Escapism

Jill Worrall leaves Timaru to take on the world - bringing adventure travel to your desktop

Prague: Grotestque gargoyles and sadistic timetables

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Finding tourists hard to stomach? A gargoyle at Prague's St Vitus Cathedral. Photo / Thinkstock
Finding tourists hard to stomach? A gargoyle at Prague's St Vitus Cathedral. Photo / Thinkstock

Designing air travel timetables must be a perfect job for a sadist. I can't believe human beings are designed for checking into airports at 3am.

The flight from Yerevan to Prague takes off about 5am but when breakfast is served I can't face it - my stomach is still asleep.

Only hours after landing I'm standing outside Prague Castle, still vaguely disoriented. That's the trouble with air travel - there's no time to mentally adjust from one continent to another.

But this is Prague - the Sleeping Beauty of European tourism - jet lag will have to be put on hold for a few hours as that's all I have before I have to fly to Seoul.

Of course Prague slumbers no longer - even in late September the streets of the old town, and the lanes surrounding the castle are not so much thronged with tourists as swamped.

The queue to enter St Vitus Cathedral stretches almost the full length of the building. But there's plenty of entertainment from above in the form of the most wonderfully grotesque gargoyles I've seen.

Foul beasts and twisted human faces, both with mouths agape, stare down at us with bulging eyes. I guess if I was a gargoyle I'd probably make a similar assessment about the tourists below - especially those with huge bottoms squeezed into stretch pants.

Inside, the cathedral is flooded with jewel-coloured light slanting through the stained glass. Angels fly aloft holding red velvet drapes above a tomb. Outside the tourists still pour past and I'm swept into the downhill flow towards the 14th Century Charles Bridge.

Once, four carriages could travel abreast across the bridge. Today they wouldn't stand a chance - any space not taken up with tourists is filled with artists, buskers and wedding parties.

Three bridal couples jostle for space under the famous town hall clock nearby as do the crowds waiting to see the hourly procession of the Apostles when the clock strikes.

A bright red Skoda sports car, labelled Crocodile Dundee Tours is trying to thread through the crush. Clearly I need to sit down.

I opt for a Czech beer rather than the apostles, which if slightly less saintly is definitely more refreshing.

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