Travel

Proposal

Kathryn and I are engaged. Here’s how it happened.

Monday morning. Very, very morning. Approximately 3.20 AM. The kind of time when you really wish you had gone to bed at 9 PM like you were planning to.

The plan was to catch the night bus from Sloane Square to Liverpool Street for the Stansted Express for our flight at 7.30. But in keeping with our usual travel experiences we rounded the corner of Sloan Street to see the N11 disappearing up Pimlico Road. So a taxi saw us to the station for approximately 5 times the cost of a bus ticket.

Forty-five minutes later we were at the airport, along with several thousand other people who obviously wanted to get there with plenty of time. When we flew to Munich the week after the terrorist attacks we breezed through check-in. It seems people had regained their confidence in flying. Queues for check-in, security control and even currency exchange snaked around the building. An hour later we were at security.

This is where I thought my plans for a romantic proposal in Prague had come horribly undone. Kathryn went through first with no problems. I had been keeping the ring in its box in my inside coat pocket. As I walked through the detector alarm bells started ringing, and I don’t mean figuratively. Oh-oh. I had to empty my pockets while trying to shield the little box from Kathryn’s view. I thought I would be ok until the security guard said, “You’ll have to unwrap that.” Oh no! “Or put it through the x-ray.”

Of course. Why hadn’t I thought of that already? By this time Kathryn had started to take an interest in the commotion at the metal detector. I directed her to wait for me a little way off as I didn’t want her to see the little box come trundling out of the x-ray machine. Quickly pocketing the diamond, I joined Kathryn to board
the plane.

We flew to Prague and made our way by bus, metro and tram to our hotel; the Arcotel Teatrino. It is an old art nouveau style theatre that has been converted into a hotel. The dining room is in the auditorium.

We caught the tram to nám Republiky where we saw the wonderful art nouveau Municipal Hall, where concerts are staged. We wandered west down Celetná to Staroměstské nám or the Old Town Square. This is the tourist and historical centre of Prague and is very beautiful. In fact the whole city is simply stunning. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, thanks largely to the complete lack of bombing in the war. There are some gothic buildings such as the Týn church
in Staroměstské nám but most of the architecture consists of baroque palaces and art nouveau buildings.

We headed for the river. It had been my plan to go to Karlův most (Charles bridge) at night and propose there. But as we wandered along the river Vltava, Prague Castle towering over the city on the opposite bank, the warm afternoon sunshine sparkling off the water, we came to a quiet place that just seemed to be right. I asked Kathryn to marry me and she said yes.

It was dead romantic.

We sat in the sun for a while before visiting Karlův most, which confirmed I had chosen the right spot. The bridge is beautiful, lined with baroque statues, but there were lots of people there.

We finished the evening with a lovely curry at the Jewel of India in Josefov, the Jewish quarter. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.

Prague Castle

We spent most of the next day in Prague Castle, a huge place that sits high above the city and contains among other things Prague’s major cathedral, the old palace and the current home of the President. There were many lovely views of the city from the walls and the tower of St Vitus cathedral, reached by a harrowing climb up a circular staircase. We had the worst sandwiches ever at a cafe in the castle.
I think the bread was at least a week old.

Above the castle is the Loreta convent which houses an amazing collection of silver, diamonds and pearls. It was late in the afternoon so it wasn’t crowded.

Nearby is the Strahov monastery where we visited its lovely library. It has a beautiful painted ceiling, not to mention lots of books.

Karlštejn

It had been getting steadily colder since our first day in Prague and today was positively chilly. After an earlier breakfast we got to the train station at Smíchov just in time to leap on to the train as the doors were closing. A short journey later saw us at the run-down Karlštejn station to begin the long walk up to the castle.

The castle was very impressive from the outside, built in the 14th century by Bohemia’s famous king Charles IV to house the crown jewels. Unfortunately the tour of the interior wasn’t as thrilling. There just wasn’t a lot to look at and the highlight of the castle and ancient destination of pilgrimage the Chapel of the Holy Rood wasn’t open to visitors. So we didn’t get to see its magnificently jewel
encrusted and richly painted interior. Lucky we bought the book then.

Back in Prague we visited the Jewish Museum, a surprisingly fascinating experience. We wandered through the ancient Jewish cemetery in the light rain. It was in use from the fifteenth to eighteenth century and the twelve thousand tombstones were planted almost on top of each other and stuck out at all angles.

That night we dined in the Teatrino’s amazing dining room before seeing a concert by the Dvořak Symphony Orchestra in the beautiful Rudolfinum concert hall by the river. They were ok but I wish the Czech Philharmonic were in town.

Nasvidenje Prague!

On our last day we visited the Mozart museum in the house he wrote Don Giovanni in and the rarely visited Municipal museum that has an amazing 19th century scale model of Prague.

Prague is easily one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is the equal of Venice and is in some ways better as, apart from accomodation, it is very cheap and not quite as ravaged by tourism. The beer is good, the people friendly and the public transport cheap and easy. We had a wonderful time.

And not just because we got engaged:)

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