Out and About

Prague Travel Blog

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We treated ourselves to a bit of a sleep in which was lucky because breakfast was only just being put out when we got up the stairs. We carbo-loaded and then set off for our busy day.

We caught the tram down to the castle hopped off when we spotted the high spires of St Vitus’ cathedral; we got ourselves an audio guide and tour map and headed off into the tour. We are not usually the type of people who bother with audio-guides, but having forked out a small fortune for them we were diligent listeners. The cathedral, whose original name is St Vitus, St Wenceslas and St Adalbert Cathedral, is the biggest and the most important church in the Czech Republic. It’s the seat of the Archbishop of Prague and the place where saints, kings, princes and pmperors of Bohemia are buried. The coronations of the kings of Bohemia were held there until 1836. It’s one of the best examples of Gothic architecture. St Vitus Cathedral consists of the central nave with narrow aisles with small chapels and the norhern transept. The chapels are illuminated by the light going through coloured windows showing many sacred motives. Notice especially the window by Alfons Mucha, the representative of Art Nouveau. The masterpiece of St Vitus Cathedral is St Wenceslas Chapel created in the 14th century by Charles IV in honour to the patron of Czech lands St Wenceslas. This chapel is known for its beautiful and rich decorations. Another admired work of art is the tombstone of John of Nepomuk situated opposite the John Nepomuk’s Chapel. After exploring the cathedral the tour took us to The Old Royal Palace (Stary Kralovsky Palac), the Old Palace has perhaps one of the most interesting histories of all the buildings in Prague. Built in the Gothic fashion, the large hall in the Palace was designed with many uses in mind. One of the most interesting uses was for jousting. Staircases were designed to allow for horses and a fully mounted soldier to rush in. Other uses were more mundane such as market days exclusively for the nobility and ceremonial functions. Another amusing historical note is that on several occasions politicians have been thrown out of the windows of the Old Royal Palace. Some have lived but many have been killed during this practice. An obelisk below the windows of the Renaissance rooms of the palace, also called the Czech Office, marks the spot where the unfortunate persons have landed. We were starting to get a bit worried now because we had to have our handsets back by noon and were not sure how much longer they wanted us to be listening. Surprisingly it was me that was calming Cam down by telling him that they wouldn’t have given us a 2 hour tour that went for more than 2 hours. Anyway we then took a stroll around to the Golden Lane, dating from the 15th Century, this small street is lined by 11 historic houses, which exhibit medieval armoury and textiles, as well as selling tourist souvenirs. Golden Lane was created when a new outer wall was added to the existing Romanesque castle complex. It was originally known as Zlatnicka Ulicka (Goldsmith's Lane), due to the many goldsmith's residing here. In its early years, Golden Lane consisted of small dwellings, which eventually fell into disrepair. As larger buildings replaced the older ones - and have subsequently themselves been restored - we are left with a charming little passageway. The oldest and smallest houses in Prague are in this strip as well as Franz Kafka’s house. At the end of the Golden Lane is the round Daliborka tower which used to be a prison and it got its name after the legendary Knight Dalibor of Kozojedy, who was imprisoned there at the end of the 15th century. Inside were weapons of torture and shackles to keep the prisoners, so we didn’t stay too long. We then found ourselves in the rear courtyard with fantastic views over the city and 2 very serious looking guards, which reminded me that the changing of the guards was to take place at 12 in the 1st court yard. So we decided to hand back out tours and find the first courtyard where we arrived just in time to nab a spot to catch the action.

After the changing of the guards we headed to the Loretto, but had forgotten that it was going to be closed for lunch. The Loreto Palace was named after the town of Loreto, Italy, where the dwelling of the Virgin Mary was said to have been brought by angels from Palestine in the 13th century, it is a remarkable place consisting of a cloister, the church of the Lord’s Birth, a Holy Hut and clock tower with a world famous chime that has been situated in Prague Hradčany for more than 300 years. The previous generations built the Prague pilgrim place Loreta, a former church of the Lobkowitz family (the founders of the church). The following generations have been taking care of this heritage. The history of Loreta includes not only the best of baroque but it has also preserved the traces of spiritual life in our country. As it was not open and the rain had started again we decided to head indoors for a coffee. After hiding out in the café for nearly an hour we ventured out to the monastery. The Capchuin Monks, who live nearby in another Monastery, help to take care of this area now as well, and pilgrims still come to this area on a religious spiritual journey, and the monks help to look after them when they arrive. From here we walked down the hill to the lesser town, where we found a cheap Chinese place for lunch. Warmed and refuelled we walked down to Most Legil. On the way we passed a fruit market and thought some fruit might go down well, but misread the tag and ended up paying quite a lot for a punnet of strawberries – doh, so much for a cheap lunch! From Most Legil we got a fabulous view back to the castle and of the Charles Bridge so we took loads of photos over the water, and of the funicular up to the Petrin Tower (Petrinska vez). It is a small copy of the Eiffel Tower on top of a hill that gives you fantastic views over Prague.

Our reason for walking so far away from the main town area, was Cam wanted to see the ‘Dancing House’ which had been on some of the postcards we had seen. The Dancing house (Tančící dům) is a stunning building, constructed between 1992 and 1996, is somewhat of a rarity in Prague; a modern, glass building surrounded by historic architecture. It has daring, curvy outlines, which led its architects, Vlado Milunc and the American Frank O Gehry, to initially name it the "Astaire & Rogers Building", after the legendary dance duo. The top floor of Dancing House is home to one of the city's leading restaurants, Celeste Restaurant.

Being ‘so far’ down the river I convinced Cam that we should walk out to the Vysehrad. According to old tales the Vysehrad castle was the seat of the Czech Princess Libuše, who from this spot prophesied the glory of Prague, and of the first Pøemyslids. During the three hour tour you can visit this noteworthy place, where an 11th century Romanesque Rotunda of St.Martin is preserved, 17th century Baroque Leopold Gate, old fortification, 18th century Former Canon's House. Dominating the Castle is the Neo-Gothic Church of SS.Peter and Paul. Worthwhile seeing is especially Vyšehrad Cemetery, where famous Czech personalities are buried. This area of Prague is located up a cliff over looking the Vltava. Now we were a little bit off the map so being ourselves we got lost, but while venturing around the uncharted territory we did find the \convention centre and some suburbs. When we finally found a tram we jumped on and got back in to the centre, where we treated ourselves to a hot chocolate before heading off to find the famous Wenceslas Square.

Wenceslas Square is dominated by a building of National Museum and the statue of St. Wenceslas is usually considered as the center of Prague. Variety historical moments has taken place here--revolutions, celebrations, mourning... When there are no historical moments on time, the Wenceslas square is full of shops and crowded with people hurrying for meetings and shopping. The Nazis used the street for mass demonstrations. During the Prague Uprising in 1945, a few buildings near the National Museum were destroyed. They were later replaced by department stores. The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II. It began on 5 January 1968, when reformist Slovak Alexander Dubček came to power, and continued until 21 August when the Soviet Union and members of its Warsaw Pact allies invaded the country to halt the reforms. In Czechoslovakia, popular opposition to the invasion was expressed in numerous spontaneous acts of nonviolent resistance. On 19 January 1969, student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Prague's Wenceslas Square to protest against the renewed suppression of free speech. The generalized resistance caused the Soviet Union to abandon its original plan to oust the First Secretary. Dubček, who had been arrested on the 20th of August, was taken to Moscow for negotiations. In 1989, during the Velvet Revolution, large demonstrations (with hundreds of thousands of people or more) were held here.

After exploring the square for a while we found ourselves at the Communism museum, the museum focuses on the totalitarian regime from the February coup in 1948 to its rapid collapse in November 1989. The theme of the Museum is "Communism- the Dream, the Reality, and the Nightmare". Immersive factories, a historical schoolroom, an Interrogation Room, or the video clips in our Television Time Machine are all part of the experience. The museum is a great introduction before you step back even further in time and experience the wonders of The Golden City. This is the first museum in Prague (since the Velvet Revolution) exclusively devoted to a system established in the sphere of the former Soviet Union. It was quite late by this stage and we decided to get a bite to eat, but not quite hungry enough for a meal we picked up some take away pizza at ‘Pizza Express’.

Seeing as it was Friday night we were keen for a few drinks – after ruling out a few underground, smoke-filled, grungy establishments, we settled on a small bar on a side street, we were so engrossed in our discussion about the American Empire that we nearly got locked in! Seeing as it was closing time we called it a night and headed back to the hotel.

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photo by: vulindlela