Prague Au’Naturel

The Traveler

So you’ve visited Old Town Square, watched the Astronomical Clock, saluted Sir Wenceslas and his horse. And fought the hordes of tourists doing the same. You need a break (this is a holiday after all!) some fresh air and pretty views to reenergize. It’s time to go Prague Au’Naturel.

Sleep late. I’m not talking noon here, but don’t ask for a wake-up call. Enjoy a full, leisurely breakfast – you’ll need to fuel up for your day. Put on your most comfy shoes and bring along some water and a snack.

Begin your day at the Malostranska metro station (green or “A” line.) Turn right out of the station and walk through the pretty garden. When you exit, turn left onto Valdstejnska.

Stroll until you reach the entrance to the Ledebour Gardens or the Gardens beneath the Castle. The gardens were originally designed as a protection point for the Castle back in 1241. However, by the beginning of the 16th century, its fate as a beautiful garden was sealed. The gardens as we see them today were begun in 1648 when conquering Swedes took over and redesigned them in a baroque style.

They built terraces, stairs and fountains as well as installed sculptures. The gardens fell into disarray for a number of years until they were taken over by the National Conservation Institute who revived them. Admission is 69kc (less than 3USD) and includes exercise as well as excellent photographic opportunities.

Upon entering, skip the skinny stairs immediately on your left and continue to the wide steps. Take your time, pause and gaze out at the view. Sit and savor (or catch your breath) on one of the benches.

Wind your way back and forth through the five gardens planted here. The map given to you upon arrival has a brief history of each one. The best time to come is late spring or early summer when the flowers are in bloom, but beautiful views are available anytime of year.

After you have had your fill of flowers and vistas, exit the gardens at the far end, near the cupola. Now you are at the edge of Prague Castle. Turn left and walk along the Castle wall. Gorgeous views will be on your left, with the Castle towering overhead on the right.

Take your time, stopping at the numerous scenic overlooks along the way. Eventually you will reach the end of the Castle and arrive in a courtyard. Go to your right, bypassing the Castle entrance and mobs of people, and continue to your left through Hrelanska namesti.

Stay to the right on Kanovnicka. You will quickly leave buildings behind and find yourself walking along a green area. A poorly marked entrance leads you to Stag Moat. Look for the wooden railing which leads you down a path. Go all the way to the bottom. Here it will be cool and shady. Follow the path, enjoying the natural surroundings. You are in a valley, trees on your left, the Castle on your right. Walk through the brick tunnel running alongside a pretty stream.

When you are almost to the end (you will know by the big, unnatural looking fence in front of you) you will see another wooden railing and path leading out of the valley, on your left. At the top, a choice awaits. If you have extra energy, turn left and stroll through Kralovska Zahrada. The Royal Gardens were founded by Emperor Ferdinard I in the 1530’s.

Appreciate what you see, as they have had a rough life. Both the Saxons and the Swedes burned them down, the Prussians blew them up and they were nearly attacked by the French, but saved at the last minute by a bribe of 30 pineapples. Really! The Gardens end at the castle entrance. Turn around and retrace your steps, taking a different garden path back.

If you have chosen the relaxing route, or have just returned from Kralovska Zahrada, you will be at the Belveder. This was also built by Ferdinard, as a summer house for his wife Anne. Wander around the pretty square and be sure to take notice of Zpivajici fontana (Singing Fountain) in the middle. It is so named for the musical sound the drops of water make falling in the metal bowls. Stick your ear close to get the full effect, but try not to get your head wet. The Belveder took almost 30 years to complete, which means Anne never had the opportunity to enjoy it. Be sure to wander towards the back of the building to admire a different view of the city, as well as the Castle and Cathedral. Exit the area through a small door near the edge of the building.

You are now in Chotovy Sady. Follow the path you are on. Before it curves to the left, you will see two benchs and an amazing view of the city. Sit a spell. You’ve been walking a while and deserve a break.

When you are ready, continue on the path and cross the road via a bridge, heading straight into another park, Letenska Sady. Follow the yellow signs that say Vyton. At the fork, veer right for another good (is there any other?!) view of Prague. Press on, there is a treat waiting you at the end. When you reach a set of stairs, start climbing (I know, you can toss the stair master when you get home.) At the top you will find an unkept square and fairly unattractive metronome (a huge version of the instrument used to clock time.)

Ignore these, and look over the river, bridges and city all laid out before you. Walk past the metronome, down the stairs and to your right. Continue through the park, staying on the path closest to the river. Soon you will come to a wood paneled hut. Go over to the walk up window and buy yourself a large Gambrinus for a mere 22kc (about 90 cents). Take your beer and head for the picnic tables. Beer with a view, how much more Prague can you get?