May 2008

Our May trip was to the capitol of the Czech Republic, Prague. Tom was really looking forward to this trip as he would get to try palacinky, a food he grew up with but never had anywhere outside his home. Prague is quite a nice city that still has plenty of older buildings since it did not get too damaged during WW II.

Shortly after arriving and having a quick lunch we made our way to Prague Castle. The castle is an entire complex, not just one building and the largest building is Saint Vitus Cathedral which was built in the 1300's

Since the Cathedral is situated inside the castle and surrounded by many other buildings it is difficult to get a good view of it so we had to take multiple pictures.

The inside of the cathedral is not as ornate as some other churches we have seen in Europe but the stained glass windows here are very colorful, no doubt due partly to the fact that these are not original and are of a more recent vintage.

This is the tomb of John of Nepomuk, the national saint of Bohemia. John was drowned in 1393 at the order of the King of Bohemia as he refused to divulge the secrets of the Queen's confession.

Another view of the tomb of John of Nepomuk.

The Cathedral once again, this time from the side. On the bottom right is the Golden Gate, an entrance on the south side with beautiful mosaics.

A close up view of the Golden Gate, as you can see there is restoration work being done currently.

Built around 1500, Vladislav Hall inside Prague Castle has been the site of many important political events. In the past it had been used for coronations, banquets and even jousting tournaments with horses and knights.

Not far from the Cathedral inside the castle is a street called Golden Lane. It dates from the 1500's and was once the street where goldsmiths worked. Today it has many small shops inside 16th century houses.

To ensure order, the kings were always willing to do what was necessary. Inside the castle there was a building with different types of instruments for torture, in this case the "rack".

The entrance to Prague Castle has this gate with Titans on top battling their enemies.

The more interesting entrance to Charles Bridge (which we will discuss a bit later) is on the other side of the river. This view is on the Prague Castle side of the river.

The Old Town Square in the older section of Prague looks like what you would expect a European square to look like. It is surrounded by cafes, old buildings and here the Old Town Hall.

Another view of the Square, showing more of the buildings and cafes. To the left is the Church of our Lady before Tyn, built in the 1300's. An interesting feature of the church is the asymmetrical spires, one is larger than the other as they are meant to represent masculine and feminine aspects of the world.

In the early 1900's Prague was probably the only place in the world where architects took the principles of cubist painting from the canvas to the design of buildings. Here is an example of their creation of a cubist building.

The Charles Bridge could be Pragues most celebrated structure, it was built in the 14th century. It has served as the primary link between the Old Town and the Prague Castle. There are 30 sculptures on the bridge, the first sculpture, of John of Nepomik, was put up in 1683.

The Wallenstein gardens are the first palace gardens in Prague. They were built in the early 1600's and now the Palace houses the Czech senate, there is also a covered outdoor stage of late Renaissance style.

The "Powder Tower" was built in 1475 as one of the city's major gateways. After the city's walls became obsolete in this part of Prague it became a gunpowder storehouse.

One afternoon as we walked back into the Old Town Square there was a stage setup with young men and women dancing in old traditional Czech clothes.

On the Old Town Hall there is an astronomical clock dating back to the 15th century. During the day, every hour the figures surrounding the clock will do a little performance. Two of the more interesting figures are the skeleton and the man with the musical instrument.

Here is a better view of the clock on the Old Town Hall, below the clock are 12 medallions with the signs of the zodiac.

As mentioned before there are a number of nice buildings surrounding the Old Town Square, this one Susan found particularly attractive with the bright yellow exterior and the painting near the top.

Like a number of European cities we visited there is a small Jewish quarter. The Jewish quarter in Prague dates from the 10th century and at one time more Jews lived in Prague than in any other European city although only 3000 currently reside there. In the Jewish Quarter there is a building that has two clocks, a standard one at the top and a Hebrew one at the bottom.

Built around 1270 the Old-New Synagogue is the oldest Jewish Temple in Europe and has been in continuous use for over 700 years except during the Nazi occupation of WW II

A view of Prague Castle and the Cathedral from across the river.