Yesterday I walked the backstreets of Prague’s Vinohrady and Vršovice (var-show-vitsa) districts – less-traveled areas only accessible by foot. Vinohrady was named for the vineyards that Emperor Charles IV planted in the 14th century. It’s described as “an elegant part of Prague on hilly terrain east of the historical center”. Finding my way through winding cobblestone streets was challenging and I got lost several times.
In addition to historical sites, lush parks, and spellbinding architecture, Vinohrady is known for its restaurants, wine bars, and cafés. Adjoining districts – Vršovice and Žižkov (zish- cough), “share a thriving cultural life and are known for their eclectic mix of pubs and cultural clubs”. The tree-lined streets have majestic buildings with elaborate Art Nouveau and cubist façades and gorgeous parks or gardens on almost every corner.
I took the Metro to the starting point – Náměstí Míru Square (Peace Square). As you exit the underground station, the magnificent neo-Gothic Church of St. Ludmila towers above! Other buildings on the square include the Vinohrady Theatre and the National House Vinohrady, site of Prague conferences and concerts.
It was tricky managing an iPhone and camera while following a map with complicated Czech street names on cul de sacs, dead ends, turn outs, and side streets – Kodaňská, Norská, Ruská, Chorvatská, Na Šafránce, Slovenská, Šaloun Atelier…. I had to keep referring to the map – maybe a little dangerous in seedy areas. Cafés were a refuge with directions (sometimes), interesting people, and choices of delicious food and drink.
Next stop was Havlíčkovy Gardens, inspired by the Italian Renaissance. A villa with a terrace and views dominates the complex. Grottoes, fountains, waterfalls, and a lake create a romantic atmosphere and there’s a pretty wooden gazebo in the vineyard.
I proceeded to “grubby” Krymská Street, “the center of Prague’s alternative culture and known as the hippest address in the city”. Two interesting buildings are the Art Nouveau atelier of sculptor Ladislav Šaloun (creator of the Jan Hus sculpture in Old Town) and a villa by Jan Kotěra, a Czech modernist architect.
Suddenly my feet begged for a rest and since it was getting into early evening I decided to come back another day to visit the remaining places in Žižkov:
- Vinohrady Water Tower
- George of Poděbrady Square
- Church of the Most Sacred Heart by Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik
- Mahlerovy Gardens
- Žižkov Tower
- Old Jewish Cemetery
- Palác Akropolis
- Riegrovy Gardens
We’ve had a few thunder showers but the weather has been warmer and it’s great to wander without a jacket. I’ve planned a few group activities next week:
- Concert at St. George’s Basilica
- Jazz Boat Evening Cruise
- Half-Day Alternative Walking Tour
The three weeks I have in Prague will pass quickly. There are so many places to explore it’s difficult deciding each morning. The hotel has a sauna which helps soothe an aching body after long days of walking.
The days are long with sunrise about 5 am and sunset after 9 pm. More later…