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  • Writer's pictureImogen Hall

A Two-City Break: Highlights of Prague and Berlin at Easter



Berlin has long been on our list of places to visit with the kids because we both love the combination of a fascinating history and an accessible counter-cultural scene. When I was writing regularly about family travel, Berlin was the place I always recommended for teenagers, and it was only fitting that we put it to the test now we have our very own.


With Berlin locked in, our thoughts naturally (always!) turned to the potential train journeys we could add to our itinerary. It didn’t take long to settle on the three-hour trip connecting Prague and Berlin, which follows the Elbe for large chunks and is a rather beautiful route, especially in the sunshine of early spring.


One thing to consider about a trip to central  Europe in the UK schools’ Easter holidays is that you will likely be dealing with less-friendly weather. The sun shone for our three days in Prague, but we needed coats due to the low temperatures. We had one day of torrential and non-stop rain in Berlin, which required a complete change to our original plans. Yes, Berlin has many world-class museums, but when it rains that hard, the entire tourist population descends on them. Our solution was to brave the excellent DDR Museum for an hour or so and then decamp to a crazy indoor golf venue. 


That particular soggy day was not one of our highlights. Luckily, there were plenty of others to share here.   


Staying on a houseboat on the Vltava River (Prague)


Kids, big and small, usually delight in accommodation that differs from the norm. Being on a houseboat can be equated to the experience of camping in terms of the space and facilities available and feeling the impact of the outside temperature, but it was certainly fun. The houseboat was also away from the Old Town. For a city such as Prague, which is so popular with tourists, it was also a little oasis away from the madding crowd. Taking breakfast outside, with the water gently lapping the deck and Vyšehrad Citadel as our primary view, was a lovely way to start the day. 



Prague’s Vyšehrad at sundown


On the subject of Vyšehrad, while Prague Castle, Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge are the big attractions everyone has heard of, we loved our wander around the Vyšehrad Citadel more. It’s a quick tram journey across the river from the Old Town, and with a bit of climbing, the reward is beautiful views over the famous parts of the city (and we could see our houseboat). There is plenty to explore, including a children’s playground with mythical creatures carved into the equipment and a welcoming cafe bar lit by twinkling fairy lights. We also thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at U Kroka at the bottom of the hill that night. 


Getting away from Prague Castle and off the tourist trail


Perhaps not on everyone’s list for a city break, but certainly one way to get off the beaten track, hang out with the locals AND keep our kids happy was our expedition into the hinterland of Prague to the Aquapalace water park. Misinformation on Google Maps made it an adventure to get there, but it was well worth it for a day of water-based thrills. Similarly, it took us a while to find our other unusual destination, the Žižkov Television Tower, notable mainly for being the highest building in Prague and having giant babies climbing up its outside. Last on the list for ‘off the beaten track’ Prague was a trip to the enormous Strahov Stadium, in all its ex-Soviet era glory. There was little to see there, as we couldn’t go in, but it was interesting to see this vast sporting arena, now repurposed as Sparta Prague’s training facility - and there were more great city views. We certainly saw Prague from all angles.


Riding the rails from Prague to Berlin


The central Hlavni station in Prague is a tale of two terminals, with a boxy 1970s construction on one side and a beautiful Art Nouveau edifice on the other. We were lucky enough to enjoy breakfast in the latter, with its grand entrance, tall arches and attractive brickwork. It was a promising start to what proved to be a delightful journey on a Czech inter-city train.  Three hours winding our way (albeit at speed) along the Elbe and through Dresden gave us plenty to feast our eyes on, and the journey flew by, popping us out in the airy concourse of Berlin’s very modern Hauptbahnhof.



Taking a guided walking tour of Teufelsberg (Berlin)


Knowing that we wanted to introduce the children to the history of Berlin and that we also wanted to show them some of the expressive street art, we looked for walking tours which could bring the two together. With some Googling, we settled on City Unscripted and decided to trust our guide, Anders, when he asked if we were happy to travel out of the city for something different. Teufelsberg, an artificial hill with its foundations in Hitler’s vision for Germania, was an American listening station during the Cold War. Since then, it’s been heavily decorated all over and in all sorts of artistic styles and allowed to fall into a vague state of disrepair, which adds to the atmosphere - and vertigo en route to the roof.  



Absorbing Berlin’s history


Even with children like ours who are used to their history-obsessed parents discussing the past with them both at home and away, there’s a balance to strike when you are away. This is especially true for a city like Berlin because there are many opportunities to explore its history. Being able to take in information in different ways helps. Visiting the Holocaust Memorial and the Berlin Wall Memorial were powerful experiences precisely because they weren’t museums. Having said that, despite being packed to the gills due to the rain, the DDR Museum did an excellent job of bringing to life what it was like to live in East Germany. 


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1 comentário


tom.franks255
25 de jan.

Very good, makes it sound fun and interesting.

Curtir
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