Prague, New Town, Little Quarter and Fire Dancing

As we walked away from the main square we came across a tourist market where the merchandise was the usual rubbish souvenirs, the sort of things that seem to be a good idea to buy at the time and then you wonder why you did and what you are going to do with it when you get home and so we walked through fairly briskly to make sure that we didn’t get tempted to make that mistake.

We window shopped at the jewellers and surveyed the amber necklaces, some so heavy that they could have been used as an anchor on an ocean going liner and naturally we didn’t buy any.  We were intrigued though by the many marionette shops with puppets all with blank expressions that stared out menacingly into the street and which was reminiscent of Corky and his puppet Fats, in the film Magic.

The new town was full of busy commercial streets that were yet to fully shake off their communist legacy, they were grey and uninspiring and the buildings looked tired and dirty.  That included the National Theatre which although it has been restored internally its external appearance was soiled and unappealing and that was a shame because it was a very fine building underneath those decades of encrusted communist city pollution.

We crossed the river and looked back over the old town and walked onto the Little Quarter and to a funicular railway where we bought tickets to the top of Petŕĩn Park, which rose steeply to a viewing platform with good views over the red roofs of the city below.  At the top there was an observation tower modelled on the Eiffel Tower in Paris and with only two hundred and ninety-nine steps we decided to go the top.  Well, the view was good and the sun was shining, we walked twice around the top to get our monies worth and then went down again.

Back at the bottom we walked along the west bank of the river until we came to the Kampa Museum of Modern Art that had an outside display of photographs with environmental images focussing on global warming and climate change.  It was the best part of the day now and the bright sunshine had transformed the River Vltava from grimy grey to brilliant blue, which contrasted nicely against the mellow stone of the elegant Charles Bridge.  We went back onto the bridge without any real purpose except to see the statues in the sunlight and then feeling weary and hungry went in search of snack food.

At the mini-market I bought nuts and crisps and beer and wine and back at the hotel a helpful barman opened the wine for me after critically examining the label, turning his nose up at the cheap purchase and giving it a seal of disapproval.  He told me that the Manager wouldn’t like me bringing my own wine into the hotel so I gave him my ‘so report me look’ and took it back to the room for consumption.

We tried again to eat at the restaurant at the top of the street but once again there was a note saying no availability.  Kim wasn’t convinced by this so went inside to enquire anyway, they didn’t speak English especially well but I fully understood the ‘which part of no tables available don’t you understand?’ response by the waiter.  As it was so popular we concluded that this was a good recommendation and determined to return earlier tomorrow to eat there.  The alternative restaurant that we choose instead was at the top of a steep street and had an outside terrace with a good view over the city below and not feeling especially adventurous tonight we had the goulash again.

It was still quite early so we made our way back to the Old Town Square.  The Charles Bridge had transformed itself into a vibrant outdoor theatre with a variety of street entertainers including a speciality act of a fire dancer who was doing flaming acrobatics and who I secretly hoped would set fire to his trousers but didn’t.  I did admire his courage; I certainly wouldn’t allow a paraffin-doused torch in such close proximity to my genitals as he did without taking the sensible precaution of wearing asbestos underpants.  We watched him perform twice and then wandered off when he moved into the crowd seeking payment for the entertainment.

Back in the square we decided to finish the evening with a drink and choose a table at a pavement restaurant.  The waiter arrived and shooed us off, explaining that these seats were reserved for diners and we should shift to another seating area behind.  This seemed perfectly reasonable and we moved to the table as directed.  Another waiter arrived and wouldn’t take a drinks order either indicating that we should return to our original table selection as this area was reserved for diners.  This didn’t seem reasonable!  The restaurant was not especially busy and we were after all prepared to pay an inflated price just for the privilege of sitting in this premier location so we decided to move on.

On the bridge the fire dancer was still performing his daring pyrotechnic act that at home the Health and Safety Executive would have stopped immediately and we passed by this time without stopping.  All along the bridge there was a profusion of beggars kneeling uncomfortably and doing themselves irreparable skeletal damage all for a few measly coins.  On the other hand we were amused by an opportunist tramp who equipped with a miniature torch in the palm of his grubby hand was carefully examining the contents of the litter bins and extracting various items from within them for his evening meal.

Back over the bridge and in the Little Quarter we found a pavement bar and ordered drink that was about a third of the price of those in the square.  So we had two and still saved money.  At an adjacent table were some German tourists who were talking loudly in that Teutonic way, were drinking excessively and getting very drunk and we admired their capacity for beer. It had been a long day so we paid the bill, returned to the hotel and crashed out contentedly despite being woken by the returning German revellers who clearly also lost their way in the confusing maze of hotel corridors.

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