“The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century… It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.”
Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone
I only found the above quote recently and, aside from now really wanting to read that novel, it pretty much sums up what I love about Prague. This is a city that has an almost other-worldly quality to it. It has insanely beautiful buildings, like those in Vienna, but here they have a distinct bohemian feel – with such intricate details on windows and balconies, and artwork all over the walls. Everywhere you walk, you stumble across unexpected little discoveries – of art, music, history or culture – and they are tucked away in little laneways, or behind unassuming doorways, or even overhead.
“Situated on the banks of the Vltava river, the town was built around a 13th-century castle with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. It is an outstanding example of a small central European medieval town whose architectural heritage has remained intact thanks to its peaceful evolution over more than five centuries.” UNESCO
Český Krumlov is a small city in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic that was recommended to me by a friend. With only one week in the Czech Republic, I ended up spending three nights in Prague and four nights in Český Krumlov. That might sound crazy, as there is so much to do in Prague and it’s pretty easy to see Český Krumlov in a day or two. But, as I’ve said previously, I really relish chilling out and spending time in smaller towns that have plenty of character and charm.
To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius. Alexander Herzen
I’ve travelled to Venice twice. The first time I was only 19 years old and I remember Venice as this wonderful dream. At the time I was studying art, so everything I saw was an inspiration. I’d sit on one of the small bridges overlooking a canal, with a sketch book in hand, and watch as the gondolas plied past. I was also spoilt for time, a full week; days where I could get lost in the charming laneways, or gaze inside churches and cathedrals, or sit and watch the gondolas on the Grand Canal.
I had expensive coffee in the Piazzo San Marco, while watching the pigeons foray for crumbs; I heard gondoliers singing, exuberantly gesturing for emphasis; and I gazed up at the Bridge of Sighs, where convicts apparently had their last glimpse of Venice before imprisonment.
“Since the pre-Roman period, a fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. In its present form it is an outstanding example of a medieval fortified town, with its massive defences encircling the castle and the surrounding buildings, its streets and its fine Gothic cathedral.” UNESCO
La Citè de Carcassonne
Carcassonne in the south of France is another of those memorable places where I spent several days just chilling out and taking a break from travel. I’d spent three months in Africa, followed by about a month travelling in Greece and Italy before I found myself staying – according to my imagination – in this fairy-tale castle.
The city of Carcassonne is divided into two main parts – Ville Basse (Lower City) and La Citè de Carcassonne. The latter is a fortified medieval walled city, which was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. It has a double row of fortified walls, almost two miles long, and 56 watchtowers. La Citè sits majestically above the more modern Lower City, a settlement which gradually grew around the castle.