Prague (Praha) is a city which has been at the very top of my “must visit list” for a long time. The Czech capital is the 14th largest city in the European Union and the historical capital of Bohemia. The city is situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava River, with a population of 1.26 million people. Prague has been a political, cultural, and economic centre of central Europe with mixed fortunes during its 1,100-year existence. Founded during the Romanesque times and flourishing by the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras, and is also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Prague played vital roles in the Bohemian and Protestant Reformation, the Thirty Years' War, both World Wars and the post-war Communist era.
I’ve never visited a place with so many picturesque buildings “ the city of is a hundred spires” is home to many famous cultural and historical attractions. Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 1992, as it suffered considerably less damage during WW2 than some other major European cities, allowing most of its historic architecture to stay intact.
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Prague has become one of the world's most popular tourist destinations and is now the fifth most visited European city after London, Paris, Istanbul and Rome and was ranked fifth in the Tripadvisor world list of best destinations in 2014.
After taking the 0945 Thursday morning flight from Newcastle, we arrived in Prague just before one o’clock. The football fixtures fell nicely in place over the weekend, with the only setback being the Europa League tie between Sparta and Lazio, as tickets can't be purchased on matchday for security reasons. To be honest, I was quite happy to give that one a miss, as I was keen to explore the city on our first day, plus me and the breadknife were looking forward to sampling some exquisite Czech beers.
508. Eden Arena
Slavia Praha 1-0 FC Fastav Zlin
Synot Liga Matchday 21 5th v 10th
Friday 11th March 2016 (1915ko)
The match between Slavia Prague and Zlin was moved to the Friday night for live TV, so the breadknife reluctantly joined me on the tram trip to Slavia, which turned out to be not as straightforward as we expected. The 7 service from outside our hotel ended up terminating quite a few stops short, meaning we had to get off and jump another tram. Not being too sure of which one to catch, we were pleased to see red and white scarfs appearing, so we just followed the crowds. We caught another tram and then a bus replacement and once we arrived at Slavia, we realised the travel problem was down to the tram lines, which were out of action and in the process of being replaced.
We still had plenty of time to trouser our tickets and visit the club shop before kick off. The tickets were priced at 310.CZK each, so only £9 to watch a game in the Czech equivalent of the Premier League.
SK Slavia Praha formed in 1892 as ACOS (Akademický cyklistický odbor Slavia) They were previous winners of the old Czechoslovakia League 13 times and have been Czech Liga champions on three occasions in 1995–96, 2007–08 and 2008–09. They are known as the “Cervenobílí”(The red and whites) and also nicknamed “Sešívaní”(The sewn-ones) and “Vecná Slavia” (The Eternal Slavia) They have also lifted the Czech Cup 7 times, the last of which was in 2002.
The 21,000 capacity Eden Arena was opened in May 2008. The ground has a single tier of red seats on three sides, which an extra shelf type tier over the main stand. The ground reminds me a bit of Middlesbrough's Riverside and St Mary's Stadium in Southampton.
With the full non stop vocal backing of the Slavia fans, the “Cervenobílí”took an early lead when Soucek headed home a corner in the 6th minute. That quick fire goal gave the team a lift and they could have easily been at least five goals to the good in the first half an hour, but they lacked precision in front of goal. The visitors looked dangerous on the break, but they too lacked that cutting edge, which meant that early goal was all we had to show at the end of ninety minutes.
Matchday Stats and Spondoolicks
SKSP 1(Soucek 6) FCFZ
Pin badge .60Kc
Fridge Magnet .40kc
509. Areál Aritmy UMT
SK Aritma Praha 3-1 Rokycany
4.Liga Division A Matchday 21 6th v 4th
Saturday 12th March 2016 1015ko
I was up early on Saturday morning for a full hotel breakfast, before heading up to the north-west of the city, for a 10.15 kick off at SK Aritma Praha
Looking at the transport map, Nádraží Veleslavín looked about an hour away, but the two trams sandwiched with a metro ride took just over 30 minutes. The transport system is one of the many things I fell in love with in Prague over the weekend, it is so efficient and frequent. On one occasion I had just missed a metro and had to wait a full FIVE minutes for the next one, which seemed an eternity after being used to hopping on and off without delay.
The Areal Aritmy is a sports complex on the edge of a large Park and camping site. After paying just .50CZK for admission with a 4 page programme, you are greeted by a neat looking stand, but it's quite baffling to find the pitch is actually behind it. The main building houses the changing rooms and a cosy little clubhouse, serving drinks and snacks. The pitch used for Aritma’s fixture with Rokycany was played on the 3G pitch with dugouts and standing areas behind one of the goals and down one side. I don't know what the crack is with the grass pitch, I’m not sure whether they use it when the weather improves, as the Czech season runs between August until the end of November, then restarts at the beginning of March until mid June.
SK Aritma play in Division A of the 4.Liga and the game was a decent standard. The hosts took a two goal lead when a short back pass was intercepted by the #15 to fire in on 19 minutes, then fifteen minutes later the goalscorer sent a lovely through ball, to set #17 on his way, to round keeper and slot home.
The visitors halved the deficit just before the break when a ball in from left was steered in at the far post by the #11. The game was finely poised during the second half but it was until the final touch of the game that the result was settled when #15 headed in a right wing cross.Just before the end of the game I got talking to a Groundhopper from Germany. Andreas had travelled on the overnight bus from Essen and he even had a pillar with him for the 10 hour journey. He was meeting up with fellow ‘hoppers from east Germany and heading off to another game in Liga.4 at SK Motorlet, kicking off at 2.30, which I was aware of but I had decided to give it a miss. I wanted to get back to the hotel, to do “the 3 S’s” and get ready for the night time, as I was meeting the breadknife and going straight out on the lash after the match at Dukla Prague.
Matchday Stats and Spondoolicks
SKA 3 (Volek 19 90+1 Podobský 34)
FCR 1 (Aubrecht P 42)
Admission:50CZK including programme
510. Stadion Juliska
Dukla Praha 0-1 Vysocina Jihlava
Synot Liga Matchday 20/21 10th v14th
Saturday 12th March 1700ko
After returning to the hotel, I meant up with Debra for a couple of pints before heading back up to Dejvická metro, from there it was three tram stops north to Podbara, the nearest to Stadion Juliska.
The Dukla club shop faces the station but I was disappointed to find it closed, as I wanted to purchase my ticket and finally buy myself a Dukla Prague away kit, as I’ve never ever been giving one at Christmas. From the main road it was quite a hike up to the ground, up the bank and flights of stairs. Once at the ground I found you could just pay at the turnstile and there was a souvenir shop inside, so I finally bought the clichéd yellow jersey.
I adore Stadion Juliska! Football ground purists will make the obvious point of the running track... but so what, the ground has a fantastic steep stand, decked out in the club colours, with three sides of terracing. The best thing about Juliska though, is the panoramic views across the city from the popular standing area along the top of the stand. It’s a shame that nowadays only a couple of thousand pay homage in the 28,500 stadium which was opened in 1960 and renovated in 2001.
The game against Vysocina Jihlava was a bit of a stinker! The match had 0-0 writing all over it until a crazy moment just after the hour mark, when a right wing cross was caught by the ‘keeper Hroššo who crashed into his own defender, which made the ball slip out of his hands and back towards the goal line. Barzal was on hand to fire in, but the ball had already crossed the line via the clumsy error from the Dukla goalie.
This was the ground I was looking forward to the most over the weekend and despite a poor game I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I was back in the city centre before 7.30 to meet the Debra at Staromestska, to catch the metro to I.P.Pavlova for a meal and plenty to drink at Note Bene and Kulový Blesk.
Matchday Stats and Spondoolicks
FKDP 0 FCVJ 1 (Hroššo 61OG)
Pin badge .80CZK
Dukla away shirt 1390CZK
511. FK Viktoria Stadion
Viktoria Žižkov 6-0 FC Banik Most 1909
3.Liga Matchday 20 7th v 18th
Sunday 13th March 1015ko
Another early kick-off on our final day in Prague, this time just a short 20 minute two tram trip to the Husinecká stop in Žižkov, which was an independent city until becoming part of the cadastral district of Prague in 1922. Žižkov was historically a working-class district, sometimes referred to as "Red Žižkov", because so many of its residents supported left-wing parties. Its proud reputation as a once rough area gave it the self declared name of "The free republic of Žižkov"
FK Viktoria Žižkov formed in 1903 and were once champions of Czechoslovakia in 1927-28 and they also lifted the Czech Cup in 1994 and 2001. The club are now in the third tier of Czech league football playing in the Bohemian League, having falling from grace since their last appearance in the top division in 2012.Watching a game at FK Viktoria Stadion (officially known by the sponsorship name of eFotbal Arena) is a fabulous way to spend your Sunday morning, with a few “hair of the dog bevvys” amongst a good friendly atmosphere from The Žižkovians, all for the equivalent of just £1.45. The stadium has a capacity of 5,037 seats, made up of a covered main stand and open seating opposite and behind the turnstile entrance goal. There is an open terrace behind the far goal for the away supporters and the ground is a bit of a classic, with parts of which would easily fail a health and safety inspection if it was used in the UK, which to me is obviously part of its appeal. The stadium is finished off by some dominant classic floodlights, all in the shadow of the eye catching Žižkov Television Tower.
Žižkov raced into a three goal lead against Banik Most during a fifteen minute spell in the first half. Tomáš Docekal set up Václav Klán and Miroslav Podrazký before scoring the third himself with a spectacular overhead kick. I watched the first half in the main stand and after the break at the standing space at top of the opposite stand. It was there I bumped into my German friend again, swapped groundhopping stories and he also waxed lyrically about his visit to Newcastle, when he watches his team - Bayern Munich play in the Toon in 2003.
The hosts seemed to ease of in the second half but added three more with the #18 running just over half the pitch to make it 4-0 on 72 minutes before a Zdenek Volek header, then Podrazký grabbed his second and his team’s sixth in a convincing Žižkov victory.
Matchday Stats and Spondoolicks
FKVZ 6( Klán 13 Podrazký 20,78 Docekal 27 #18(tbc) 72 Volek 76)
Pin badge .35CZK
Fridge Magnet .45CZK
Straight after the game I met up with Debra, to check out of the hotel then spend our last afternoon at the Prague Beer Museum, where we sampled ten different beers each, before staggering off to the airport to board the 1820 back to Newcastle.
If you’ve took time out to read all of this blog(cheers! btw) you may have gathered I’ve become quite infatuated with Prague. I’m usually the type of person with a “been there, done that!” standpoint on travelling, but I’ll definitely return to the Czech capital one day, besides I’ve still got Sparta, Bohemians, Admira, Motorlet and CAFC Prague to tick off.
Prague Weekender Matchdays Album (over 100 pictures from all four matches)