Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Czeching out the Sights
We woke to a glorious day feeling very lucky since light rain was predicted. Big puffy clouds littered the blue sky. I knew immediately that this was going to be a good day. That attitude helped a lot with our journey into town. Have I mentioned what a challenge it is to learn a new transportation system every time we arrive in a new city? We really thought we had it made: take the 341 bus to where the trams are and get on the #3 or #17. The problem is, the bus stops don't seem to have names and we can't see the tram stops from inside. We did manage to figure it out after a certain amount of grief and thankfully, because we are completely anal, we arrived in more than enough time to meet up with our free walking tour at 11. We have done these New Europe tours before, in Amsterdam and Paris. We even had time to be interviewed by a group of high school students doing a school project.
Campground reception--we saw this color choice all over Poland as well.
Bus stop--right in front of the campground
The meeting place was in the Old Town Square, mobbed at the moment with people waiting for the astronomical clock to go off. This is one of the most visited and photographed sights in the world. It has developed over the centuries until it tells time (in both Roman and Arabic numerals), sunrise and sunset, the orbits of the sun and moon, the planting and harvesting seasons, astrological signs, and more: It slices; it dices... The clock has been in operation for about 500 years, with some time off for repairs after WWII damage. We were later told that it's also a great place for pickpockets when everyone is massed together tightly, trying to get the best view.
Our tour guide was Huw from Wales. He convinced us that his full name is unpronounceable. He was wonderful: enthusiastic, energetic, informative, funny and he loves Prague.
We covered a lot of ground and saw so many things in our 3 hours. Here are some images of this magnificent city.
We came to the Black Madonna House, a wonderful example of Cubist architecture. The Black Madonna was a way of identifying a house, like an address, in a time when most people were illiterate. The original house burned down and she was the only thing salvaged. They added it to the new building, which I really liked.
I thought these statues high up on a modern building were very interesting.
As well as this metronome which was put up in 1993 as a symbol of the time lost under Communism.
Naturally, we came to a statue of Franz Kafka. Kafka had a dream about a man who didn't have a head, hands or feet so he jumped up on his shoulders to direct him. That's Kafka pointing the way.
We stopped for lunch and a break at a really great, inexpensive place, Bohemia Bagel. Leek and potato soup and a bagel for two came to 128 crowns (€5.20). We really liked the atmosphere, the food and the prices. We went back after the walk for coffee and cheese cake.
We ended our tour near the Charles Bridge where Huw filled us in about the Czech Uprising in 1945 against Hitler's troops when Czech anti-Communist Nazis joined partisans to fight the German Army. Shortly thereafter, the Soviets "liberated" Czechoslovakia.
We walked to the Charles Bridge, our only disappointment of the day. It was very crowded with tourists and caricature artists, earring booths and those glowing paintings that are supposed to look lit up, ad nauseam. This did not in any way take away from the constant delights around every corner. Prague is probably the most astounding city we have seen. I know that our 4 or 5 days here will only touch the surface. The array of architecture is incredible; now I know why "Karin from Paros" loves it so much!
On the Charles Bridge
One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again? ~ Rachel Carson
Posted by Chuck and Claire at 4/20/2010 07:31:00 AM