We’ve said goodbye to Germany and are now in the Czech Republic. We had a long travel day, about 4 1/2 hours on the bus to bring us into Prague. Since we arrived late our first night, we had dinner, went on a short walk then headed to bed to have a fresh start on our first full day in this beautiful city.
We started our day with a walking tour from Wenceslaus Square. There we could see the statue of the patron saint of the Czech state and somewhat of mythical figure head, much like King Arthur is in England. We walked down Wenceslaus Square where we could see the art nouveau influences in some of the buildings, like the Hotel Europa, as well as an interesting statue of Wenceslaus on a dead horse. We spent some time in the Franciscan gardens before heading towards old town. (G: This square is also notable for being the focal point of several Czech rebellions against foreign rule, first against the Hapsburgs and later against the Soviets. The “Velvet Revolution” culminated with notable Prague citizens on one of the balconies of this square proclaiming the country free from Soviet rule in 1989.)
Next we headed towards the Municipal House. This is the site where the palace used to stand until it was no longer used. The building was demolished, and the current building was rebuilt in the early 20th century and opened in 1912. It is used as a civic building, ballroom, and concert hall. Garrett and I have tickets to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” tomorrow night. The Powder Tower next to it is one of Prague’s original city gates, and walking through it brought us into Old Town Prague. (G: It is, in fact, the only remaining portion of the old wall which used to surround Prague. It is named the “Powder Tower” on account of the town’s entire supply of gunpowder [formerly] residing inside.)
We came to The Old Town square which was flanked with beautiful buildings in many different styles. The Gothic styled Hussite Church was my personal favourite. The statue in the centre of the square is of Jan Hus, an influential religious thinker who was the catalyst of the protestant movement in Prague. This is a memorial depicting the Battle of White Mountain where the Catholic Hapsburgs were fighting against the Protestant Hussite followers who eventually lost. (G: The Old Town square was, simply put, incredible. The Jan Hus statue in particular was amazing, a spectacular piece of art.)
We came to Charles Bridge, named after Charles IV, and was Prague’s first stone bridge and only bridge for 400 years. It connects Old Town with the Little Quarter at the base of the castle across the river. There are statues on each side of the bridge as you cross depicting different saints. The first statue to be placed on the bridge is the one of Jesus on the cross with mourners. When the Catholic Hapsburgs took over, they wanted to make sure the saints looked over and inspired the people each day and added statues of saints that were meaningful to the Czechs. (G: 30 statues now line the bridge, including the Patron Saint of the city, John of Nepomuk. He was martyred by being thrown into the water from this very bridge.)
We made the long climb up to Prague Castle, which is not a castle as you may know it but rather a grouping of buildings within a wall. None of which were overly interesting to us, so instead we chose to walk around the palace grounds and the garden. We did, however, feel drawn to enter the very impressive St. Vitus Cathedral.
This Gothic Cathedral is absolutely stunning. It is the largest and most important church in the country, being the seat of the Archbishop of Prague it is housed within the palace and holds the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. I have been in many churches in my life, including a plethora in Italy, and I think this was the most taken aback I was by the beauty of stained glass. I was truly filled with awe in this Cathedral. I have not felt this way about a church since St. Peters when we visited the Vatican.
We made our long (and HOT at 30C) trek home to cool off before heading out for dinner. We were completely beat from our tour of the city today, my pedometer clocked us in at around 21,000 steps and that’s not taking into account the many steps and steep hills. Tomorrow we’re off to the zoo, and capping off our last day with some classical music.