Sara, one of the friendly staff members, escorted us to a lovely large room on the 4th floor with our own bathroom and shower just a few steps away, even asking if we were OK not having the bathroom and shower right in our room! They have a huge kitchen/eating area but only a tiny area for guests to prepare their own food as most of the area is for the staff to prepare breakfasts (at a fee), host beer tasting sessions, etc. We'd been spoiled since most of other hostels had breakfast built into the cost of the night's accommodation.
After a quick bite and, of course a cup tea, we set off exploring. Until about 1800, Prague was actually 4 distinct towns with 4 town squares, all separated by fortified walls. Each town had a unique character which came from the personality of the people who initially settled it.
Our plan for the afternoon was to visit Old Town including the square by the same name and Josefov, the Jewish area, all only a 10 minute stroll from the hostel. The other Prague 'towns' are the Castle Quarter, Little Quarter and New Town, to be saved for the next few days. The focal point for most visits, Prague's Old Town Square, is one of the city's top sights; it's been a market square since the 11th C. The old-time market stalls have been replaced by outdoor cafes and 'touristy horse drawn buggies' as travel writer Rick Steves says. Pooh on him - they look charming to these tourists!
Below are all photos of Old Town Square to give you a sense of how massive it is .
|Church of St. Nicholas: Originally Catholic, now |
Hussite; we gave this one a miss (I think our 1st yet!)
but we did tour the church with the same name and
by the same architect in Little Town later.
|Jan Hus Memorial: Erected in 1915, 500 years|
after the Czech reformer's martyrdom by fire, it
symbolizes the long struggle for Czech freedom.
|Kinsky Palace, the part of the National Gallery |
that houses an exhibit of Asian Art.
|You can just see Tyn Church at the top.|
|The row of pastel houses has a mixture of Gothic, |
Renaissance and Baroque facades.
|Love this type of street performers.|
|Old Town Hall with the |
Astronomical Clock around on the left side.
Astronomical Clock: Having read about it, like the hundreds all there with us before it worked its magic at 2pm, we waited to see how it worked. With revolving discs, celestial symbols and sweeping hands, the clock, installed in 1400, keeps several versions of time; 2 outer rings show the hour: gold Gothic numbers counts from sunset and Roman numerals indicate modern time. 500 years ago, everything revolved around the earth, the fixed middle background with Prague marking the center of course. There are also the signs of the zodiac, scenes from the seasons of a rural peasant's life and a ring of saints' names, one for each day of the year.
Can't miss the 4 statues flanking the clock that represent the 15th C. outlook on time and prejudices: a Turk with a mandolin symbolizes hedonism, a Jewish moneylender is greed, the figure staring into the mirror stands for vanity. Then there's the face of Death, whose hourglass reminds us that our time is unavoidably running out; oh, what a cheery thought!
At the top of each hour, Death tips his hourglass and pulls the cord, ringing a bell, the windows open and the 12 apostles parade by, acknowledging the crowd of onlookers, the rooster crows and finally the hour is rung.
|The only entrance was down a very narrow|
alley; thus this was the only close up
photo I could get.
|Steven doing his Kafka pose!|
Kept seeing signs, monuments, etc about the author, Franz Kafka; haven't checked what his link was to Prague yet. Will do that in my spare time, haha. As in Poland, there are masses of independent bookstores everywhere here in Prague, very unlike anyplace in the US we've visited.
Pinkas Synagogue: Site of worship for almost 500 years, it's a poignant memorial to the victims of the Nazis; the walls are covered with the handwritten names of 77,297 Czech Jews who were sent to the gas chambers; the names are organized by hometown (in gold, listed alphabetically), family names are in red, followed in black by the in.dividual's 1st name, birthday and last date known to be alive.
|Just imagine wall after wall inscribed |
with people's names and their dates.
Upstairs is the incredibly moving Terezin Children's Art Exhibit displaying art by Jewish children who were imprisoned at Terezin Concentration Camp and later perished.
|Ceremonial House: A mortuary built |
in 1911 for the purification of the dead.
|17th C. Klaus Synagogue: The final wing of a |
museum now devoted to Jewish religious practises.
|I found this poem profoundly moving.|
|The Torah (the 1st 5 books of the Bible) and the|
solid silver pointers used when reading it as the
Torah is not to be touched.
|Old-New Synagogue: The most important |
synagogue in Josefov, it was built in 1270
and is the oldest synagogue in Eastern
Europe; the 2 following photos are also
of the Old-New Synagogue.