Lost in Prague – How I was saved by a black horse

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Hearing all the Christmas carols at this time of the year got me thinking of my time in Prague.  One time in particular, where the good king Wenceslas from the Christmas carol fame and the big equestrian statue he sits astride was my saving grace. Read on to find out how I was saved by a ‘black horse’ when I got lost in Prague.

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Prague, the capital of Czech Republic is equalled to Paris in beauty.  The main attractions St Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square are all easily accessible by foot, so we set out on a walking tour.

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The architecture is a blend of Bohemian, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance eras.  We started our tour heading to St Vitus Cathedral followed by changing of the guards at Prague Castle. Our group made our way down the stairs alongside castle and headed towards my much awaited visit to Charles Bridge which crosses the Vltava river.

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As we entered the bridge recollection of one of my favourite singers, Michael Hutchence from INXS walking across the Charles Bridge singing Never Tear Us Apart came to my mind.  Instantly I was transported back to the film clip. The sound of the orchestra overpowered the tour guide’s words. Totally mesmerised, I was taking photos of the very cobble stones that Michael Hutchence’s feet had walked. The beauty of the cobble stones’ earthy tones, clean and shiny from the recent rains made the moment even more picturesque.

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After a short while, I looked up to the realisation that the tour group had moved on without me. They were no where to be seen. And Steve was also no where to be seen as I’d only recently had words with him for stopping and not keeping up with the group. Oops. I had a moment of panic, not knowing which direction they may have ventured.  Looking towards the highest point of the bridge and couldn’t see them. So I ran back, down around the corner and looked. But I couldn’t see them. My panic was building. I went across the road and quickly looked down that street, but again couldn’t see them.

Nearby I had noticed a tourist information centre so went inside.  Now starting becoming a little frantic, I asked if they knew the direction our tour guide would be heading. Clearly there are many tours each day who walk along the Charles Bridge so the lady had no information that could help me. She rolled her eyes and abruptly gestured I should go outside. I ran back to the bridge and asked a few street vendors selling wares along the bridge if they had seen our tour guide, gesturing he was a man who had been carrying a fan. They didn’t understand and just waved and said “hello”. Not sure which way to go, I seem to be running in circles.

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Now I was clearly frantic! Realising I had no money, no coverage on my phone and was only on a daytrip from Vienna, now with no way to get back was not helping me think straight.  I just couldn’t think what to do and was now working myself up and getting in quite a state. So I tried to calm myself down and think. Where had the guide said our meeting point would be? Then I recalled him saying something about a horse statue.

I raced back to the Tourist Information Centre and asked the lady for directions to the horse statue. “The Black Horse?” she asked abruptly in a very thick accent. “Um, yes I guess so”, I responded, still confused and lacking any confidence it would be of help. The lady just pointed and gestured to head over the bridge. She seemed to be almost pushing back out into the street, pointing the direction, but I felt more like she just wanted me gone, rather than she was offering me assistance.

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This time I ran, forgetting all about Michael Hutchence or taking photos, or of the wonderful view. As I came down the other side of the bridge, towards the crowds I see a hideous familiar outfit that was being worn by one of the people in our tour group. Then I notice our tour guide waiting, patiently holding his fan in the air.  Finally, I see Steve.  Phew, such relief. I walk run up to Steve and the rest of the group who are looking a little inpatient. Throwing my arms around Steve, I give him a huge hug and am almost in tears. Clearly I am happy to have rejoined the group and I don’t think they realise the ordeal I have just put myself through. But I am happy and we can now all continue on with the rest of the tour.

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We make our way to the Astronomical clock, the oldest working astronomical clock in the world and join many other sightseers who are all gazing upwards.  As the clock strikes on the hour and a skeleton appears, apostle’s march and a cock crows.

After spending some time there we head to Wenceslas Square, the focal point of Prague’s Town Quarter, lined with great buildings. Here we finally arrive at the popular meeting point among the locals and are greeted by the grand statue of St Wenceslas on his horse and the backdrop of the National Museum.

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And I am again taken back to the famed Christmas carol of the much admired King Wenceslas, who goes out in the snow on the Feast of Stephen to give to the poor. The good King Wenceslas who was my saviour and helped me when I was lost in Prague.

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I had read that Prague was a magical and mysterious city but was not prepared for how amazingly beautiful it would be and I was totally taken away.

Have you ever got lost while travelling?

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5 Top Destinations

Where is it you want to travel to and why?  Do you want to head to off the beaten track places, places full of culture, somewhere renowned for their cuisine or perhaps it’s adventure you chase?

The more I travel, the more I want to travel and the easier it becomes to add to places I want to visit… or to revisit.  So when Anda from Travel Notes and Beyond invited me to join this campaign through Booked.net – Top Destinations to Go There” I jumped at the chance to share the 5 Top Destinations that have left me wanting to go back. Here they are in no particular order.

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Not many lists would be complete without the inclusion of Paris famed for its beautiful, iconic landmarks.  We experienced the culture and had our senses stimulated in this beautiful city.  The culture in the museums, arts and fashions we saw.  The sights of the opulent Sacre Coeur, colourful lead lighting at Sainte Chapelle and that magic moment at dusk when they turned on the lights of the Eiffel Tower.  The aroma of coffee, freshly baked breads and pastries wafting in the air and the taste of the buttery, flaky croissants.  The sounds of the traffic, dogs barking, buskers playing their harmonica or piano accordion. The romance of sailing down the Seine late at night.  The simplicity of strolling on the cobblestones in the beautiful tree lined streets of Montmartre.  Looking at the old buildings with their ornate balconies where bright red geraniums grow in pots.  The dense rooftops, graffiti on the cream walls, slate coloured roofs and terracotta chimneys.  Sure I have heaps of photos and my memories of this trip but this truly is one place that I long to return to.

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One of the most beautiful cities of the world, breathtaking with sights of the Parliament building from the Buda embankment is one of Europe’s finest capitals, Budapest.  The panorama offered over the Danube from the Fisherman’s Bastion is also breathtaking and a great vantage point.  The magnificent Royal Palace dominates the Buda skyline and houses the National Library, National Gallery and Museum and looks absolutely magical at night when the floodlights are turned on.  Budapest is the city of bridges and the first bridge than spans Buda and Pest is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.  On the Pest side of the Danube Promenade is the most emotional monument of all.  The Shoes on the Danube, a memorial to honour the Jews who were killed during WWII.  Ordered to take off their shoes, they were shot at the edge so their bodies were carried away after falling into the water. The 60 pairs of shoes cast from iron represent those left behind on the bank. Such an emotional experience to to go back to, to stop and reflect how lucky we are and embed the hope this never happens again.

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Definitely worth another visit is the grand city of Prague, with its extraordinary historic and cultural sights. The Old Town Square located in the centre of the city is surrounded by baroque buildings, street performers and vibrant cafes. The most visited place is the centuries old Astronomical clock where tourists gather to watch its hourly chime where 12 apostles move through the window of the old tower.  Charles Bridge, a short walk away is another beautiful sight with 30 statues lining the walk across the Vltavar River.  You will find amazing architecture, shops and hotels in Wenceslas square, a wonderful place with plenty of atmosphere.  This is the most popular meeting place for citizens and tourists as they sit on the pedestal at the base of Prague’s best known statue, St Wenceslas on a horse at the top of the square in front of the National Museum. Prague is a very walkable city with many vantage points offering amazing views you won’t regret.

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This is by the far the easiest place to return to for me as it’s only a 3hr plane flight from Perth (Perth is so far away from just about anywhere) and I have recently returned from my 4th visit there.  Bali was my first overseas trip (see My first overseas holiday) so also holds memories of my first plane flight, and my first glimpse of life outside Australia (yes I went overseas before I went interstate).  For a small island it has so much to offer, the culture, the genuine friendliness of the Balinese and the relaxing beaches making Bali an ideal winter getaway.  There is so much to see from the many temples, rice paddies and steep ravines in the central foothills of Ubud to Kuta beach where the sky is bursting with massive colourful kites and the beach lined with graceful, colourful Jukung, traditional fishing boats. The fishermen venture out in the evening, returning before sunrise to sell their catch at the local markets. Which brings me to the cuisine, colourful, vibrant food, full of intense flavour, fresh, simple ingredients, yet so delicious which always includes their staple, rice.

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Singapore never disappoints whether staying for a while or passing through for 12 hours on a layover between flights.  When we stay we choose to be in Clarke Quay which is a great spot with an array of brightly lit restaurants along the banks of the Singapore River.  It is a beautiful city by night, all lit up over Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay, the iconic Merlion Statue and Sentosa’s spectacular Crane Dance on the waterfront. With its modern skyscrapers and bustling business areas Singapore has a very westernised façade.  The mix of cultures is evident too, with Little India, Chinatown and the Colonial District.  No matter how long our stay we always head to the Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling. We make our way to the Long Bar where the floor is littered with peanut shells. In contrast to the spotlessly clean city this is the only place you can litter in Singapore and always worth the visit.

These are my Top 5 Destinations, but regardless of where you are heading I suggest you put away your map and just meander, zig zag and wander a while. After all it’s not about ticking places off on a map, it’s about getting out and finding our own authentic experience in a city, discovering things that you never thought you would find.

So tell me, where are your top 5 places?

I invite Hecktic Travels, We Travel Together, Candice Does the World, eTramping and AngloItalian, Follow Us  to take part in this challenge and also go in for a chance to win a new iPhone 6

Linking up Travel Photo Mondays