Bohemia Part 4: Letna Park and a Vltava sunset cruise, Prague

On my last free day in Prague, the one thing I had left to do was visit Letna Park. From what my tour guide Derek had said the previous day, the view from there was number 1 on his list of Top 5 Views. Upon observing it’s position in relation to the city, I figured I could also get the view of the city that I was looking for – one where I could see all the bridges along the river, better than what I had seen the night before from the Vyšehrad Fort.

That morning, I wanted to take a different, longer route towards Prague Castle. I had walked over Charles Bridge plenty of times from the side of the river that my hotel was on, so this time I wanted to cross over the Vltava via the bridge right outside my hotel, adjacent to the Dancing House. I had already made plans to meet up with my new friend Tyrone later that afternoon at Letna Park, but I had several hours to get myself there. Judging from where I stood outside the Dancing House, I figured it would take me that long to walk there anyway.

Outside the Dancing House

Clearly, it was another perfect day. Then again, of course it was – the universe knew I bought a scarf just 2 nights before so it didn’t want to make me wear it again. Not that I’m complaining.

Vltava River

Bridges along the Vltava

The other side of the Vltava

While strolling along the riverside, the first destination  I had in mind was the tram stop I had taken the previous day. This time, however, I was going to take it passed where the Castle Tour had started and get off at Belvedere Gardens. I passed some interesting things on the way, including another sculpture by the quirky local artist, David Černý, known as the Tower Babies. David Černý is the same artist who sculpted the rather odd looking naked woman you can crawl into.

David Černý's Tower Babies

There were some other things you don’t see everyday, like a row of plastic yellow penguins with Charles Bridge in the background.

Yellow penguins?

There are just too many beautiful things in Prague, so it would be a shame to not share as many photos as I possibly can.

It took a little over an hour to get to the Malostranská stop after leaving my hotel. Again, it was Tram 22 to the top of the hill. Since I had the passes from the American couple I had met the previous day at the monastery, I didn’t have to worry about getting tickets. I took both with me so that I could give Tyrone the other once I met up with him at the park.

I took the tram up to Královský letohrádek, the stop right outside the Belvedere Gardens, which are basically the palace’s Royal Gardens. Even though I had been keen to walk rather than take the tram up, there are times when you need to save time. There was no way I would make it on time to meet Tyrone if I had walked up, because judging from the same tram ride I had done the previous day, it was quite a long climb.

When I stepped off the tram, I felt as though I had travelled to a place out of a classic book I read as a child, or a Van Gogh painting. Prague, what have you done to me?

Královský letohrádek

I didn’t know what to expect at the Belvedere Garden, just the direction in which I had to go – generally, left, since right was back to Prague Castle. I knew that there was no way I’d have time to walk all the way to the Castle, and then back again to the beer garden I so much wanted to visit. At least, not in time to meet Tyrone wherever I was going to meet him. I was literally just going with my gut on that.

I didn’t spend too much time in Belvedere Garden itself, since it’s rather small, so I took a leisurely stroll towards the city and ended up being pleasantly surprised as St Vitus Cathedral rose up over the trees.

St Vitus Cathedral from Belvedere Gardens

Just behind me stood a gate to Letna Park. At least, I thought it was. I wasn’t sure how far I had to go, just that I had at least another 1.5 hours to find Tyrone. The moment I walked through that gate, I was surrounded with crazily green trees. It felt more like spring as opposed to what it really was – autumn. I eventually used my phone’s GPS to get a sense of the distance from my beer garden destination, and as I walked, I noticed that the city became visible through some of the trees (and bushes). I walked closer and moved some branches aside as I stepped onto a bank overlooking the city. There it was – the view I had come to see.

City View

There was no way, though, that I had to fight my way through dry shrubbery to see this, or that this was the best version of the view I had come to see. Letna Park was too big to let that happen. Once I stopped smiling, I found a less threatening way out (one with less shrubbery), and hurried out before anyone could see me and wonder what I was doing in a bush. I found 2 benches only 10 minutes away, and I can honestly say that it was one of the best views I’ve had. It was in line with the street visible on the bottom left of the above photo. I sat there for a good 20 minutes or so, in the company of some European travellers until I couldn’t deal with the heat and glare of the midday sun on my face any more. How did I know they were European? They interrupted the song I was listening to on my iPod to ask if they could sit on the bench next to me, and their accent sounded European. That’s literally the only way I could tell, since I carried on listening to my music once they sat down.

I didn’t realise that I would have to cross over a bridge to actually get to Letna Park. There were plenty signs, including ones for where the bicycle trails were. There were actually a number of winding routes one could take, so I just went for the one that appeared to go to the right. My plan was to actually stop at the Hanavský Pavilion, as that was a a high point from which I could get the view I wanted.

I found a map of the park which highlighted all the main points, so I took a moment to try to read it. There was a woman in front it who was not only making it physically impossible for anyone else to have a decent look, but who was also arguing with the other lady she was with while stabbing the glass with her finger. Clearly they were disagreeing on where they were meant to be going. I decided to rather continue using the old fashioned way to find my way around i.e. by reading the signs.

Hanavský Pavilion turned out to be a restaurant. I was kind of hoping that Tyrone would show himself somewhere around here, since it was a major landmark, but he didn’t. I figured I’d risk having a look at the menu anyway, in case we decided to come back here to eat, even though I knew the prices would be sky high due to its location and popularity with the tourists. Once I had a look at the menu, I realised I was wrong. The prices weren’t sky high, they were from outer space. I promptly closed the menu and scurried away before a waiter could approach me.

I walked round the corner to get to the side of the pavilion and was rewarded. Oh, my precious…

Prague from Hanavský pavilion

Prague panorama from Hanavský pavilion

After taking at least a dozen photos, I made my way towards the Metronome. On my way there, I passed a Chinese bridal couple who were having their photo shoot done. It was not the first couple I had seen having a bridal photo shoot in Prague. The first one was outside the Rudolfinum a couple days before.Bridal shoot

They say that it actually represents the city’s rhythm, since it is actually a functioning metronome. Once upon a time, it was a Stalin monument, but it was destroyed a few years after his death. The metronome was built as tall as the Stalin monument was – a staggering 23m. I felt rather small looking up at it from where I was standing. Prague Metronome

There was some graffiti on the wall below the metronome that caught my particular attention. When we picture graffiti, most of us tend to think of bright colours, comic-style script, and bold outlines. Most times it ruins the structure on which it is done, but the graffiti that I saw here was quite the opposite. It was done in black only, and it was actually the portrait of a girl. There was something timeless about it; I hope it never gets removed.The girl in the park

The Metronome was not at all far away from the beer garden. As I approached it, I saw a familiar face. It was Tyrone! Boy, was I happy to see him. It’s funny how we actually hadn’t planned where to meet at all, and despite the size of Letna and the odds of me taking some other pathway, we still managed to find each other on time.

Tyrone had only just arrived so we did a quick survey of the area and found that there was actually a rather fancy looking restaurant literally right next to the beer garden. I didn’t mind what kind of beer I had, as long as it was there.Venison with dumplings and honey sauce

It turned out to be hunting season, meaning the restaurant had very interesting items on the menu such as venison (which is not something I was used to seeing on a menu back in South Africa). Everything sounded fantastic, and it was actually reasonably priced considering what they offered and their location. But seeing as the restaurant at Hanavský Pavilion was so full, I figured most people don’t realise that there’s more to the beer garden than just the beer. Clearly, you pay for the view that Hanavský Pavilion offers.

Tyrone and I spent a good hour or so enjoying our lunch while chatting about where we were from, our jobs, and how much we love Prague and the excellent weather. Prague’s perfect weather for 2 days in a row was something I wish would never end.

With Tyrone

There is one thing I cannot leave out. Now, I am not one of those people who take photos of their food so that they can upload them to Instagram, but if it is something that is presented in a spectacular way then I will take a photo to show my friends. In the case of my dessert (since we thought we’d spoil ourselves on our last day in Prague), I am so glad I took a picture of that too, because it was without a doubt the best damn strawberry cheesecake I have ever had in my life. I am a huge cheesecake fan and this one was the Queen of all cheesecakes. They should build a shrine around it for other cheesecakes to worship.

The best strawberry cheesecake in the World

For the curious ones, below is a picture of the actual beer garden:

Letna Park's beer garden

After we freshened up, we went to the end of the beer garden to have a look at the views. Tyrone still hadn’t seen the castle, so I gave him directions on how to get there from where we were. He also told me where to catch the tram back down, but agreed to walk me there since it sounded confusing. We then parted ways, agreeing to meet a little later for one of the cruises along the Vltava.

After he left and I gave him one of the 24 hour passes, I ended up taking the wrong tram and went further east instead of back west. It was a classic case of my gut telling me I had done the wrong thing the second I stepped onto that tram. I actually had no idea where it was going, so after the 3rd or 4th stop, I decided to get off. I walked a little west, then south in order to get to the river, however I knew that I was way too far out of the city to walk back. There’s tram lines everywhere, so I stopped at the first stop I came across and noticed that the tram that was approaching me was labelled Narodni Divadlo (the National Theatre), which I was thrilled about because it was going to exactly where I needed to be. I hopped on, and decided to get off just before Charles Bridge so that I could walk across it again. I didn’t know whether I’d get the chance again, so I took it. I started to feel sad because I didn’t know when I’d ever see Prague again. When it looked this beautiful, who would want to leave?

Tyrone and I met again at around 17:30 in order to scout around for a river cruise. The place I had passed everyday was closed, and we didn’t want to spend so much on a dinner cruise. We then took a walk towards Charles Bridge, and noticed some guys dressed as sailors. We checked the price of their cruises, and it turned out to be more reasonable than the other ones. It also included a beer and an ice cream – 2 things I couldn’t refuse.

We had a few minutes to kill before the cruise started so we decided to get ourselves a bite to eat. There was a hot dog stand round the corner from Charles Bridge which I had walked passed everyday, so Tyrone agreed to try it out with me. It looked so tempting every time I walked passed that I just had to get one before leaving Prague. I didn’t want to regret not doing something as silly as that. I got a chilli one, which had a bit of a kick to it, but it was really nice. I’m a pretty slow eater (my friend’s husband says that his dead grandmother eats faster than I do) and the fact that the hot dog was tongue-burning hot didn’t make my life any easier. I had to try to gobble it down as fast as I could as the entrance to the boat house was through the Charles Bridge Museum, so I couldn’t enter it with food in my hand.

The boat house was like an underground grotto which required us to descend some steep stairs. It was very well lit, and there were a couple wooden boats docked together. There were 2 ladies who gave everyone an ice cream and a glass of beer as we boarded the boat, before we could head off with the driver. It was dusk when we left, and the cruise lasted about an hour. There were times when we stopped so that we could hear a bit of history about the Vltava River and how it had flooded so many times. It was fascinating seeing so many old black and white photos of the city when it was flooded, especially Charles Bridge which was reduced to basically just the piers. This was quite an engineering feat, even to this day, since all other bridges were totally washed away. Charles Bridge was the only one still standing.

There could not have been a more perfect way to spend my last night in Prague. There were times where I wished that there was no one but me on that boat, so I could just listen to the water and swans rather than be interrupted by the engine noise and chatter of the noisy people at the back.

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After the cruise, Tyrone and I thought of taking one last walk into Old Town Square to see what was going on. But before that, we noticed so many people walking passed us with some kind of ice cream dessert. We had no idea what it was, but it looked like it was in some kind of cone that was made out of dough. We simply had to go investigate, so we looked for the source.

We went about 50m down a familiar street that was leading to the Square when we found it: a Chimney shop. It was teaming with people, and there were only about 4 ladies handling everything. They were clearly making a killing as it was as if this was the most popular spot in the city. I honestly don’t know how they made the chimneys fast enough. We simply had to give it a try, especially since I have such a weak spot for ice cream.

We joined the queue and quickly found that there were several to choose from, all at pretty reasonable prices. Some had strawberries, while one even had ham. I wanted a dessert though, not a savoury breakfast, so I decided to go for the chimney blizzard which was just the cone with ice cream. We had to pay for our orders before they were made.

What did it taste like? Heaven. The cone itself had the taste and consistency very similar to a Cinnabon, and even though I thought it would just be filled with ice cream, there were fresh strawberries and chocolate sauce at the bottom. I didn’t expect that kind of surprise. It was very filling too, and I actually struggled to finish it as I got to the end. If I had space, I would have gotten another.

With our Chimney Blizzards

After that, it was time to say goodnight to Prague by enjoying the live music in Old Town Square. There was a one man band who had some crazy speakers that allowed his music to beam across the entire Square and beyond. It started to get a little chilly, but nothing I wasn’t used to. I loved how clean the air smelled even though I was right in the middle of a city. There were people dancing around and hundreds gathered round the man to appreciate the good performance he was giving us.

Tyrone and I eventually parted ways, and promised to stay in touch. The next day I would be leaving for my last stop, Berlin, whereas he still had another fortnight or so of travelling left to do. I must admit, I was a little jealous. I made my way back to the riverside and decided for once to catch a tram from just across the Rudolfinum back to my hotel. At least, for as close as it would take me.
Prague Trams

I was very sad to have to leave Prague the following morning, but I knew I’d be back. It was just too beautiful for me to never see it again.

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