Elegance and history galore

by Gazette Reporter
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A WEEKEND in the beautiful city of Prague – who could ask for more?
Although the Czech capital is renowned for being Europe’s number-one destination for stag parties, I was not deterred but, rather, more determined to see the place where Kafka was born and where, in 1787, Mozart came to conduct The Marriage of Figaro.
The Barcelo Praha Five Hotel, a new hotel and part of the Spanish resort chain, was our base.
Clean and colourful, it was located in a rather rundown area, so we found ourselves more or less sleeping there and making our way each day into the heart of Prague by taxi to enjoy the city’s more glamorous and romantic side.
On our first night, we headed for a fashionable area of Prague to sample the night life. Once we arrived at the Old Town Square, everything was at our fingertips.
The streets were paved with ultra-glamorous shops, from Dior to Gucci, and there was an abundance of bars and eateries dotted around the square.
However, we were most impressed by the marvellous architecture dating back to the 14th century. Such grandeur soothed the soul.
We fell in love with the place and the next evening, dined al fresco on the Old Town Square, facing the famous Astronomical Clock.
This tourist attraction is a huge draw and hordes of tourists milling around the square gathered each hour on the hour for a wonderful surprise, with every race and age represented in the square while we watched the show.
After all, when the great clock – that is decked in beautiful horoscope designs, golden creatures, and figures representing the virtues and the vices alike – strikes the hour, a procession of Jesus and his 12 apostles emerges from a high wooden window, and they invariably get a round of applause.
Happily, the food at our second restaurant, El Toro Negra on the square, was excellent, with salmon perfectly cooked and skinny chips that wouldn’t be out of place in a Paris restaurant.
We dropped into the local Irish bar, Caffrey’s, and got talking to the many characters from Europe and further afield who, unlike us, preferred to congregate there to watch the World Cup matches.
Well fed and watered, we were ready for a nightclub. As far as cocktails go, The James Dean shook up the very best mojitos I have ever tasted, while its old-skool music had the place packed.
We then arranged to return to the hotel the way we’d come, via the hotel’s taxi service. I couldn’t recommend this service highly enough, as it guarantees a set charge no matter what time you come home.
A weekend is nowhere near enough to take in the historical and architectural wonders of Prague, which has so many beautiful churches, and magnificent bridges spanning the River Charles, with their wide-sweeping elegance proving reminiscent of a fairy tale.
Prague is also full of charming superstitions. For instance there is the Charles Bridge, from which a Jesuit saint, St John of Nepomuk, was thrown and killed.
A brass cross with a halo of stars marks the spot where he plunged from the bridge to his death.
It is said that if a tourist rubs the spot, any silent wish will come true. Unfortunately, I did not get to rub the cross, so I will have to return for another visit some day …
Rooms in Barcelo Praha Five, Prague cost from €82 per room per night for a superior room, to €62 for a family room package.
Bookings can be made at the Hotel Barcelo Praha Five page on the www.barcelo.com website, under the Prague section.

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