Tag Archive: Prag

Day 44: On Top of the World

Our second day in Prague was another day of touring around. Our plan was to ride up to the Prague Castle and then slowly meander our way back down.

Riding to the castle, we were able to catch one of the old street cars. They are probably one of the cooler ways to get around the city, Vienna has some of these too, but the ones in Prague were very different. It seemed to me that these particular trams were made so that no one would have to interact with anyone else. There was only one seat next to each window while the entire middle of the tram was completely open. Everyone in our group found it very amusing and to me it seemed a little unpractical, but the rattling trams really brought life to the city.

Once we reached the top, the view was amazing! Even though it was a little cloudy, we could still see most of Prague and to the left we could see St. Vitus and the Prague Castle.

Before arriving at the Prague Castle, standing to the right of Castle Square, is the Schwarzenberg Palace. The entire building is black and white and the patterns on the wall are all carved. It was really impressive, but also confused my eyes, which wanted to make the triangles and blocks three dimensional when in reality they were flat.

A closer look at the amazing detail.

As we walked up to the castle, honestly I was a little disappointed. It seemed small in comparison to some of the other palaces or castles that I’d seen, but the Prague Castle actually hides it’s size. It might look small from the front, but once we walked through the gates, I realized that inside there is a huge courtyard surrounded by three other sides.

Outside the gates were two guards dressed in blue, they didn’t move an inch while we were there and the poor guards had to endure about a million people taking photos of them. They were there for the protection of the President who uses the castle, or at least a section of it.

This castle like many of the buildings in Europe has gone through a number of restorations. One of the most important or interesting facts about it is that this is the castle where the 30 Year War started, with the Defenestration of Prague or Prager Fensterstruz in German. Defenestration literally means the act of throwing someone out a window. In this case, emissaries of the Habsburgs were thrown out of the windows by Protestants, who did not like the counter-reformation that the Habsburgs were backing. No one who was thrown out the window was killed, but it was one of the sparks that set off the 30 Year War.

Inside the castle there is also a very beautiful hall called Vladislav Hall. It was often used for tournaments with knights and they would actually bring their horses inside the building to compete. This is why the stairs leading into the room are not actually stairs, but more like a ramp.

Unfortunately, there were many places inside we were not allowed to take photos, so if you would like to see more click… here.

Just behind the Prague Castle is St. Vitus Cathedral. It is a Neo-Gothic cathedral and one of the more amazing cathedrals I have seen. As soon as we excited the courtyard it was right there, dominating the entire sky. I love Gothic (or in this case Neo-Gothic) churches, because of the attention to detail and intricate handwork. There’s no comparison to the dedication it must have taken to finish such a building and it amazes me even more that this was built 600 years ago!

The side of St. Vitus. This church completely Gothic, the green cap is Baroque.

Inside the cathedral it was packed with tourists, but that didn’t take away from the overall feeling of the church. The ceiling was incredibly high and seemed to go on forever, while the light that filled the church from the windows made the entire place glow.

There are many important Bohemian kings buried inside the church. Below in the royal crypt rests Charles IV and Rudolf II.

One of my favorite parts of the church, and probably one of the things that really sets it apart from other churches I’ve seen, were the stained glass windows. The colors and stories were just breathtaking and they really made the church come to life.

There were a number of different windows all done in different styles, my favorite is the one below. It was created by the Jugendstil artist, Alfons Mucha. In the very center is a depiction of St. Wenceslas and his grandmother St. Ludmila.

Once we reached the very back of the castle, we walked behind the church and found Golden Lane. This is one single, very small, alley. It has cute one-roomed houses along the left side.

Originally, it is thought that this lane was called Goldmaker’s Lane, because it was housing for goldsmiths. However, there is a legend that Emperor Rudolf II housed alchemists here, hence the name, Golden Lane. This legend could possibly be true, because it is said that Rudolf II was more interested in the arts and sciences than anything else.

Just an example of how small the houses were. Even I had to duck to get inside and I’m only five-foot-three!

This is a wreath outside one of the cutest stores on Golden Lane. It was all handmade ceramics with very detailed and original designs. Just a fun fact, Franz Kafka lived on Golden Lane.

After exploring the castle we headed back into town, this time by foot. Although it looks life a very long walk, it actually didn’t take too much time before we arrived at Charles Bridge.

The road leading down into town.

We had the rest of the day off so we decided to go up the Old Town Hall Tower, which has the Astronomical Clock below. From above we could see the entire city.

It was funny seeing how many tourists were looking at the clock. Just the other day we were apart of that crowd, waiting for the clock to ring.

Somewhat of the same shot, but with the rest of the city stretched out on the horizon.

Looking towards St. Vitus and the Prague Castle.

Church of Our Lady before Týn

Old Town Square with a monument to Jan Hus in the middle. He was the leader of the Hussite movement.

Prague by Night (Day 43 & 44)

We stayed a total of three days and two nights in Prague. Both nights we went adventuring around the city and although it was near impossible to get any good photos without a tripod, I was able to get a few night shots.

The nightlife in Prague was really great, there were a lot of people out and about. My favorite part was a group of young musicians that played on the street. They were having fun and just playing some of the new hit songs, while there was a huge crowd of people laughing and singing along.

The Old Town Hall Tower and Astronomical Clock

A close up of the Astronomical Clock

One of the many possible views from Charles Bridge

The statue of John of Nepomuk. He was confessor to Wenceslaus’ (the King of the Romans) wife and when asked what the queen had told him, John of Nepomuk refused to divulge any confessions to the king. So, John of Nepomuk was thrown off of Charles Bridge and died in the Vltava river. Underneath his statue is a picture of John of Nepomuk being thrown off the bridge and it is said that if you rub it, you will get good luck. It was easy to see the millions of hands that had rubbed the picture, because the metal around John of Nepomuk was completely golden, while the rest of the metal was gray and brown.

Another view from the Charles Bridge of the Prague Castle off in the distance.

EDIT 09/30/12 : Whoops! Almost forgot a photo.

This is one of the squares we had to walk by to reach the main part of the city. To the right there was a more official stage with a band and then there were some booths for wine tasting.

Day 43: Arriving in Prague

We all arrived at the bus station early so that we could get good seats on the bus to Prague. The bus we traveled on turned out to be a double-decker, which made it so that we towered over all the other cars, including the trucks. The drive from Vienna to Prague (Praha) was four hours, which I mostly slept through.

The view arriving in Prague was amazing. At first the road looks plain and simple, noting very wonderous about yet another city, but then the road slopes slightly up and suddenly the bus was on top of a huge hill overlooking all of Prague!


A little history:

Prague, located in the Czech Republic, was and still is a huge center for European culture. Like many of the cities and countries Europe, Prague has a long and complicated history, so I’ll try to condense it here so that it’s not too confusing.

During the 14th century Prague was the capital of the German Empire under Emperor Charles IV who was also King of Bohemia and who would later become Holy Roman Emperor. Under Charles’ IV rule Prague became the “Golden City” or “Rome of the North”, meaning that it was very rich and powerful. While Charles IV ruled he built a lot of wonderful Gothic buildings and founded the first university in central Europe, Charles University. He also went on to build Charles Bridge and Old Town Bridge Tower.

After the violent upheaval of the Hussite Wars, Prague was ruled by the Habsburgs and to sum up everything, the importance of Prague slowly went downhill from there. Most of the Habsburgs, all of them except Rudolf II, ruled their empire from Vienna instead of Prague.


After we retrieved our bags from the bus, we walked only about five minutes to our hostel, called APlus. Overall, it ended up being a pretty nice place to stay and it was less than a ten minute walk to the city center. Right away we headed out to see what Prague looks like and to also find an ATM. One thing we didn’t realize is that the Czech Republic doesn’t use the Euro instead they use the Koruna. It took us long time to find an actual ATM, because all of them were hidden on the inside of the banks rather than out on the street (at least in the area we were in).

The Koruna is actually really pretty with a lot of different colors and very classic images of important people to Czech history. However, it was really confusing when I was trying to do quick math and figure out what exactly I was spending when all the bills are 100, 200, 500 and 1000. While I was buying souvenirs I felt like I was spending so much money, because the bills were so large!

After we took out enough money, we headed across the street to the Municipal House. This building is considered Art Nouveau, which was decorative art prominent in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It is also called Jugendstil German for “youth style”. The Municipal House is now a concert hall, with a few restaurants on the inside.

While I was in Prague I discovered one of the leading artists of the Jugendstil movement, Alphonse Mucha. His artwork was everywhere around the city and I immediately fell in love with it. Mucha was known mostly for his graphic art and paintings, but he also created sculptures and did some interior decorating. One aspect of his work I love the most is his attention to detail. Mucha was often hired to create posters and although his style was very complicated and delicate, he was still able to integrate the product he was hired to advertise.

Right next to the Municipal House is the Powder Tower, which is one of the Gothic medieval towers that used to be apart of the wall guarding the entrance to the Old Town.

Compared to the other, more modern and brightly colored buildings in the area, the Powder Tower was very dark and intimidating. As one out of thirteen gates used to enter the old center, the Powder Tower became less and less important as the town expanded beyond its walls.

Next we came to a building that was constructed in the style of Cubism. This particular building was called House of the Black Madonna. It is currently a museum  on Cubism.

Right around the corner from House of the Black Madonna was Charles University. As I said earlier, Charles University was the first university in Central Europe.

Across the street from Charles University was the Estate Theater. Mozart spent some time in Prague and it was at this theater that his opera Don Giovanni premiered.

To the left is Charles University and to the right is the Estate Theater. You can see a little of the time differences between the two buildings. The University looks  more gothic while the theater is painted bright green and slightly more modern.

Outside of the theater is a statue commemorating Mozart and Don Giovanni.

We eventually arrived at Wenceslas Square, the largest city square. The square is named after Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia. Wenceslas was a duke in the Přemyslid dynasty, which ruled over Bohemia. He was a grandson of St. Ludmila, who was murdered in a family feud, and later on Wenceslas himself was murdered by his brother Boleslav I.

Wenceslas Square is often a place of demonstration, one of the most commonly known being the Velvet Revolution, which was a non-violent demonstration which successfully freed Czechoslovakia of communist influence.

At the end of the square stands the National Museum Building and a monument to St. Wenceslas.

Eventually, we made our way over to Havelská Market, which is named after Václav Havel, most commonly known for being the first President of the Czech and Slovak Federated Republic, after the Velvet Revolution.

This market was one of the better places to buy fresh fruit and fun trinkets for family and friends. I actually ended up spending quite a lot of money here buying gifts!

At the end of the market is the Church of St. Havel.

Our last site on the tour was the Old Town Square. This is one of my favorite squares, it was full of life, with performers, carriages, and plenty of tourists, but it didn’t seem crowded at all.

Surrounding this square is the Prague Astronomical Clock or Prague Orloj. This clock is the coolest clock I’ve ever seen! I couldn’t even read it, but that didn’t matter, because the detail and work put into it was just amazing! The clock was built in 1410 and somehow, after all that time, it still works.

Five minutes to the hour we all rushed over to the clock and stood in a huge crowd of people to watch the clock chime. On the hour, it played a little song and above the clock rotated 12 Apostles and as a finale the golden rooster crowed.

There were a number of weddings going on right in front of the clock. Some even released doves right as the clock tolled.

Across from the clock tower and on the other side of the square is the Church of Our Lady before Týn. This church is interesting in the way it’s built. Although it’s hard to see in the photo that I took, the two towers of the church are slightly different sizes. The one on the right is a little larger and represent Adam, while the one on the left is slightly smaller and represents Eve.

After our tour we all went out to get coffee and then later we made our way to Charles Bridge to take photos. That night we had a delicious dinner and headed back to the hostel early so that we could get some extra sleep.

A view from just below Charles Bridge, where we had coffee and cake.