Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Czeching out the Sights

By Claire
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


Pat in Santa Cruz said...

Ahh, this city looks beautiful. FYI they had a black Madonna at the monastery in Montesarrat in Spain. While channel surfing yesterday I saw a clip about Pilsner beer in Czech..... Supposed to be realllly good. That clock looks incredible. Have you seen any volcanic ash from Iceland?

Chuck and Claire said...

The beer in Prague is next on our list of things to do--besides touring the castle. We have not been aware of any volcanic ash.

Karin said...

Sounds like you had a busy day and the I noticed in your pictures - the sky was BLUE! I don't think we ever saw it that way, as it was usually snowing, giving the city another dimension of loveliness and interest.

Do be careful of pickpockets! Especially in packed areas....and on Wenceslas Square. And at the Castle. I hate to say it.

Your pictures stirred my heart strings! The Bohemian Bagel in your picture was the first one we went in to! And can you imagine, we did NOT see Kafka on the headless statue! So another reason to go back! (ANY reason will do!) :):)

Waiting for tomorrow's adventure!

Karin on Paros

Chuck and Claire said...

A news report supplied by Karin:

Prague astronomical clock statue vandalized by tourist

A tourist has vandalized the astronomer statue, which is part of Prague's famous astronomical clock on Old Town Square. The incident, which happened late on Tuesday night, was filmed by security cameras.

Thanks to the footage, police were able to quickly arrest the
perpetrator. It shows the man breaking off part of the arm of the statue with a metal basket removed from one of the square's trashcans.

Police said that they have not yet been able to question the
perpetrator since he still under the influence of alcohol. The man will most likely be charged with vandalism. This is the third time that the astronomer statue has been vandalized in recent years, the last incident happened in April of last year.