Valentines' Special: Prague - a little break with a big heart

Ignore the boisterous stag parties. Prague has plenty to woo your loved one, says Adrian Mourby. And it doesn't cost the earth to travel there

There's smog over Prague this morning. We've come for two days of romantic vistas but at the moment all I can see is a big yellow M shining out from the McDonald's on Vodickova.

Fortunately, by the time we've walked into the Old Town Square Baroque roof lines are emerging out of the gloom, rococo statuary swims into focus on the Golz-Kinsky Palace and I can see signs above each of the hostelries on this side of the street: "At the Stone Ram", "At the Blue Star", "At the Golden Unicorn". In the days before the Czechs realised street numbers were a good idea they used pictograms to distinguish one building from the next. Kafka himself attended a literary salon "At the Golden Unicorn", now No 20.

"Oh wow," says my wife. Being American, Kate is used to any tenement built before 1920 being designated a national monument.

"What do you think?" I ask. After lying awake last night listening as the youth of Great Britain celebrated the cheapness of Czech beer with fights and broken glass, I'd been worried that Prague might not live up to expectations.

"It certainly does what it says on the box," says Kate. And she is right.

Standing in Prague's Old Town Square, listening to the clop-clop of horse-drawn carriages is the complete Mittel Europe experience. You expect a Golem or a Piper from Hamelin to wander by at any moment.

I was last here just after the Velvet Revolution. In those days everyone with a typewriter was flocking to the Czech capital as a way of engaging with big historical events in total safety and nice surroundings. Ever since, I'd resisted opportunities to return because people told me that Prague, like Riga and Talinn, had become stag party central, that its medieval alleyways had been swamped by KFC and Ronald McDonald. Word had got out: those of us who loved Prague in '89 shouldn't go back for fear of heartbreak.

Then the chance for a romantic weekend came up, with every child parcelled out to someone else, and my wife made it clear that I could deny her no longer. Prague may not be what it once was but it still promised compensation for all those teenage years spent in soulless Texas. And she was right to insist. As the city of Wenceslas, Jan Hus, Mozart and Kafka emerges from the morning mist, it still stuns.

The first thing we do is have an argument. In my experience, romantic weekends either start off or end with an argument, so best to get it over with.

We both want this weekend to be perfect. But in different ways. Kate wants to see everything. I want to find a really good café and read Kafka, which is what I did 16 years ago. I lose of course. Sixteen years ago I wasn't married to an American cultural groupie. So we wow ourselves with the Church of St Nicholas, the Jan Hus monument, the fairytale steeples of Our Lady before Tyn, the Powder Gate and the House of the Black Madonna. As we steam down the old fruit market, I try to divert us into the Estates Theatre where Don Giovanni was premiered in 1787 and Milos Foreman filmed Amadeus.

"Why?" my wife asks.

"I want to see if it's changed," I say, though really I'm hoping for that cup of coffee.

"If it hadn't changed from 1787 to 1989 it's unlikely to have changed now. Come on!" Houston, Texas has a lot to answer for.

Now we're bearing down on the Charles Bridge, its 14th-century entrance tower looming over us.

The Charles is like the Ponte Vecchio; you've simply got to do it - not just to get to the other side but to be there, to really feel that you are in this city. What makes it unique, apart from a glorious setting between the Old Town and Little Quarter, is the statuary. Thirty Baroque saints, with unlikely names such as Adalbert, Norbert and Damian, line the broad pedestrian route. A fairytale castle beckons beyond and Kate utters her fourth wow of the day.

Am I a good husband or what?

Adrian Mourby travelled to Prague with International Festivals Bureau (0870-247 1204; www.ifbarts.com), which offers three-night weekend breaks in Prague from £275 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, four-star b&b, and a ticket to the opera

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

    £18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

    Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

    £Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence