After a week of being in Prague, I was ready to explore. My jet lag had worn off for the most part, and I no longer had to go to a million orientation events every day.
Time to tackle the tourist traps.
I knew the Charles Bridge would be crowded, but I also knew it would only get busier and busier as the days wore on. So, after a long day of learning about my new home, I joined a group of friends on a trip over to the bridge.
It’s a ten minute walk, but somehow we managed to get lost on the way over. Beginner’s mistake, I’ll call it. The streets of Prague twist and turn, and as students used to New York’s grid system, directions were a major struggle. But we made it, and our initial error turned out to be a blessing in disguise: not only was the bridge less crowded than we thought it would be, but the sun was setting, creating the perfect picture of Prague.
There’s really no better time to visit. In the late afternoon, the sun is setting, and the tourists are running off to their early dinner reservations in the city center. It’s not like the bridge is completely empty, but you have elbow room, and that’s all you really need.
Walking across the Charles Bridge, the first thing that takes your breath away is the arch. It’s imposing on the skyline, this massive dark structure blocking your view of the bridge ahead. With the sun shining behind it, the bridge was completely hidden from view.
But then you walk through, and you’re on the bridge, and the world opens up. The sheer amount of people there can feel a little overwhelming (I don’t even want to come near the bridge once tourist season starts), but the view is beautiful regardless.
Coming from Old Town, you’re faced with a seemingly endless river on one side, and Prague Castle on the other. It took my breath away, frankly.
Slowly, we made our way across, passing the odd tour group and browsing through the kiosks of street vendors and artists. As we ran from side to side, I took as many photos as I possibly could, because I knew a view like this, an experience like this, only happens once.
I didn’t want to leave the bridge. As we made our way onto the other side, exiting into Lesser Town, I wanted to turn around and do it all over again.
There’s something special about this bridge, some magical quality I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it was because we had just ended our first official week in Prague. Maybe it was because this was only the first taste of all there is to discover in the city.
At the end of the bridge, I stopped and looked back towards Old Town. People flew past me, eager to tick another landmark off of their bucket lists, chattering off languages I couldn’t even begin to identify. It was a lonely place to be, but at the same time, I felt more connected than ever. For whatever, reason, we all came to this one place, at this one perfect time, and it was like nothing I had felt since arriving in Prague.