Stephanie Voyager visited Prague and discovered its beauty, including the artistry of Freemason Alfons Mucha, a major exponent of art nouveau. She returns to London on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
The Czech Republic takes great pride in preserving its homeland, and despite the floods, there were very few signs of damage. Prague has been preserved in all its elegance.
Wherever one looks you are surrounded by beautiful architecture as there is a strict rule against the building of high-rises. The city is made up of five areas - Old Town, Lesser Town, the Jewish Quarter, New Town and the Castle area.
Everything is relatively close together, and as long as you take sensible shoes, you can walk virtually everywhere, with a lot of the Old Town closed to traffic.
If you get tired there is also an underground metro with several lines, and trams. The great thing about the transport is that if you buy a ticket, it is valid for a certain amount of time, either 15 minutes or one hour.
This means that you can change trams or the metro on the same ticket if it is within the given time. However, it is important to carry the right change, otherwise you can have problems getting a ticket.
Although many of the younger people speak English, some of the older generation, unless they work in the tourist industry, do not.
There are excellent taxis, but we were warned that only recognised companies should be used, and that it was not a good idea to flag a taxi down in the street. You must order it from your hotel or restaurant, as you can otherwise pay more.
Apart from fascinating buildings to visit, there is also a good choice of cultural activities, and the main problem is choosing what to do. The city alone has three opera houses, and everywhere you go people are selling tickets to different concerts.
We were advised to stick to the major concert halls, which have the quality productions, although visiting some of the places where the concerts are held, is something of a joy in itself. We stayed at the privately owned five-star Art Nouveau Hotel Pariz, built in neo-Gothic style. The hotel, owned by the Brandejs family, celebrates its centenary this year. Taken over by the Germans during the Second World War, and later by the Communists, it was eventually returned to its owners. Apart from being modernised, it has retained all the interior decoration of the art nouveau period.
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