July 22nd-24th, 2003
Map courtesy of www.theodora.com/maps
The train from Vienna to Prague took about 5 hours. We pulled into Prague in
the afternoon and decided to go for a walk after eating an early dinner. The
hotel suggested a Greek restaurant across the street for delicious food.
Imagine, three Americans in Prague eating Greek food! Anyway, wandering
down the street, we found a park with a steep incline overlooking the city.
It was a hard walk up since we stuffed ourselves at dinner, but worth it! The
evening sun on the tops of the buildings was really pretty.
Wednesday morning, we ate breakfast in the room and then set off for
Prazsky Hrad (Prague Castle). Prague castle was the seat of the Bohemian
governement since its founding 1000 years ago and occupies 18 acres.
As the tram trudged up the hill toward the castle, we weren't sure what
stop to take. Luckily, we ended up in the Royal Gardens to start!
As you approach the castle, everything else is dwarfed by St. Vitus Cathedral!
Unbelievably, the cathedral took over 600 years to complete (finished in 1929).
The inside of the cathedral seemed even larger then the outside! The stained glass
windows were quite detailed and pretty (created by Czech artists).
In case you're wondering, there are 287 steps to the top of this cathedral! The
views were beautiful. I took several shots, including the one at the top of this page.
Around the corner from the cathedral was the Old Royal Palace (Stary Kralovsky Palac).
The main hall of the castle was said to have hosted jousting competitions. In May 1618,
the citizens of Prague threw two Habsburg officials from the windows of the castle
(known as the Defenestration of Prague) and began the Thirty Years' War. It was quite
the view from the castle.... must have been a long way down!
These were other buildings around the Castle grounds...
After the castle grounds, we found a little cafe on the river to relax and have lunch.
We had a great view of the Karluv Most (Charles Bridge). This is the famous bridge with
all the statues on it. Of course, after lunch we walked across the bridge with the hordes
of other tourists. Built in 1357, the bridge is used by street vendors and tourists today.
Crossing the bridge to the east side of the river bank, we found all the rest of the tourists and shops! Czech is known for it's glassware and garnets, of which both were beautiful. The shops go on for blocks and lead to the old town square. Of course, the show stopper in the main square is the big astronomical clock! Every hour the clock chimes and comes to life. A stream of apostles parade past the little windows, while the skeleton and a couple of the little figures move.
**** Click on the clock below to see larger detailed pictures of the clock! ****
Thursday morning, we headed to the Loreta to see some of the city's
priceless treasures and a beautiful chapel. Of course they wouldn't let us
take pictures inside, so you'll just have to imagine! The Loreta chapel, which
is behind this front part of the building was built in 1626 and designed
to resemble the house of the Virgin Mary.
Located on a peaceful grassy hill just around the corner
from the Loreta was the Stahovsky Klaster (Strahov Monastery, 1140).
This monastery houses a large library which was maintained by the monks
over the years. It was unbelievable the amount of old books on things
like medicine, law, science, religion, and maps. They had some of
the oldest and smallest bibles. One was only as big as your fingernail.
They also had little collections of things like butterflies, moths,
fish, shells, bugs, and coins. The communist government actually
closed this monastery at one time and imprisoned many of the monks,
but it survived. The rooms that stored the books were beautiful
to see with or without the books!
(No pictures allowed inside, but this was taken from the hill)
See a couple of pretty pictures of the monastery books on a different web site, http://user.intop.net/~jhollis/strahov.html
As we descended back down the hill towards the river, we stopped
to take a look in St. Nicholas Cathedral.
The afternoon we spent walking around the Jewish quarter of Prague. We
visited many of the Jewish synagogues, but were not allowed to take pictures
inside. Most of them were quite simple in furnishings and decorations,
except for the Spanelska Synagoga (Spanish synagogue). This one was
richly decorated with the Moorish influence. Each synagogue told about the
history, customs, and influence of the Jews in Prague. In 1180, Prague's
citizens built a 12 foot wall around the Jewish neighborhood. The Jews
were exiled to this ghetto until World War II when they were deported to
death camps. There is one interesting legend in the book about Rabbi Loew
ben Bezalel and his golem (mud creature) that supposedly came to life to
protect Prague's Jews. Another interesting thing we saw was the Old
Jewish Cemetery. Between the 14th and 18th centuries, 20,000 graves were
laid in 12 layers. It was unbielavable the amount of headstones in one
relatively small area.
With the evening quickly approaching, we hurried back to the hotel to
clean up for the Opera and grab a quick snack. We had purchased tickets
to see Don Giovanni, a Mozart Opera. Even though the Opera was in
Italian, it was pretty easy to follow along and we thoroughly enjoyed
every minute of it!
Alas, all good things must come to an end and so we fell asleep with tunes from Don Giovanni in our head!
Friday morning we awoke and made our way to the train for Berlin.
As you know, I've been to Berlin before with my sister last year.
On that trip, our camera lost all it's pictures and I had to make
do with postcards. Well this trip I took pictures to replace
the postcards, so you can see the new picts on the Berlin page!
P.S. This was a cool bridge and scenery we saw on the train ride to Berlin.
Bye for now!
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