I don’t love Prague. I find it a bit touristy for my taste, but we had to make a quick exit out of Budapest due the political situation going on. If we had waited one more day, we would have been trapped in Budapest since the refugees have decided to stake out the train track to attempt to hijack departing trains. I’ve traveled by train in Europe several times over the years. This was the first time where police boarded the train, checked passports, and tickets.
I first visited Prague in January 2013… snowy, winter, cold. In retrospect, that was probably Prague at its best. Beautiful blankets of fresh white snow covering the tourist sites, the red tile roofs, the airport runway… Prague in August/September 2015 may have not been Prague at its worst. But it certainly wasn’t the Prague I remember from just two short years ago.
The Clock: The clock was built in 1410 and is the oldest operational astronomical clock in the world. Even back then Prague was proud of their clock. Instead of saying ‘thank you’ to the man who built it by offering money or fame, these Bohemians promptly bludgeoned his eyes out so he could never make another one for another city. How charming!
The clock face itself has different dials that identify date and month both in ancient Czech time and today’s time. It also has zodiac signs, the position of the sun and moon, and other such data. The real attraction, though, is that every hour on the hour, during the day, two little windows at the top of the clock open and the apostles parade by. While this is happening, figures representing vanity, greed, death, and pleasure [the four biggest fears in 1410] also move, and a cock “crows.”
The clock was built in 1410 meaning it’s 605 years old. The fact that it still works is little short of a miracle. It survived many wars and innumerable tourists crowding around and in it for hundreds of years. Considering that at the time it was built, electricity, internet, cars, and power tools were still centuries from being invented. That being said… it’s a clock. If you want to see the display and it’s not the middle of winter, you probably need to get there at least 10-15 minutes early. And then the “excitement” lasts for all of about 20 seconds. If you’re looking for Disney magic, you’ll probably be disappointed.
The Charles Bridge is, like everything else called Charles in Prague, named after Charles IV, officially the most beloved figure in Czech history This guy is like George Washington, FDR, and Abraham Lincoln all rolled into one Medieval package. Charles not only built this bridge, he founded Charles University [one of the oldest universities in the world], created much of the infrastructure for Prague, and was generally a good guy. There’s a random wall going up one of the hills in Prague. It’s not designed to separate properties, or keep people in or out: it’s a hunger wall. There was a famine and Charles wanted to help his people. So he commissioned this totally useless wall to create jobs. Imagine any world leader today doing something like that.
Anyway, back to the bridge. It’s a bridge. A very old bridge with a lot of statues on it… but it’s really just a bridge. Until the nineteenth century it was one of the few bridges that crossed the Vltava river, which divides Prague… but today it’s one of many and most denizens of Prague give it a wide berth.
The bridge is architecturally striking and quite pretty. There are some of the statues are cool and old/supposedly bring you luck if you touch them. BUT the bridge and the areas immediately on either side of it are usually completely crawling with tourists and people whose lives revolve around tourists. And these people can make you hate Prague.
You can’t come to Prague without seeing the Prague Castle. Literally. It’s visible from about half the city, easily the most striking silhouette on the Prague skyline. What’s known as “Prague Castle” is really a large complex of buildings that includes, in addition to the actual castle bits, St. Vitus’ Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, and The Golden Lane. In fact, the most prominent part of the “Castle” when seen from a distance is St. Vitus’ Cathedral.
This is one of those attractions that you really should see at least once. The two churches make it entirely worth it for me, and lots of people enjoy the Golden Lane, where servants and later alchemists associated with the castle lived throughout history, as well. St. Vitus’ is really something of a fascinating tour through architectural history. It was commissioned by – guess who!? – Charles IV in 1344, but due to intervening wars and financial issues, the church wasn’t entirely complete until 1929. This means there are styles from about 600 years of history all combined in one building. It’s stunning from the outside, and also gorgeous from the inside, even if it is in a sort of over-the-top Gothic style. It’s not a place where I feel particularly spiritually moved, but there is tons of glorious stained glass, an intricately-detailed carved relief of The Battle of White Mountain, and the hilariously overdone tomb of St. Jan of Nepomuk. St. George’s Basilica and Convent, on the other hand, is the polar opposite Romanesque predecessor to St. Vitus’. It’s small, intimate, peaceful, and maybe one of my favorite places in Prague.
Just wander. Prague is a good city to just wander around in. The tourist part is really compact, so it’s not too difficult to get out of or find your way back to.
I found the ‘sex chair,’ and it said I was wild.
I also found these amazing statues
These amazing berries from the farmers market hit the spot when it was 100 degrees.
DJ even found a chair to sit in on our walkabout.
Sometimes by looking up you can see cool things too.
We found dancing buildings.
and a golden penis…
And I may have had to go all the way to the Czech Republic, but I finally found a Coke with my name on it [or at least some version of my name].