Day 6, Mon 8/29: Prague Part 2


Prague Castle & St. Charles Bridge

We came back to the hotel early escaping a thunderstorm, but we were pretty much done with our day anyway. I thought “yay, I can get the blog up early and get to bed early.” Not a chance. We started with over 115 photos, and really only did 2 things! I finally got it down to about 70 and the internet here is dreadfully slow so getting them off our phones and uploaded here took awhile. Oh well. It’s a picturesque place that we wanted to remember so hopefully you will enjoy them, too. And if not, too bad¬† ūüôā

We both slept good but didn’t get up as early as we’d hoped. The plan was to take advantage of the hotel breakfast that starts at 6am so we could get on with our day before the crowds set in. We went down about 7:15 and left the hotel about 8:30. So much for that idea.

This was on our way into the city center. We stayed about a mile away and took a different path in than we did yesterday. I probably took more of these shots than I needed to but I always enjoy them. What are you looking at exactly? Nothing in particular. I love the way certain blocks look that strike me as quintessential Europe and this was one of them. Minus the James Dean sign on the shop on the left that is.

And this is another of those. You turn a corner and something appears. As we were approaching this I was like “hey, that looks like the Astronomical Clock.” Cuz it is. We had just approached it from a completely different direction so was surprised to walk into the same square we’d left last yesterday. So we started where we ended essentially.

At 8:50am, there was a crowd already forming for the same reason we were there: the 9:00am show.

 The Apostles doing their thing. We managed to get a video of it, too, which you can check out here if you like.

This guy was at the entrance to the Charles Bridge. Couldn’t figure out who he was, mostly I just thought he looked cool. Art had made a comment on our photos yesterday about them looking like a fairy tale, and everywhere I looked today, that’s what I saw. Doesn’t he look like a fairy tale king? Everything here really does sort of have that look about it.

The entrance to the Charles Bridge. It is the oldest bridge in the city. Construction began in 1357 and it was finished in 1402.¬† It is famous for having 30 or so statues situated on it. (Don’t worry, we only took photos of a few!) It gets compared to a bridge in Paris that is also rich with statues but I like this one better. It’s older, has more history, and is only for use by pedestrians, although they did used to allow cars and trams. Much better this way.

View of Prague Castle as we approach the Charles Bridge.

 

We got there a little after 9am and the crowds weren’t out yet. You’ll see later it doesn’t stay that way.

A bride and her groom getting their wedding pictures done here. Kinda cool.
 Several of the statues have areas like this on them that appear to be polished. They get that way from people rubbing on them for good luck.
 Empty. For now.
A fun photo of Dan as we were approaching the end.
Another of those “I just like this look” shots.¬† Across the bridge, on our way to the castle.
 The stairs up to the castle.
¬†I’m pretty sure we haven’t climbed this many steps since Montemartre in Paris in 2014. And pretty sure this was higher.

 

¬†This is the exit actually, but one of the first things you see. There were guards and military police stationed here and there throughout. The castle also had administration offices for the President of the Republic, similar to (now I don’t remember which palace) in Vienna.
 This and below is St. Vitus Cathedral, and really what you see all over the city. It sits fully inside the castle walls, and is surrounded by the castle structure on all sides. More on this later.

 

This was in the Castle, Diet Hall it was called. It was the meeting place for the King at the time (or Queen if you’re Maria Theresa) and the other folks in his circle who made decisions for the town. There was a lot of history in this first section of our tour, and it was interesting to see how well this trip tied history together: so many connections between Vienna, Bratislava and Prague. The Habsburgs used this castle as the seat of their empire for a short period of time in the 1600’s. Maria Theresa and other Austrian monarchs also held the Bohemia crown as well as Austria and Hungary. Not shown here, there was a big painting of her on the left. But for the better part of 900 years, this was considered the seat of power for the Kingdom of Bohemia. The name of the first Bohemian king, year 1086? Vratislav. I had seen that reference in Bratislava, too, only there it was spelled Bretislav. But now we know where that name comes from.

 Decorated administration rooms in the castle.

 

¬†This was St. George’s Basilica, just behind St. Vitus, whose backside you see below. It was founded by Vratislav in 920. It was pretty simple inside, we didn’t take any photos.
¬†Construction on St. Vitus began in 1352 but proceeded very slowly, if for no other reason the architects would die before it could get completed. The 2nd architect was Peter Parler, who also did the Charles Bridge. It actually sat unfinished for several hundred years. Things got going again in 1844, and it was finally finished in 1929. It’s hard to tell what’s new and what’s old – they did a pretty good job of keeping everything in Gothic style, which is definitely 1300-1400’s. But I will say it’s one of the more impressive cathedrals we’ve seen. Starting with the premise that St. Peter’s in Rome is in a class by itself, we’d put this up there with Cologne, Westminster Abbey, or any of the three in Gent. Not a lot of explanations below, just a lot of photos.

 

 

 

 

 Tomb of Vratislav by the main altar.

 

After the cathedral we went to watch the changing of the guards, which is a 10 minute ceremony that occurs every day at Noon. There were a lot of people gathered around when we got there 10 minutes before so we didn’t have the best view. But it was close enough and Dan was able to get some good shots, especially since “the change” (3 outgoing, 3 incoming) marched right in front of him and into the courtyard where we were standing.

 

 

 

When he wasn’t shooing away overzealous tourists, he was standing in front of Dan blocking his view.

 

¬†And then 3 others – the change – marched by him again…
¬†We went walking around the castle grounds after and literally stumbled across this. We stopped here to rest on those steps you see below and heard some American tourists talking about the echo chamber that exists on this disc. Sure enough, when you stand directly in the middle and start talking, you hear a perfect echo of yourself. Step outside of it, and it’s normal. It’s a trip.

 

 Dan caught me doing a little stretching.
 These guys were in front of the government administration entry.
A nice view of the cathedral in the background from this path.
 Outside of the castle complex headed towards town for lunch.
 Dan made reservations at a cute little place that was highly rated on TripAdvisor.
 Dan had roasted duck, similar potatoes as we saw yesterday.
 I had rabbit, potatoes, and spinach with lots of garlic. The gravy was excellent.
¬†Apple strudel again for Dan, although he liked yesterday’s better.
This was called a honey cake. The flavor of the cake was somewhere between spice cake and graham cracker, with cream between the layers. They were both so big we split and half of each.
Next we went to Petrin Hill. Well, hiked to Petrin Hill. It’s up, way up. By the time our day was done we’d walked 11.82 miles and 58 floors. A good chunk of those floors occurred here. It was essentially a park on a hill overlooking the city, not unlike the one yesterday, but more to do. First stop was a mirror maze, that also had a fun-house of sorts. I had said to Dan earlier today: at some point we’ll need to have someone take a nice photo of us. He says: we can do that at the mirror maze! I’ll admit, not exactly what I had in mind…but they’re fun…

 

 

 

 

 

Next was an observation deck built to look like the Eiffel Tower. It was constructed in 1891. Earlier in the day we’d been talking about this thing he has for disasters. It usually starts with him saying “wouldn’t it be funny if…” and then this horrible thing comes out of his mouth that he would find exciting. When we were at the top level of this – as seen in the photo – it wasn’t open like the first level, you were enclosed except for a few windows. It was pretty crowded, noisy, and my claustrophobia was kicking in. And it was swaying. Just a little, but you could feel it. So there goes Dan: “wouldn’t it be funny if this toppled over? I wonder if anyone would survive.” Me: “No, it wouldn’t, and I need to go now…” I just walked down the stairs a bit, which were all outside and there was a terrific breeze blowing. Felt great. All that said, the view from the top was amazing and it was well worth the climb.

 

 This was from the first level. The ones that follow are all from the second level.

 

 

¬†That’s the Charles Bridge on the right. Can you see the people?

 

¬†We zoomed in to the Charles Bridge on the right. It’s a sea of people. This was about 3:15pm. We would need to cross that to get back to the hotel.
 Above and below are more of the grounds we covered as we were making our way to a monastery.

 

 

 

¬†Just another one of “those” shots as we made our way down out of the castle hill.
Shortly after that it started to rain. By the time we got about 1/3 of the way over the Charles Bridge – which had pretty much cleared due to the rain – it was suddenly pouring and there was nowhere to go. When you’re already that wet there’s no real point looking for cover. We were only going to do one other thing and just decided the thunderstorm was a good excuse to call it early. We got back to the room about 4:30, went down to the spa to shower and take advantage of the hot tub and sauna.
 We came back up to the lounge for a light dinner and I stayed here to write the blog. Suddenly I realized it was 10:15 and they were trying to shut down so I finished in the room.

It is 11:00pm on Monday and that’s a wrap for Prague. We leave for Dresden, Germany, tomorrow morning.

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