Le splendide voyage

Reflections on exploration & travel

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The highways in Prague are convenient and uncomplicated. However, the city streets (one-way or splitting directions) remind me of a shape-shifting labyrinth that often leads a newcomer off course. Before long, I was thrilled with the location of my neighborhood! Whenever I got lost, all I had to say or look for was one word: ZOO (if you say it or write it, people will understand).

Yes, Troja is a gem.  Most Prague visitors will not have a chance to visit Troja because it is tuck away in the northwest region of Prague. Yet, the neighborhood has some distinct attractions that I believe are worth exploring. For starters, the neighborhood gets its name from the regal Troja castle. This stunning estate was built in baroque style by the renowned French architect and builder Jean Baptiste Mathey (1679 to 1691). Mathey was born in Dijon, Burgundy and this is only relevant because our paths will cross again later. Count Sternberg owned the estate and resided within its walls mainly during the summer months. Since then, the estate has had a number of owners and now it is owned by the city of Prague.

The interior of the castle is notable with exhibits from the Prague Municipal Gallery, unique frescoes and chandeliers.  However, its glory rests throughout the exterior gardens.  The hedges are exceptionally beautiful as they are trimmed with precision while forming an intricate maze.  Central to this grandeur is an imposing outdoor staircase where gods and Titans combat an invisible battle. Thus, a promenade throughout the gardens in bloom during late spring and summer is a must. 

Troja has also other attractions that deserve exploration.  When exiting the castle’s main entrance, an easy stroll will lead visitors to the Praha Zoo which is always a delight especially for children.  If instead, one wishes to ascend toward the hills then, everyone will be welcomed by an amazing view of the region via the botanical gardens and vineyards.

If instead, visitors decide to exit toward the river, a bridge is available to cross the river Vltava.  Once on the other bank, the riding school is on the left and straight on is the Stromvka Park.  This old park grants everyone an opportunity to enjoy an array of trees, flowers, and ponds. It also offers different paths for cycling, rollerblading, and walking. In addition, along the river Vltava there are other leisure opportunities such as clay tennis courts and a kayaking school.

Around the castle and Zoo, there are smaller cafés that offer standard dishes, ice-cream and desserts.  Yet, my personal favorite is the “Ristorante & Pizzeria Del Corso.” Their brick oven pizzas are delicious.

Troja is only about 20 minutes from the city center by tram or by bus/subway combination.  Yet, if time allows, I highly recommend returning to the city by boat ride from the Zoo to Rašínovo nábřeží (in the city center). It is a peaceful and scenic way to end the day.

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A new haven

During my first day in Prague, I walked around the streets near my hotel.  The temperature had dropped drastically. Yet, to my surprise, the sun was still shining and the streets were filled with people speaking a variety of languages.  However, before I could leap into the next narrative, I had to first address pressing matters such as: where am I going to live for the next 8 months? After living around the world, one of my routines is to identify a haven.  The idea is to find the right place to live as soon as it is feasible. Moreover, this exercise has allowed me to integrate faster into each new reality.

Before moving to Prague, I had contacted an international real estate company that I had used in the past, Engel & Völkers.  They usually serve major metropolitan areas worldwide and the properties they represent whether you are buying or leasing are of high quality.  In Prague, I was pleased to receive the same professionalism as before.  As a matter of fact, the first property the agent showed me was “the one.” I not only fell in love with the apartment but also with the neighborhood,Troja. I moved two weeks later as the snow was melting.

My apartment was located on the hills of right bank of the Vltava river. My mailing address identified the area as Praha 7.  The apartment had 3 terraces with excellent views. The living room’s terrace faced the rushing river, a riding school and stables across the river. Most mornings, I would sit outside sipping an English breakfast tea while reading the Financial Times. But of course, every now and then I would lift my eyes just to glance and admire the view. From this terrace, you could also see on a clear day the tip of the Prague Castle. The kitchen terrace faced the interior streets of the complex. These streets were beautiful in the winter and glorious in the spring when railing balcony and window planters bloomed in each dwelling. Before long, the scent of countless flowers and exotic herbs filled the air. Lastly, the third balcony outside the main bedroom faced the hills and the outer edge of the botanical gardens.  Soon, this new haven became a home…