RAFE TOTENGCO finds Prague full of surprises
I love a random celebrity sighting. Who doesnít? Seeing someone famous when you least expect it makes the moment even more thrilling. Iíll tell you more about this later.
I recently went to Prague to rendezvous with my boyfriend for an extended weekend after a business trip in Paris. Visions of Baroque castles, Art Nouveau architecture and post-communist Eastern Europe stirred my imagination. Prague was one of the few European cities that wasnít bombed during World War II and it was under communist rule from 1945 until 1989. Because itís been trapped behind the Sovietís Iron Curtain, much of its old-world charm has remained largely intact and undiscovered until these last 20 years.
We chose to stay at the Augustine, a 13th century monastery converted into a luxury five-star hotel and spa. Apparently, several practicing friars still live within the property, presumably brewing their own beer. The hotelís location couldnít be more ideal with most tourist attractions within walking distance.
The interiors, designed by Olga Polizzi and British firm RDD, was chic, contemporary and comfortable furnished with pieces from the Czech design house Modernista. It had chairs by Pavel Janak and bedside books by Franz Kafka. Our room had a spectacular view of Prague Castle that was lit at night. Tomís Bar, the hotelís sexy lounge with a huge image of Debbie Harry, is the perfect spot to unwind with a glass of cold St. Thomas beer after a full day of sightseeing.
We took public tram no.22 up to Prague Castle. Exploring this vast complex of structures that include the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, the Romanesque Basilica of St. George and the Renaissance Archbishopís Palace, as well as a monastery, defense towers and a dungeon, took up a good portion of our day because there was so much ground to cover. Prague Castle is supposed to be the largest castle in the world; and after a few hours of walking, we believed this.
If you appreciate stained glass windows, then going inside St. Vitus Cathedral is a must. The Czech Art Nouveau artist, Alphonse Mucha, designed the vibrant and intricate windows. Entrance to the cathedral is free so be prepared to endure the crowds.