Monday : The Smíchov District of Prague

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I very much liked everything about Ibis Praha Mala Strana where I was staying, a clean and functional room which was keenly priced and also included breakfast. Bearing this handy chart in mind, I went for the breakfast option at around 07:30, as often breakfast rooms can get quite crowded. I needn’t have been concerned (although I quite like being pre-worried) as there was plenty of space and the environment was calm and peaceful despite it being relatively busy.

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A nice little selection of pastries and breads.

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But this was one of the best Ibis breakfast spreads in terms of meats and cheeses that I’ve seen, this standard is drifting off towards Sofitel. The photo doesn’t really show the full range of cheeses (they were replaced soon afterwards with a fresh board), which included a blue cheese that I became very fond of. And that spicy chorizo type meat arrangement, quite delightful.

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This is how a day should start.

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Some sort of memorial to František Ringhoffer II (1817-1873) who was a Prague businessman with commercial interests in brewing and railways (sounds a rather nice little mixture). He was also the Mayor of Smíchov, a district of Prague, and I had decided to stay in this area for the day to see what there was to see. It’s an area of the city that I haven’t much explored before, once quite an industrial area, but today it’s got a more on-trend feel to the arrangements. Smíchov was a city in its own right between 1903 and 1921, although it has now become as just a suburb of Prague.

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It was too hot, but I decided that I’d just have to be brave and explore the city anyway, reminding myself that this was the day of the heatwave in the UK and so at least it was cooler here. The building in the background is Zlatý Anděl, an administrative and commercial building, that was completed in 2000 and was designed by Jean Nouvel. Trams sweep through the city and people seem unconcerned by them, rushing across just before they go by.

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I had a little meander along the Vltava River.

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The Palacký Bridge, constructed in 1876 and still standing. Mainland Europe lost so many bridges during the Second World War when they were destroyed to slow down various military movements, but fortunately there wasn’t quite the same level of destruction in Prague. The damage that did take place was mostly by the United States air force who managed to miss all the military targets and caused huge levels of damage to residential areas. That was primarily because the air force had got Dresden and Prague muddled up, not an arrangement that was ideal and it caused much anti American sentiment for some time.

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There were a disappointingly low number of benches not in the fierce heat of the sun. It’s a reminder of just how important tree cover is in cities and although Prague has many parks, there’s still a need for more trees. And craft beer bars.

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I became moderately obsessed with the paving they use in Prague, which is hand laid as individual blocks. Doing that sort of thing must require a lot of patience and I saw a couple of separate road repairs where they were carefully sitting there placing them down in intricate patterns.

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There are little heaps of the rocks near a number of construction projects.

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There are a number of these floating hotels, or botels, in Prague, this one is the Botel Admirál. The room rates are reasonable, although looking at the reviews, there’s a problem with internal noise. I might still try and book onto one of these if I return to Prague in the future, something a little different.

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The big industrial site still in the area is the Staropramen Brewery, first opened here in 1869 and with the beer starting to flow from 1871. I can imagine a day in the not too distant future that production will be moved out of this city centre site, just as it has in numerous other locations in the UK where the land is worth more for residential. It also gives the brewery chance to build purpose built new facilities rather than working around the limitations of the old buildings.

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The entrance to the Staropramen factory.

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With all that walking about in the hot weather, I felt that I deserved a little drink and this is the beer selection at Beertime. This is one of the advantages in confining travels to a limited area, I wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise, but it’s actually a delightful bar which was already busy when I arrived at 11:30. The staff were friendly, pro-active and helpful, it was a really comfortable environment.

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I started off with something more refreshing than anything else, the IPL Strata from Pivovar Permon.

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Some teriyaki chicken wings to go with the beer and it was at this point that I realised all of the food and drink was 30% off at lunchtime. This made things very agreeable indeed. The staff were asking for tips and so I gave 10% on the machine, still feeling that I had paid less than I had expected. The chicken wings were delicious incidentally, even though they provided that mound of celery and carrot to the side.

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The Mole Stole My Bananas from Sibeeria Brewery, this had a slightly artificial edge, but was still delicious, a 10.7% imperial stout with a taste of bananas running through it. I was impressed at the beer selection, it crossed a number of different styles and was reasonably priced, especially given the lunchtime discount. I think if I lived in Prague this might be a regular lunchtime spot to visit.

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Kostel svatého Václava, or St Wenceslas Church, which was constructed between 1881 and 1885, designed by Antonín Viktor Barvitius.

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This is all that visitors to the church can see at the moment in the porchway, as the building is kept locked. I had some concerns about the Catholic Church in Prague last time I visited, it seems that they feel churches should be inaccessible, unwelcoming and used primarily as cash cows. It’s unfortunate, although if that’s what they want, that’s up to them.

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I poked my camera through to the inside as the authorities had carefully locked it up. I can’t help thinking how sad it is that anyone wanting to speak to someone, to find some solace or to pray quietly is shut out. This is another church that I felt was run by the authorities for the authorities, not for the community in which it serves.

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There’s no shortage of international brands in the city.

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Indeed this was useful knowledge the following day where the temperatures reached quite ridiculous levels and I needed to find refreshment.

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I rather liked the design of this building, built in 1908 as a market building although later converted into a shopping centre and then partly changed into a library.

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I thought that I’d have a little recover in the hotel room before meandering back out in the heat, it’s much cooler during the early evening.

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Dětský Island, which is still in the Smíchov area, which I was careful to stay inside. It takes its name, translated to Children’s Island, as they’ve built a playground and sports facilities here.

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There were lots of people walking along the river, it’s a lovely little stretch.

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My plan to exit the island at the other end failed, it’s blocked off. I pretended that I already knew this and walked back in a manner where I didn’t look surprised. I did this by casually looking at my phone throughout (to suggest I was messaging and not looking at a map) and walking calmly without an annoyed look. I thought that was very British.

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This party boat looked a little raucous to me. Actually, I’m not sure the people on it would describe themselves as party goers, but this looks like something my friend Richard would enjoy, sailing down the river, drinking wine and shouting.

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I opted instead for another bar rather than sailing down the river. This is Craft Beer Spot, a handily named bar which had entirely passed me by until I was near to it and suddenly it appeared on Google Maps. I suspected that it might be busy as it was well reviewed and it was a warm evening, but I got there and there were no other customers. Indeed, it took a good three minutes for a staff member to arrive at the bar. The service was though friendly and conversational, so it felt like a welcoming environment and I liked it here.

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The tap list was chalked up on two blackboards as well as being printed. Another well balanced beer menu, with lots more options in the beer fridge. Actually, the beer fridge options were very tempting, but I didn’t have my bag and I didn’t want to balance a random selection of cans (although they would have been decadent cans, but that might not be obvious to others) along the street in case people thought that I wasn’t a sophisticated drinker and instead looked more like a British yob.

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Hot dogs go very well with beer I find and there was a bit of heat behind this one. Inexpensive and delicious, what more could I want?

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The red sky. Someone walking by looked up at what I was taking a photo of, they appeared disappointed and they probably thought I was an idiot.

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The Fall of Time Fountain. For a long time, this was where the communists shoved a tank to mark the Soviet ‘liberation’ of Prague although it became a laughing stock in 1991 when local artist David Černý painted it pink. He was arrested and it was repainted green, but then 15 MPs immediately painted it pink again, so they decided to remove the tank and instead the fountain sits in its place. There’s a lot more about this whole story at https://www.widewalls.ch/magazine/monument-to-soviet-tank-crews-david-cerny.

As mentioned earlier, I like trying to stay within a confined area during a random walkabout, as it forces me to find things that of some interest to me that I might not have otherwise seen. Otherwise it’d be easy to head off for major tourist sites or the bars that I’d visited before, but there was more than enough in this district of Prague to amuse me. Plenty of craft beer bars, some history and a pleasant riverside walk, it’s an under-rated part of the city although easily accessible by public transport.