Prague is alive with stunning architecture and memorable culture. Explore this magnificent city with ELLE Canada's handy travel guide.
"Ugh, what time is it?" my sister, Nadine, calls out from the bed next to mine. I lift my head from the soft down pillow to squint at the round clock beside my bed. "It's 6 a.m.," I say feebly before my head collapses back into the creamy sheets. The phone is ringing.
It must be the wake-up call. My mom, Dianna, all chipper and already dressed, pops out of the bathroom to answer it. Her bulging camera bag is perched on the end of her bed and it's zipped tight.
"Rise and shiiiine!" she says with a parent's first-day-of-school enthusiasm - even though we are grown daughters in our 30s and we're on vacation. "Are you girls ready to see if there's any mist over the bridge today?"
It's our fourth day in Prague, and getting up to watch the sunrise from the Charles Bridge has become our morning ritual. Not that I'm complaining. The Charles Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges in the world and the Czech Republic's most famous landmark.
It dates back to 1357, when Bohemian king Charles IV commissioned its construction to connect the city's Old Town on the east side of the Vltava River to Lesser Town and the Prague Castle on the west side. It also features 30 baroque statues (many are now replicas), which were added beginning in 1683.
So it's no wonder that the bridge is a tourist mob scene on any given sunny afternoon. Expecting this, we got up before dawn on our first morning to enjoy the bridge in a glorious, almost-empty state. It was my mom's first experience in Europe, and it left her in tears.
As my sister and I leaned back on the bridge's cool stone parapet, I could see my breath as I slowly inhaled and exhaled the crisp fall air and the faint smell of incense coming from the surrounding churches.
My mom adjusted her tripod as I listened to the rushing water and the cooing pigeons (as well as the clicking of a few camera shutters) and watched the light shift behind the silhouetted statues. "What a mystical experience," mused my mom. "Watching the orange and pink light rise behind the bridge and the city's spires is almost indescribable."
We came on this trip - Prague and Paris were my mom's choices - to celebrate her birthday (a milestone that will remain unnamed). My sister and I were hoping that she would have "a big moment" of some kind to remember.
We didn't expect it to come on our first morning-with 12 days (and Paris!) to come. "Mom," I said worriedly, "I think we've just ruined France and the rest of Europe for you! It's going to be pretty hard to top this." She just laughed and said "I can't wait!"
Pack your bags for another chic Europena vacation ... Florence!
Discover the top three highlights of Prague on the next page...