2nd May 2009 - Prague
Prague - day Two
Well a reasonable sleep on the camping stretcher. Nobody moving when alarm went off at 0700 so I snuggled back down to 0730 and was still the first one up. Cornflakes for breakfast.
Set off on our walking tour of the Old City of Prague. We had the small book - Frommers Prague Day by Day and decided seeing as it was written by experts we would follow its two day itinerary. Great choice I can say seeing as I know the ending.
We walked from our apartment through the beautiful cobbled streets - hardly any cars. Amazing building and I found it difficult to stop taking photos. Each building was so different and yet so old. It took us about 20 mins and lots more time dragging Nancy out of the shops to get to the Powder Tower which is gothic in style and is one of the last remaining pieces of the Old Town's original fortification system. It evidently also marks the start of the Royal coronation route which I need to confess I know nothing about. Its early purpose was to hold gunpowder hence the name and it dates from the 15th century. Next door was the Minicipal House which is ornate art nouveau. It is the home of the Prague symphony Orchestra and we very nearly went to a performance that combined orchestra, opera, ballet etc but we went out drinking instead. Definitely next time. Again it was very grand. Then to the House of the Black Madonna which is an excellent example of czech Cubism architecture. Now before you think I m being very clever and grand i need to confess that it hasnt stayed in my memory and I had to search for a photo to recall it. Walked past the Estates Theatre which in 1787 had the world premiere of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Then we reached the Old Town Square - again a centre of magnificence. It has been the centre of Prague for about 1000 years and is one of the most beautifully preserved Gothic and Baroque spaces in Europe. A great statue in the middle of a Czech Protestant reformer and the St Nicholas Church (saw two today by the same name - a bit confusing) and the Old Town Hall which has an amazing astronomical clock on its side. We all went our separate ways for 20 mins and were supposed to get back together on the hour as there is a bit of a performance by the astronomical clock - figures pop in and out by the clock face on each hour. Unfortunately we hadnt counted on the extreme number of tour groups (bloody tourists) that turn up to watch it so only saw it from a side view. it was never meant to measure time but rather to mark the phases of the moon, the seasons and the Christian holidays. Evidently the clock maker was purposely blinded after he built it so he wouldnt go on somewhere else and build something more spectacular. There was also the Church of Our Lady before Tyn which was spectacular and my photos dont do it justice. It dates from the 14th century and was once the leading Hussite church. The Hussites were a Protestant offshoot I think - I read something about how they tried to go back to more biblical origins and lose some of the traditions that had come about over centuries. They partially succeeded in that their churches have a more simple ornateness about them. Outside the Old Town hall there were markings on the ground of 27 crosses where in 1621 the Hapsbergs (royal family) beheaded 27 bohemian nobles in the hopes of frightening the locals into accepting austrian rule - it did work as the austrains were there until the end of WW1.
it wa now past lunchtime so we decided to have a quick snack and KFC was it - yeah i know I hate KFC and am loathe when travelling to go to anything like it but there I was eating a chicken burger - unlimited drinks though which was good.
We then walked down Karlova which was our street - full of tourist shops but the main thoroughfare to Charles bridge - past a house where Franz Kafka lived as a kid - he was someone important that I will need to look up to tell you why. Then also past the house of Johannes Kepler whom I do remeber what he did - he figures out the paths of the planets which settled the debate as to whether the earth or the sun was the centre of the solar system - funny what you do remember. Decided after a bit of a discussion to do an hour long boat ride along the river - bargained the guy down a bit and got a free drink and icecream or muffin so it was a bargain. I havent mentioned the weather yet but it was the most perfect spring day ever - about 22 degrees - a tiny hint of occassional breeze just when you were feeling hot. The water was calm as and it was just wonderful. I confess I didnt listen to the commentary rather just thought and marvelled that I was in this magnificent place on such a magnificent day and how lucky I was - that set off a tear in my eye as I thought of everyone back home. Then onto the Charles Bridge which some say is the thing to see in Prague - it was magnificent. It was built in the 14th and 15th centuries and at the time was one of the wonders of the known world. I cannot see how they built as its quite long. commissioned by Charles IV and built by the same architect as st Vitus Cathedral 9you'll see this tommorrow). There are Baroque statues all along the bridge that date from the 17th century which were evidently put there by the Hapsbergs to attempt to re catholicize (is that a word) the Protestant Czechs. One of the statues is of St John of Nepomuk who was supposedly tossed from the bridge and drowned and if you touch the statue it brings you good luck. I didnt bother touching but the others did. On the other side of the river we walked up to the second St Nicholas church. This did confuse me when I came to name the photos but there was two different churches. This one was built in the 18th century and was a masterpiece of high Baroque - it is more traditional and ornate inside. All were getting arther tired by now but i kept trudging on. Waited in a line for the funicular - trolley car thingy up a steep slope - to take us up Petrin hill for some magnificent views over Prague particularly from the Tower. It was approx 300 steps up the tower on a spiral staircase so I didnt even bother starting and settled myslef on the grass with an icecream waiting for the others. Truth be told also I nice break from them all - although we did get on very well. If not for the back I would have struggled up. Then a long and windy walk down Petrin Hill past Prague Castle which we were leaving for the next day. Back thru the cobbled streets and over Charles Bridge which was less crrowded than on the way over. I dint want to spoil the mood before of my story but getting onto the bridge was amazingly awlful and you didnt want to have a social phobia. Construction works at the netrance and millions of people meant there were 4 lines of people going the way opposite to us and only one line going our way and it took ages. Small orchestras playing in the middle of the bridge which was a lovely touch as less crowded there.
Back to the apartment for a quick rest and then out to a non eventful dinner - good Czech food which was too balnd and boring for me and then to Tescos to get supplies for a picnic lunch the next day at the castle. Into bed about midnight but the boys talked forever about boring things like speaker systems and gameboys - remember 3 of us sleeping in the lounge.
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