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EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Prague Part Three

EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Prague Part Three

For a different side of the city, cross the Charles Bridge first thing in the morning, before the buskers and vendors have set up shop, and admire the views through the early morning haze. This time, though, keep going right across until you reach the left bank of the river, to find yourself in the Mal? Strana or 'Little Side' of Prague. This was the old aristocratic quarter, so take some time to explore the clusters of baroque palaces on the hill up towards the castle.

If you get a breakfast bagel urge, there is a branch of Bohemia Bagel here too (?jezd 16, Prague 1; +420-2/531-002). Take Vlassk? street up from Mal? Stran? square (Malostransk? namesti). This will bring you out above the orchards and gardens of Strahov monastery (Strahovsk? kl?ster, Strahovsk? n?dvor? 1/132; +420-2/220-516-671; Gallery: +420-2/2051-7278; 35 CZK). Stop in here and view the monastery's outstanding collection of paintings, religious art mostly from the gothic and baroque periods.

And now for something silly after all that solemnity: head further up Petrin hill to the Lookout Tower -- a miniature copy of the Eiffel Tower. At the foot of the tower try out the mirror labyrinth -- one of those old-fashioned fairground things that time somehow forgot and left up here. By now you've earned lunch, so settle in at Petrinsk? Terasy Restaurant (Seminarska zahrada 13<; +420-2/9000-0457, fax +420-2/9005-9996; 200-280 CZK), and enjoy its elegant version of Czech country cuisine.

After lunch amble over to Prague Castle (Prazsky Hrad). Near the entrance you'll find the Czech National Gallery (Narodni Galeria, Hradcansk? namesti 15, Hradcany, Prague 1; 70 CZK) so stop off and admire their Kokoschkas and Klimts, Van Goghs and Munchs. In the castle itself wander through the courtyards leading to the gothic St. Vitus's Cathedral (Katedral svat?ho Vita; free), and the romanesque St. George Chapel (Jirsk? Kapela), and the little street, Golden Lane (Zlat? ulicka), once allegedly home of the emperor's achemists, now hosting upscale craft shops. Take the Old Castle Steps (Star? zamsk? zchody) back down to the river, gazing out on the sea of red-tiled roofs below you. From April to October be sure to call in at the Wallenstein Gardens (Valdstejnsk? zahrady, Letensk? ulice).

For dinner, stay in the Mal? Strana and choose U Malt?zskych ryt?ru (Prokopsk? 10, Praha 1; +420-2/257-533-666, fax +420-2/257-531-324;; 320-400 CZK), a first-rate and mostly untouristed restaurant serving a combination of Czech and French cuisine.

After dinner, check out what's on at Malostransk? Beseda (Malostransk? namesti 12; +420-2/539-024), a long-standing live venue with shows ranging from experimental theater to experimental jazz (and frequently both together). For a laid-back end to the evening, chill at the gay-friendly Rubin Theater Club (Divadeln? Klub Rubin, Malostransk? namesti 9; +420-2/381-874; shows 9:30 p.m.- 2 a.m., bar open later).

To see the Old Jewish Cemetery (Star_ Zidovsk? Hrbitov; U star?ho hrbitova 1, Josefov; 200 CZK for a combination ticket for all the Jewish monuments; all are open Sunday to Friday, 9-4:30 p.m.), it's worth getting there early, though even the crowds that build up later in the day can't take away the powerful impression made by over 12,000 headstones in the burial place of Prague's Jewish community from the 14th to the 18th century. Visit the five synagogues in the surrounding streets: the Pinkas synagogue (Siroka ulice) holds the memorial to the Jews of the Czech and Slovak lands who were murdered in the Nazi genocide; the other four have exhibits on Jewish life and ritual in Prague.

For lunch head down Zateck? street to the restaurant U Kapra (Zatecka 7; +420-2/2481-3635; 80-120 CZK) a first-rate traditional Czech eatery, with particularly good fish dishes..Then cross the river behind the Jewish quarter to the Letn? Gardens. Stroll through the park, high above the Old Town, and stop for ice cream or coffee in numerous stalls and park caf?s. When you've worked off your lunch, head back down and cross the river to visit the Convent of St. Agnes (Anezsky kl?ster, Anezsk? ulice 1, Old Town; Tues-Sun, 40 CZK), where the masterpieces of Bohemian gothic painting are housed. The portraits from the 14th century golden age of the city are unexpectedly modern looking.

For dinner switch from gothic to Art Nouveau at the French Restaurant in the Civic Building (Obecni Dum, Namesti Republiky 5, Prague 1; +420-2/220-027-634, fax +420-2/2200-2761; 400-600 CZK). The over-the-top, turn-of-the-century arts complex i s a monument in its own right, and the restaurant is excellent.

Catch an opera at the nearby Estates Theater (Zelezn? 11; +420-2/2421-4334; part of the National Theater) where Mozart's Don Giovanni was premiered, and then hop on a tram to the Zizkov district for a different kind of culture.

You can choose between the Piano Bar (Milesovska 10, Zizkov, Prague 3; +420-2/627-5467) and the A-Club (Milicova 25, Zizkov, Prague 3; +420-2/278-1623;, Prague's main lesbian club and bar, for a friendly, laid-back finish to your stay.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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