As many of you know, Rene and I just returned from an incredible journey on the Danube River, with a pre-tour in the lovely city of Prague in The Czech Republic. Known to be the "City of a Hundred Spires", it's located on the Vltava River and rivals Paris in terms of beauty, history, and culture.
The overall experience was absolutely wonderful in spite of our challenges getting there at the beginning of our journey. I'll talk about that another time...
We were very well taken care of upon our late arrival into Prague with a wonderful, friendly meet and greet by Eva and also by Radek, our very capable Driver. We had a very comfortable drive to our beautiful 5 star Virtuoso hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, conveniently located close to the iconic Prague Castle, the 14th century Charles Bridge, and the Old Town Square.
Our tour of Prague was completely private and we absolutely felt like royalty throughout our entire time there. Sadly, it ended up being just 2 nights vs. the 3 nights that we had planned for ourselves.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel was actually a former 14th century monastery and ends up combining this wonderfully preserved history with an elegant contemporary, 5 star quality experience.
After we had freshened up, we were immediately whisked away for our planned, private tour of the 9th century Prague Castle. This complex is considered the largest ancient castle in the world occupying an area of almost 750,000 square feet. It continues to be the official office of the President of the Czech Republic.
Enroute to the Castle, we ended up visiting the historic Old Town Square where we were able to see the third oldest astronomical clock in the world, built in the year 1410. It also happens to be the oldest working astronomical clock!
At the Prague Castle itself, we visited the beautiful Royal Garden, St. Vitus Cathedral, and the amazing Lobkowicz Palace's Museum filled with incredible rooms of art, rare books, weapons, furniture, musical instruments, and many other wonderful artifacts dating back more than 700 years. This family's priceless treasures were originally confiscated by the Nazis during WWII and then by the Communist Regime.
At the top of the Palace from a balcony we had the most spectacular panoramic view of the city of Prague - it was so beautiful! We also saw the changing of the guard at the Palace as well.
The following memorable day we had was a trip to the beautiful historic town of Kutna Hora, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995.
Our first stop was the Sedlec Ossuary that features the famous 'bone church'. It's really quite the experience walking through this incredible place filled with skulls and bones from approximately 70,000 skeletons. One of the truly outstanding pieces that hangs in the center of the chapel is the huge Chandelier of Bones that is supposed to contain every single bone that is present in the human body.
This cemetery became popular for people to bring their dead from both the Black Death of the 14th century and then the Hussite Wars in the 15th century. They were attracted to this place since the Abbot of Sedlec brought back some holy earth from a pilgrimage he did in Jerusalem in 1278 that he sprinkled on the cemetery making it consecrated ground for the dead. It's truly quite the site visiting this special church and cemetery.
Following this we visited the 'city of silver', Kutna Hora. It's affectionately known as the country's 'national treasury' since it produced Central Europe's hard currency, the silver groschen in the royal mint that used to be located there back in the 13th century. We visited the baroque chapel of All Saints and the unique baroque-Gothic style Church of the Assumption of Our Lady.
We then had an incredibly impressive 3 course lunch at the most charming old Bohemian style of restaurant, called Dacicky. The food was wonderful, the people were very friendly and dressed in the traditional garb of the day and the atmosphere was very comfortable.
After lunch we went to the stunning Gothic cathedral of St. Barbara. Interestingly, she is the patron saint of miners and since the wealth of this town is based on its silver mines, this is extremely apropos. It's one of the most famous Gothic churches in Central Europe and was truly a site to behold.
We returned back to our lovely hotel in order to prep ourselves for the drive from Prague to Vilshofen, Germany located at the southern edge of the Bavarian forest. Our wonderful driver and guide took us directly to the COVID testing site that had been arranged by our river ship company prior to boarding our delightful ship for our Danube River Cruise.
I'm realizing now that I'm definitely NOT going to get through the full itinerary of our Danube River Cruise with Prague so this will have to be, Chapter 1. Hopefully, you'll stay with me on this for Chapter 2 next week when we commence our river cruise on the beautiful Danube.