Photo Essay: The Tourist Experience in Prague

by Ekua on April 10, 2012 in captured on memory card,Czech Republic,general travel

When I arrived in Prague, I had a strange sensation that I later identified as “tourist shock”. My mouth hung open as I observed the magnitude of the crowd at Old Town Square for the first time and wondered how the Charles Bridge could withstand the tourist masses. I quickly realized that my perception of “touristy” had been heavily skewed by the kind of places I’ve visited over the last few years. The backpacker-oriented destinations I’ve been to in Asia and Latin America really have nothing on summertime Prague.

While I was surprised, I could also easily see why so many people had flocked to the beautiful and historic city of Prague in the summer sun. I decided to get caught up in the tourist masses for a couple days and enjoyed it. I took a free walking tour with a huge group of people and unabashedly explored the city with my camera hanging from my neck. In the end I found few traps, but ultimately a tourist trail that was worth taking:

The west end of the Charles Bridge.

Underneath the Charles Bridge in Malá Strana, a historic neighborhood on the west bank of the Vltava river.

I’m not sure why, but marionettes are popular in Prague. Tourist shops are full of them.

Old Town Square.

I saw these huge crowds in Old Town Square twice before I found out what they were looking at. I was amused at all these people with their cameras held up high, waiting so intently for something to happen…

… And I was more amused when I later found out that they were looking at this, the Prague Astronomical Clock. People get excited about it because every hour, on the hour, it like, does stuff. Some of the features, like the skeleton in the upper right corner, are animated. The clock itself is cool looking and an impressive 600 years old. But apparently, the animation part of it is so underwhelming that it’s earned spots on lists of most overrated attractions in Europe. That doesn’t stop people from wanting to see it for themselves.

A Franz Kafka memorial in the Jewish Quarter.

The Basilica of St. James is full of artistic detail inside and out, but that’s not what its known for. A legend tells us that a man once tried to steal a Virgin Mary statue from the church. But before he could finish his theft, the statue gripped his arm tightly and wouldn’t let go. The only option was to cut off his arm, and what is supposed to be the thief’s severed limb still hangs in the church today.

The Old Jewish Cemetery.

There are so many tombstones because when this cemetery was built, and for quite some time thereafter, Jews were discriminated against and given very limited space in Prague. This led to graves being layered on top of other graves, as many as twelve deep.

One of Prague’s most famous buildings, often referred to as the “Dancing House”. I wanted to like this building, but seeing it in person, in the context of the rest of the city, I just couldn’t

It’s clear that Prague is a city that focuses on tourism. These cleanup crews with extra large vacuum cleaners were everywhere the tourists were.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

herbchikes April 11, 2012 at 6:06 am

Great pics, I want to ask about 100 ?s on each photo. Thanks for the share.

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Ekua April 15, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I also had a lot of questions as I knew very very little about Prague before going there. They have these great free tours there that picked up a lot of info from. Also did one in Berlin and both were great! http://www.neweuropetours.eu/

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Andi of My Beautiful Adventures April 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Gorgeous shots, especially of the clock!

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Ekua April 15, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Thanks 🙂

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Johnny Peacock April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I’ve experienced Prague in Summer and in Winter. I was pretty underwhelmed the first time I saw the clock. We’d elected to sit in one of the cafes across from it to wait rather than mil around. The drink prices were seriously hiked up. It was like paying an entrance fee for the show.

The second time I went was in winter. I went before sunrise to photograph it and was the only person there, other than a solitary street sweeper. The street sweeper tried to tell me something but I couldn’t understand it. Then I realized it was getting near the hour so decided to watch the clock in privacy. As i whirred to life I got excited because I could hear the mechanism, which I’d missed amongst the tourist masses. Then death rang the bell and… it stopped. That’s what the street sweeper was trying to tell me. I don’t know if it wasn’t running because if it was winter or if it was just too early.

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Ekua April 15, 2012 at 9:14 pm

That’s too bad, but kinda funny 😛 I never tried to watch it, but it doesn’t seem like I missed anything!

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InsideJourneys April 11, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Beautiful!

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Ekua April 15, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Thanks!

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Sunee April 13, 2012 at 11:36 am

There’s a reason tourists flock to certain places at certain times of the year, and that’s because that’s the best time to see whatever it is they went to go and see. I remember our first trip to Europe was in the summer, and the first castle we went to was Schloss Linderhof in Bavaria. We were enamoured with the place, but when we went back the next year with friends in the wintertime, it had lost all its magic. We were really disappointed. So I’ll take the crowds any day to experience Europe at its best.

This clock story also reminds me of the one at the Marienplatz in Munich 🙂

I love your view of Prague, it’s always so interesting to see what catches your eye. Your Charles Bridge photo is quite unusual – love it 🙂

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Ekua April 15, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I know some people love the look of a snow covered city in Europe, but prefer warmth! The weather was largely pleasant and the sky often looked amazing which something I love for taking shots of landscapes or monuments. I wish it wasn’t quite so crowded, but I was surprised to see that it was relaxing to act like a tourist for a day or two.

Most pictures I’ve seen of the Charles Bridge towers are from the East side. I didn’t like any of the pictures I took on that side but really liked the ones from West Side. I think that trying to find different views of touristy places is a fun challenge 🙂

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carrie olshan April 15, 2012 at 11:50 am

Beautiful pics, as always. My grandmother was born in Prague in 1915 and I have never been there…Thanks for sharing!

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Ekua April 15, 2012 at 9:25 pm

No problem!

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Michi April 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm

My hostel was right around the corner from the Dancing House! That hostel is also where I got 200 euro stolen (maybe by one of the employees, as we had a private room). Bah.

Did you climb to the top of clock tower? My friends stayed below to watch the clock on the hour, but I wanted views of the city, so we compromised. I might just have to go back and see how overrated the animation is. 😉

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Ekua April 29, 2012 at 10:28 pm

That’s too bad about your hostel. Nope, I didn’t climb up to the top and I never watched the clock… but based on what I’ve heard, it sounds like it’s not even worth trying to satiate your curiosity for it 😛

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