Off to a new country, the Czech Republic in eastern Europe, May 20-22, 2006
01.10.2006 17 °C
We left Dresden for Prague on May 20, 2006. The weather was still unsettled, a bit of drizzle between short periods of sunshine. The three hour train trip followed the Elbe river through some very pretty countryside. There was no real noticeable change of the landscape and buildings as we entered the Czech Republic. This was my first time to this country.
Prague is a very beautiful city, with many towers and spires disappearing into the distance. Unlike the last 3 cities, Prague emerged from the Second World War relatively unscathed. There were many pretty winding cobblestoned sidestreets with houses painted in pastel colours.
We decided to take a english speaking walking tour of the city since we new nothing of the Czech language and culture. Most tourist guides meet by the Astronomical Clock in the Old Town square, and they are usually identifiable by the bright red, blue or yellow umbrellas they carry with them. These guides tend to be in their twenties and thirties, highly educated, and most able to speak three to four different languages quite fluently. We took a 6 hour tour with a university student, who on weekends loves to be a tour guide of her hometown to tourists from all around the world.
Old Town Square is a huge plaza in the oldest district of Prague. It was built in the 12th century and was originally used as a marketplace. It is surrounded by several churches like the St Nicholas Church, the astronomical clock tower, cafes and restaurants, etc.
We walked along the streets of the Old Town first, marveling at the beautiful buildings. The architecture spanned many centuries, some built in Romanesque, early Renaissance, Gothic, and Baroque style. One interesting Gothic church had two spires that were different sizes, one representing female and the other male sides of the world. The Church Of Our Lady Before Tyn can be seen as part of the Prague skyline from most areas in the city.
Part of our tour included a trip up the hill to see the Prague castle. We took a street car up the steep hill. Street cars are an excellent way of getting around the city. Inside the Prague castle you will find the famous St Vitus's cathedral. It's Gothic spires tower over the castle.
Saint Vitus took nearly six centuries to complete. Underground, it contains tombs of many bohemian kings. It also the biggest and most important church in the Czech Republic. The cathedral is both beautiful inside and outside. I took a photo of some murals on the outside wall of the church.
Prague castle complex is one of the largest castles in the world. It contains numerous buildings, courtyards and gardens. It's history stretches back to the 9th century. Today it houses museums and art galleries. It still has its own guards from May till October every year. The Castle Guards are a specific unit of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic. I walked by during the Changing of the Guards at one of the entrances.
Charles Bridge, which spans over the Vltava river, is one of the most famous bridges in the world. It connects the Old Town quarter with the Lesser Town quarter. It is protected by 3 towers, one on the Old Town side and two on the Lesser Town. It has also got to be the most touristy site in Prague. During the weekends, it is crowded with tourists, street entertainers, buskers, and artists selling their wares.
Charles bridge contains 30 mostly baroque statues of saints and patron saints. In 1965, they began to replace all the statues with replicas. You can see the orginal ones today in the National Museum. Below is a statue depicting St Augustine, a philosopher holding a burning heart in one hand, and a golden staff in the other. Under his right foot are books, and by his left is an angel puring the sea out of a sea shell.
Beside the Charles Bridge in the Lesser Town Quarter is the Kampa canal. There are many tourist shops and restaurants and cafes in this area. And because of this, things can get a little pricey. But its still a beautiful area to walk around to take in all the sites.
We had also taken a mini cruise up and down the Vltava River to take in the sites from the water. There were some beautiful buildings to be seen. We only had one full day to take in all the sites, and we were so glad we took a tour with our friendly tour guide. She was not only fun to talk to but very informative and helpful.