit by candles. This did worry me a little, but a large Krušovice beer settled me down and a small bowl of Panská síla (consommé with liver dumplings and fresh vegetables) reassured me that it was in the guide for a good reason. My main course was Poslední krmě Slavníkovců (roast duck, speck dumplings and red cabbage), it was half a large duck, very good dumplings and the best red cabbage ever. It wasn't a small piece of duck either, but half a good sized bird. A bit difficult to dissect in the darkness, but I managed well with the aid of a second Krušovice. OK, it wasn't cheap, but I was very happy with the service and the food and I thought it reasonable for the location. Again, vegetarians were well provided for here and I understand they do themed historical nights - they certainly have the location for it.
It had started to grey over a bit my now, so I wandered down through the Mala Strana to Kampa Island where I explored the park, the streets around it and had a nice sit down on a bench before crossing back over the river. It was, after all, coming up to 3pm by now.
As I was making good time through one of the less visually interesting bits of Prague (although the shops are quite interesting and there's lots of places to eat and drink), I happened to realise I was quite close to the famous U Medvídků (the Little Bears), I'd got time, so I popped into the beer bar for an unpasteurised light lager that they brew on the premises. It was delicious, quite a few Prague beerhalls now advertise that one of their beers is unpasteurised and they are well worth trying. More of the Little Bears in the next post.
I then proceeded onward to watch the Villa in the previously spotted bar, I wished I'd stopped in the Little Bears :-( After that I proceeded back to my hotel as dusk was falling, slightly footsore and somewhat tired. It was shower, some snacks in the lounge, a bit of t'Intertubes and then book and bed for me.