Finding picture perfect postcard views on Prague’s Charles Bridge isn’t difficult, but during the peak hours of the tourist season you may need to check yourself and be a little patient.
“Is it always this crowded?” I asked an arts and crafts vendor on one of the Czech Republic’s iconic and top tourist attractions. It was a little after ten in the morning, and the flow of visitors on the pedestrian only bridge above the meandering Vltava River was in full force.
“Oh, this is not so bad,” she laughed and went on to explain how during the months of June, July, August, and even well into September the Karlov most, as it is known locally, is flooded with wave after wave of tour groups. Good for the many artists and crafts vendors and local economy, bad for the casual strollers.
“Early morning or late in the afternoon are the best times to see the bridge, I think,” she added. She was right both with respect to the crowds as well as the best lighting for photography, digital or otherwise.
Until about 10 a.m. and perhaps a little after five in the afternoon, the bridge offers up some spectacular views of Prague’s hill top Vysehrad castle, the historic river that runs through the heart of the city, and the gothic bridge towers that guard the adjacent old town in fine photographic light.
Just keep in mind that once the many tour groups surge over the centuries old walkway you may find yourself swimming with or against the tourist tide and your only safe bet will be to hug one of the bridge walls until the sauntering deluge subsides.
However, you can make the most of your wait by taking in the impressive and unique work of local arts and crafts (there’s talent here), the ubiquitous and kitschy souvenir stalls, and one or two talented jazz or Dixieland bands belting out lively tools near the center of the bridge. The pause also provides you with a chance to get your bearings and take in the rich Bohemian flavor that the bridge and the city have to offer.
It’s a short walk to the Old Town square and Prague’s famous Astronomical clock, the Tyn Church, Jan Hus memorial, St. Nicholas church, and the many outdoor food and wine stalls, and cafes and wine vendors that line the large square.
Hang out in front of the Astronomical clock a minute or two before the hour and wait for the 15th century mechanical show or the line of Korean couples taking their wedding photos at the site. For a more modern touch stop by the John Lennon wall on the north side of the bridge and take in the impromptu art, graffiti, and tribute to the late Beatle. While Lennon never actually visited the site, hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists have since his death, leaving notes or flowers to the songwriter and singer who wrote, sang and championed to, `Give Peace a Chance.’
Finally, there’s this: when you visit the bridge and the city make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes. Avoid heels or trendy but slippery leather soles. The well worn and winding cobblestone streets that lead to the bridge and the uneven stones on the bridge itself can make for a hazardous walk for the unsuspecting strolling sightseer.
Avoid a stumble, sprained ankle, or face planting fall as you wonder how the stylish and chic Czech women seem to artfully and effortlessly negotiate the problem in high three inch heels.
h well, there are some mysteries in life that man is never meant to resolve but only ponder over with a great Czech beer in one of the most scenic cities in the world. That too, you can find at either end of the bridge or anywhere in Prague. Cheers! Or in the local vernacular, na zdravi!