This is not Charles Bridge. There are no soot covered statues of long forgotten saints. There are no guided groups of tourists here, no traders selling fridge magnets or offering to draw a caricature of you for a very reasonable price. There are no musicians playing old jazz for spare change or trying to flog you their CD for only 500kc. There are no pickpockets, no crowds, no scaffolding.
There is, however, for those who have the initiative to take the tram half a dozen stops from the centre, a picture postcard perfect panoramic view of Prague as you can see here:
The bridge is primarily for trains but there are two narrow pedestrian walkways either side of the tracks which run along the centre. When the engines rocket past they seem to be within touching distance, speeding along with such force that violent vibrations shake the wooden planks, just like at the start of an earthquake. There’s no way the Health and Safety brigade back in England would allow it. While there’s little chance of coming to harm in a collision with a train, do watch out for cyclists and enthusiastic joggers.
Officially, the bridge doesn’t have a name (according to this reliable source
anyway) but as it connects Vysehrad with Smichov, it’s known as the Vysehrad Railway bridge or Vyšehradský železniční most. This means that if you tear yourself away from the view of Prague Castle and face south west, you’ll see the gothic towers of Saint Peter and Paul’s Church, Vysehrad’s main landmark. You can also see a couple of nearby beautiful Cubist villas, a style of architecture pioneered in the Czechland in the early 20th century.
Of course the main reason to escape the tourist trail is to observe Czechs in their natural habitat. While standing on the bridge, I noticed quite a few people fishing; a lone girl in a hooded sweatshirt sat on a bench feeding ducks in peace, at least until some crazed English blogger sneaked up and took her picture.
I wanted to take some arty shots of the bridge which juxtaposed the ugliness of the rusty girders with the beauty of the surrounding landmarks. I did my best, really I did. I tilted the camera at odd angles. I zoomed in. I made sure the sun was behind me. Here’s my best effort. Hopefully you’ll find it atmospheric in some way:
Girl in Czechland decides to see Prague from a quirky angle - literally...
Ok, it’s terrible. Lone Girl Feeding Ducks is as arty as it gets today. Ten points for effort though.
I’m not suggesting that those visiting Prague don’t bother with Charles Bridge, which is undeniably beautiful. Unfortunately, if there’s a crowd of tourists somewhere, it’s usually because there is something worth seeing nearby. If you really want to have Charles Bridge to yourself you could try getting there at 6am before the hawkers and holidaymakers are still in bed. Alternatively you could travel just a few tram stops off the beaten track and see a city from somewhere most visitors overlook. Try it: you never know, you might like it.