New Year’s Day Walk Through Prague
Svetlana and I have decided not to stay home and take a walk during the first weekend of the new year, 2023. Unfortunately, the first-weekend walk was interrupted by a work incident. I had support at my job and needed to run home to solve the issue.
Fortunately, we continued our New Year journey around Prague castle on the second Saturday of the new year.
The initial plan was to go and visit mainly Prague’s Kunsthalle. Then, go through the castle park – Deer Moat, and get to the top of Prague’s castle. Then we should have a new year’s kiss there, walk downtown, and have lunch. And finally, we would go to the swimming pool and finish today’s journey by doing groceries.
As it is our custom, we never start our exploration journeys on time. Therefore, we needed to reorganize our plan as many things would not make sense during the afternoon since we left the house around 12:30 PM.
We left Stodůlky by metro and rode the yellow metro line downtown to Náměstí Republiky. It was roughly 1:00 PM when we got on the surface next to the Masarykovo nádraží. Svetlana was excited as she had probably never seen a newly rising Zaha Hadid building before. The pleasant smell of roasted coffee from the nearby EMA espresso bar also covered the metro entry.
Leaving the house without lunch, we soon began to feel hungry. I wanted to take Svetlana to see Manifesto, the bustling hub of the hospitality market, located between Wilsonova street and Florenc. To my surprise, I discovered that where the Manifesto once stood, teeming with life and various street food stands, now only storage for the nearby Zaha Hadid construction was placed.
Phở Bar visit
Luckily, we had a backup plan and walked to the Phở Bar on the corner of the street. Phở Bar was nearly empty, so we did not wait for long. We both ordered the Bun Bo Nam Bo plates (mix of vegetable, rice and beef meat) (2 x 189 CZK) with two cans of sweet soft drinks (2 x 65 CZK) imported from Vietnam. I selected coconut water, and Svetlana took lychee extract.
After the Phở Bar, I needed to jump to the job’s office at Klimentska to collect some stuff. I also needed to go to the restroom because the Bun Bo Nam Bo I had, did not land very well with the coconut water I had drunk. On the other hand, Svetlana had no stomach problems.
Note: When I go to the office, I usually stop at least once weekly in the Phở Bar. I can only recommend this Asian restaurant as I think it is a significant and healthy food portion for a reasonable price. So please don’t take my experience as a norm rather than as an exception. As I said, maybe drinking fresh coconut water with a lunch dish is not the best idea in Prague.
Kunsthalle Prague visit
We continued our walk around the Vltava river band. Here we found a children’s playground where cherry trees started blossoming. It was the first week of January 2023, and the temperature was about 0. Then we continued west and walked around the National Gallery Prague – Convent of St. Agnes. We walked through the garden decorated with statues and then peaked even to the national gallery entryway. As the national gallery visit was off our list today, we continued our walk.
Through Čech Bridge, we got to the other side of the river. Then, we continued around the river band and State government office in Strakova Akademie to Kunsthalle Prague.
Kunsthalle Prague was the most important thing which we wanted to visit today. It was Saturday, around 2:30 PM, and Prague Kunsthalle is located next to one of the most crowded touristic places in Czechia (stairs to Prague castle). Unfortunately, my worries came true. Immediately after entering, it was apparent that the Kunsthalle visit would be a waste of our time. The entry hall felt overcrowded; the place was full of people. We entered the buffet and wanted to sit down at an empty table. But the barman told us to leave as it was “reserved”. It really wasn’t our day for the Kunsthalle visit today. So we decided to go and come next time as we quickly became pissed at the crowded and noisy place.
Deer Moat visit
We continued walking around Villa Richter and kept walking by the road leading to the top of the hill. Typically, walking this shady path would be confusing, as only the traditional path to the castle is open.
Last week, we visited the Royal Gardens before I had to go back home for a work-related issue. While there, I overheard a man asking a police officer until when the Royal Gardens would be open. The police officer answered that Deer Moat and Royal Gardens would only be accessible until the January end.
When you ride a tram from Malostranska to Hradcanska, you can always see an army man guarding the gates to Deer Moat. I only wonder what the security reason for which this place is permanently closed is.
The Deer Moat under Royal Castle was opened today, and we decided to take our chance. So we walked on small letters and slippery stairs until we got over the Royal Garden fence. We continued there as we would be walking on some ferrata in some national park.
Moreover, people wanted to leave the park in the opposite direction and walked against us. Although Svetlana was scared, walking on tiny rails was very adventurous. We made our way through the crowds by giving others space and going with the flow of people walking in the same direction. We finally reached the valley of Deer Moat, also known as Jelení příkop.
Deer Moat is a valley between the North castle wall and the South of the Dejvice neighbourhood. It forms a natural barrier defending the castle’s north side against anybody who would like to attack it. Walking down the Deer Moat, you can observe castle walls behind which lies the famous Golden street. Of course, you will not see Golden street, but you will see the castle wall from a unique angle.
We crossed the Deer Moat along its whole length. In its middle, we passed a very nice artificial pedestrian tunnel. Then we continued walking by its west side towards the castle town. Finally, we exited the Deer Moat by the house where famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe lived. The park was full of people walking their dogs or taking their children on a lovely Saturday afternoon walk. The exit on the West side was less radical than the entry on the East. But it was still a steep climb on tight via ferrata.
After this exciting experience, Svetlana started to have an enormous desire for coffee. Unfortunately, while it would be nice to crush into some local cafeterias, there were very few at the top of Prague castle. So we decided to wait and visit a Starbucks located down at the Malostranské náměstí.
We walked on the top of the castle hill and continued along the Hradčanské námesti down to the Statue of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, from which is probably the most beautiful view of Prague. We made our new year kiss here.
Then we continued throughout the square and got on the Zámecké schody, Castle stairs which lead to Malostranské náměstí. The stairs were full of tourists and street performers, and the atmosphere was lovely.
The Svetlana’s desire for coffee was rising, and thus we visited the Starbucks at Malostranské náměstí.
I have to confess. During the visit, Starbucks was the most profitable title in my stock portfolio. I am neither a brand lover nor drink coffee. I invested in a good company during the global pandemic when the share prices were low.
So as a shareholder, when I visited the Starbucks at Malostranské náměstí, I was utterly disgusted by what I saw.
First, the place looked messy and worn out. The bussers didn’t clean the tables at all.
Second, the staff should have shouted the names on the cup and kept the people from taking their orders from the counter. Consequently, they messed up our order as some girl from another part of the world left with Svetlana’s coffee.
Third, the branch apparently needed more staff. Only two people were behind the counter, one taking orders and cashing customers, second making coffee. Such a low headcount on Saturday afternoon at one of the most frequent places in Czechia is inadequate.
Fourth, the basement underneath the branch, had opened a window leading straight to the street. The window behind metal bars was not visible from the street. But from inside, it was dirty as the chimney. If the owner made the basement cosier or more practical for digital nomads, it would raise the profit significantly.
Fifth, the entry was messy; the gift shelf was half empty, and the stand with sugar and wood sticks was dirty from spills. Overall the floor was scratched in the whole premise, and the furniture would need some updates.
Sixth, I got two black tea teabags in my cup. The amount of caffeine would wake even dead.
Seventh, when a group of 10 Japanese girls visited the branch, they might take a seat downstairs if it did not look like a torture chamber. They could even take seats upstairs if the tables were cleaned. But they decided to leave without ordering anything.
People can even clean up after themselves if you give them a designated place to leave rubbish.
Overall, the place was super messy. Seriously, the overall service and atmosphere were terrible. You can go anywhere near Starbucks at Malostranské náměstí and pay less for a friendlier and cosier place. And I am saying this as a Starbucks shareholder.
When the staff messed up my order, I was walking between the counter and my place, and an older South African man stopped me and asked me for help. He was looking for a Hotel at Three Storks. So I pulled out my smartphone and showed the gentleman the way. The hotel at Three Storks was just a few hundred meters away from Malostranské náměstí.
Note: There is a Starbucks also at the of the Prague castle, right at the viewport Hradčanské námesti.
Church of Our Lady Victorious and The Infant Jesus of Prague
After the coffee break, we thought we would go home. So we took the first tram from Malostranské náměstí to Andel, where we wanted to get on the metro and return home. But immediately when we passed Hellichova, I knew we needed to jump out because there would be no better time than now. Every time I go around the Church of Our Lady Victorious and The Infant Jesus of Prague, I want to go and look inside. But I never do it.
We both jumped out of the tram and occurred in front of the church. A little stand with animals was there; a donkey, sheep and kid (probably just a tiny goat) were looking at tourists and letting them pet them on their heads. It was super cute. After Svetlana petted all the animals, we walked up the stairs decorated with cardboards with Bethlehem motives and entered the Church of Our Lady Victorious.
The Baroque/Renaissance Church of Our Lady Victorious is famous for one thing – the 18.5-inch statue of the child Jesus, usually dressed in different clothes based on the occasion or events. As it was after Christmas, he was dressed in a white robe. We walked around the church and visited side corridors where the waste collection of various Christian Bethlehems from around the world was displayed. We admired the very well-decorated interior and stopped by one unique saint painting. As alive, there was a statue of a saint trying to touch its replica at the painting.
After that, it was time to go home. So we left the church and got a tram which brought us to the metro going home.