A guided tour and a ballet performance were perfect for an unplanned visit, writes Rose McIver.
I knew painfully little about Prague before my arrival in the city. So I decided to take that "when in Rome" adage and run with it in the Czech Republic's capital.
To get to know the city, its history and culture, I signed up for two events. The first was a guided walking tour through Prague Castle, hoping it wasn't going to be too academic or dull.
Fortunately, Martina, the guide was a personable local with a gift for storytelling and, because of this, I found the information much easier to absorb. I wished I'd been on more tours of this nature in my travels and highly recommend it, although it's worth noting there are both good and bad versions, so reading reviews online beforehand will save you from a dreary tour.
One thing you can't be saved from though, is the weather. We had a great deal of rain while we walked, so everyone in our small group bought souvenir store umbrellas, which flipped inside-out at the first gust of wind. Looking at the rubbish bins stuffed with dodgy umbrellas I was reminded immediately of Wellington, and Cuba St's own Brolly Graveyard bins. Still, the inclement Prague weather helped set the scene for a moody, medieval history lesson and was actually very refreshing after a morning of hot sun.
Although I was expecting one enormous building; the castle is in fact a collection of buildings.
Chapels, cathedrals, banquet halls and guard's quarters were among the huge collection of structures that made up the castle.
Martina told us a couple of tragic tales about the martyrs and saints recognised in Prague, but I will spare you the gruesome details.
The architecture of the castle represents almost every era of the last millennium, having
been built over a very long period of time. It includes Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles.
The second thing I did was go to a ballet, because I knew it would be a good opportunity to be entertained without having to deal with the language barrier. It was a wonderful reminder of the power of the body to communicate when words can't. I danced as a child, and whenever I see dancers perform, I immediately light up and feel like a little girl again, wowed by the grace, discipline and sensitivity to music.
This production was a selection of dances from Swan Lake, and it was a nice, packed theatre. The principal dancers were extraordinary, both as athletes and artists.
And while the language barrier didn't dissipate, learning how to say "hello", "please" and "thank you" in Czech did make the journey immeasurably more pleasant.
Locals appreciate it, even if you run into a dead-end as soon as someone takes the conversation further. Thank goodness for phone apps, such as Duolingo.
I've been fortunate to try out my newly learned Czech phrases and have the opportunity to explore Europe and highly recommend finding the time in your busy lives to make the easy journey and investigate it for yourselves.
As New Zealanders, I feel like we have an eagerness to celebrate different cultures, art, history and the way the world influences us.
Travel helps us to develop empathy and understanding of others, and it provides education and incredible memories to bring home and share.
flies A380s daily between Auckland and Prague, via Dubai. Economy Class return fares start from $1839.
A 20-night APT river cruise tour from Prague to Paris is on sale with helloworld for $13,195pp.
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