A few weeks ago, I returned from a trip to the Czech Republic and Austria with a good friend of mine. Colleagues have told me that a visit to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is a must-visit city that holds its own colorful personality. Hallstatt was also a cornerstone of our travels, which holds a calm and serene lifestyle that was completely opposite of Prague’s high energy. From a marionette shop that is over one-hundred years old, the Old Town Prague Square, the famous Eastern market, a charming river town, and a village overlooking a spectacular mountain lake, our adventure was filled with both excitement and an extreme sense of tranquility. Carl and I spent most of our time in the city of Prague and the Austrian lake village, Hallstatt.
Prague is known for its little quirks and oddities, and its past is full of vibrant charm due to Prague being the historical capital of Bohemia. Much of the city’s architecture survived much of the destruction that occurred in 20th century Europe, including structures dating back to Gothic, Rennaissance, and Baroque eras. This lively city lies on the large Vltava River and is also known as the artistic capital of Europe. This is made apparent, with its hundreds of galleries, theaters, music halls and peculiar shops scattered throughout the city. Prague even has one of the world’s best zoos!
Marionettes and a Sunset on Charles Bridge (Days One and Two)
Carl and I spent our first day together exploring the outskirts of Prague, attempting to soak in Bohemian culture less-touched by progressive society. During our exploration, we found a century-old marionette shop, Truhleár Marionety, a workshop of handcrafted puppets with intricate designs and detailed colors. After visiting some swans on the shores of the Vltava River, we came across a gingerbread workshop. We then had a refreshing (and relatively inexpensive) lunch at a boutique restaurant. After frolicking around the cobblestone streets and finding the Lennon Wall by accident (great catch, Carl), we spent our sunset on the Charles Bridge. Golden sunlight flooded the historical bridge, along with its vendors selling trinkets and paintings.
A Visit to the Old Town (Day Three)
Carl and I traveled to the Old Town of Prague. The Old Town of Prague is a medieval settlement of Prague and houses the Old New Synagogue, Old Town Square, and the Astronomical Clock. With its ancient buildings and magnificent churches, this is one of the most beautiful historical sights in Europe we have seen. To fully appreciate the beauty of the Old Town Square, we sat back and soaked up the atmosphere over wine and a cool beer at one of the pavement cafés lining the square. The Astronomical Clock (Orloj) is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself has three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; “The Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. Carl and I also visited the National Gallery in Prague, which was showing Asian exhibit. For sunset, Carl and I lingered amongst the crowd waiting for the hour to strike, causing the mini show on the Astronomical Clock.
From Cesky Krumlov to Hallstatt (Day Four)
In the morning, Carl and I took a shuttle to Cesky Krumlov. This town is hiding in Bohemia’s deep south and is also one of the most picturesque towns in Europe. The town’s appearance is little changed since the 18th century, and we spent our little time wandering the old streets. Carl and I found an incredible antique shop, Antique Starozitnosti, and we had a relaxing lunch at a restaurant, Lazebna, that was embedded in the castle wall and overlooked the stream running through the town. After quiet lunch, we continued our journey to Hallstatt, Austria, and arrived just in time for the sunset.
Austria’s Best-Kept Secret: The Lake Town (Day Five)
Hallstatt is commonly referred to as one of the most beautiful lakeside towns in the whole world, due to its picturesque charm and surrounding gloriously mountain range. Hallstatt is a calm, lesser-visited village residing on the western shore of Hallstätter See. The Hallstätter See is the most significant lake in the Alps concerning history, and thanks to its many easily accessible beaches and stunning mountain scenery it has long been a draw for artists and outdoor enthusiasts, as well as those simply wanting some peace and quiet. Hallstatt is known for its production of salt, dating back to prehistoric times, and gave its name to the Hallstatt culture, a culture often linked to Celtic, Proto-Celtic, and pre-Illyrian peoples in Early Iron Age Europe, c.800–450 BC. Some of the earliest archaeological evidence for the Celts was found in Hallstatt. Until the late 19th century, it was only possible to reach Hallstatt by boat or via narrow trails. Hallstatt is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and you may even find your own peace of heart while trekking the tiny streets and trees attached to houses clinging to the mountain like Carl and I did.
Hallstatt started our day before sunrise to get as much time in this lake town as we could. During our exploration, an adorable cat followed us around most likely since we were literally the only people walking around the village. We climbed to the Parish Church, which had a tranquil cemetery atop the cliff overlooking the lake and village. After a quick nap, Carl and I hiked through the Dachstein Mountains. When Carl and I returned, we rented an electric boat and garnered intimate views of Hallstatt by taking the boat around Hallstätter See. Afterward, we spent our last night in Hallstatt with some wine on our balcony and watched the sunset behind the mountains across Hallstätter See.
Return to Prague and the Easter Market (Day Six and Day Seven)
The following day, Carl and I returned to Prague. We spent our day traveling back to the quirky city and staying in a home that also housed the Philippine Embassy. That Saturday, my final day, we spent our time immersing ourselves with the first day of the Easter Market. The market consist of wooden huts decorated with the bright colors of spring, displaying glassware, jewelry, embroidered lace, wooden toys, metalware, ceramics, scented candles, and puppets and dolls. But the Easter Market are not just about shopping. Visitors can observe traditional foods being made, and sample all manner of local produce. Large hams are roasted on spits, there are terribly unhealthy but wonderfully tasty barbecued sausages (klobása), and cakes and pastries prepared in front of you, such as ‘Trdelník’, a hot sugar coated pastry. Colorful ribbons adorned the shops and the sun masked the Easter Market in a blanket of gold. It was a grand finale to our trip in the Czech Republic and Austria.