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Monday, September 1, 2014

8/26: Prague's Stunning Castle Quarter and Pedestrian Charles Bridge

The guide books suggest visitors get to the Castle Quarter on the dot of 9 before the hordes of tourists descend from the tour buses a little later. We were running ‘late’ so we hopped on Tram 22 (also on the list of things to do in Prague to best see the sights) for a sweat free ride up the huge hill.

The quarter comprises a number of courtyards, the Vitus Cathedral, Royal Palace, Picture Gallery, St George’s Basilica, Lobkowicz Palace, Golden Lane etc – too much for even us to comfortably seat the best of times let alone on another very dreary day. We’ve had to wear pants and jackets every day for a long while now and make sure never to leave the hostel without our handy dandy rain ponchos as we’ve needed them most days too. At least it hasn’t been raining cats and dogs as that would it miserable.  Oops, guess I better be careful what I write and not tempt the weather gods, huh.

Ended up buying a reduced admission ticket so we could see the most popular sights in a few hours; Steven, because he’s SO much older than I (!!!), qualifies for a senior or pensioner ticket, i.e. about half my ticket price. Most places do offer senior admission fees although the age requirement varies from museum to museum, not city to city so much.

First stop was St. Vitus Cathedral: An enormous Gothic Cathedral squeezed in among the castle walls, construction began in 1344 but not finished until 1929!! In addition to serving as the center of the Catholic Church, the cathedral’s crypt’s holds the remains of the land’s most famous rulers.
What a trooper standing still for a photo!

You get a sense of just how miserable the
weather was when even these sculptures
were spitting rain!

We saw the couple who took this photo just 3 hours
here in Salzburg while visiting Mozart's home!

7 keys needed to open this Coronation
Chapel; Archbishop's, President's, etc.

Next up was the Royal Palace: Until the late 16th C. this was the main residence of the castle complex. The chief sight here is the enormous Vladislav Hall below, noted for its enormous size and rib vaulted ceilings.  At the time, it was a tremendous technical feat to have an enclosed room of this size without supporting pillars. Over the centuries, the room has hosted jousting matches, coronations, feasts of all kinds and in modern times, the inauguration of Czech presidents.

Views of  beautiful Prague from inside the palace;
haven't seen any windows with screens this whole
trip yet but sure haven't encountered bugs or bees
 in our rooms either.

Didn't see this 'guard' or another one
look up once; what a nice cushy job.

The Ludvik Wing

Some of the families listed in the Land Rolls.

Just a few of the Land Rolls' books still remaining;
 the others were lost in a fire centuries ago.

Golden Lane: The ramshackle houses on this street are impossibly tiny, usually 1 or 2 room abodes without anything like a kitchen or a bathroom to make them livable. Nonetheless, they housed the castle guards in the 16th C. and continued to function as more or less normal dwellings up until the 20th C. Franz Kafka was perhaps the most famous resident, living for a short while at # 22. The admission ticket included access to this street whichis as cute as all get out but the houses now are souvenir shops.

Steven in front of the Little House of
the Psychic Matylda Prusova.

Loved these vibrant colors amid the overcast skies.

St George’s Basilica: 

Felt like we were suddenly transported to what
I perceive Morocco to look like. Wonder if I'll
 ever know whether it does look like that? 

Charles Bridge: Among Prague’s defining landmarks, this much loved bridge named after Charles IV (the man on the 100 krown bill), the Holy Roman Emperor who ruled his vast empire
from Prague in the 14th C.,  offers one of the most pleasant and entertaining 500 yard strolls in Europe. We went twice, the 1st time in the rain when it wasn’t crowded so we could stroll at leisure and another time when it was sunny and beautiful and thus packed with tourists just like us.

At the Little Quarter side of the bridge
on way to the Old Quarter side.

  Brass Bas Relief Floating Sculpture of St. John of Nepomuk: A 14th C. priest to whom the queen confessed all her sins, St. John is the national saint of the Czech people; with a semi circle of floating stars, it marks the spot where he was tossed off the bridge into the river after refusing to tell the king his wife’s secrets.

In the 17th C., there were no statues on the bridge, only a cross. The gilded Hebrew inscription from the Book of Isaiah celebrates Christ (Holy, Holy, Holy is the land of hosts.) The inscription was paid for a fine imposed on a Prague Jew – the result of a rivalry within the Jewish community (fellow Jews turned him in for mocking the cross.

I don't know what possessed me to think about taking white socks to wear with the sandals; I freely admit I should have had my head examined.  Steven, in the guise of the fashion police, heartily agreed!

 The statue of St. John of Nepomuk, the oldest one on the bridge, was unveiled in 1683, on the supposed 300th anniversary of the martyr’s death. When he touched the water, 5 stars appeared. Devout pilgrims believe that touching the relief or the sculpture of St. John will make a wish come true. But you only get 1 chance in life to make this wish, so you need to think carefully before touching the saint.

Saw marionettes all over Prague,
also museums and stores devoted to them.

At the Old Quarter side of the bridge.

The statue of Charles IV was erected in 1848 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Prague’s university; the women around the pedestal symbolize the 4 subjects: the arts, medicine, law and theology.
An apt way to end the post, I think.