Czech'n out Prague

Trip Start May 31, 2012
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Trip End Dec 12, 2012

Flag of Czech Republic  , Hlavní město Praha,
Friday, November 16, 2012

Dobry Den Readers!

The past four days have been spent in the UNESCO world heritage city of Prague. We again find ourselves behind the old iron curtain where things are magically much more affordable, which makes Czech'n out the sites so much easier (I'm corny but you know you love it)!

Our first day here was spent as a resting productive day. Now, I know that may sound contradictory to you, but allow me to explain. We didn't do any sightseeing, but we did do laundry, grocery shopping and we also picked up our Prague discount card.

So on our second day in Prague, we hit the city hard. We started off at the Kinsky Palace and its exhibit of Asian art from China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. They also had a wonderful collection of Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art. Best of all they had an Acheulean hand axe from Uganda. For those of you who aren't archaeology nerds, it means that this tool is anywhere between 1 and 1.7 million years old. It was clearly the oldest thing we've seen thus far.

From the Kinsky we popped over into the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn which was started in 1365. Unfortunately mass was about to start so we ran through it pretty quickly. We quickly popped into St. Nicholas' church across the way where the organist was practicing classical music and we admired the giant chandelier. Before leaving Old Town Square, we also stopped at the famous astronomical clock which has zodiac signs in the upper section and a calendar in the lower section.

Then we strolled down the high-end shopping district to the jewish quarter where we went into our first synagog (the Klausen Synagog) and the most beautiful synagog in Europe- The Spanish Synagog. We also snagged a peek at the Jewish cemetery while we munched on salami and cheese sandwiches (which I will admit felt a little wrong). The Klausen synagog was the largest synagog in the ghetto at the time it was built and also served as the burial society (Jews could not be buried outside of the ghetto, so most grave sites at the cemeteries are 10 bodies deep). The Klausen also had a Jewish cultural museum inside, so we learned abput various holidays, customs, traditions etc..

From the Jewish quarter we popped over to the museum of decorative arts which housed everything from Bohemian glass and 19th century clothing to a modern exhibition on Spanish design. Part of the exhibition contains clocks mainly from the Baroque period. The room was too small horizontally to display all the wall clocks so they rigged a motorized vertical display case that brought the hanging clocks down to your level two or three at a time. They had to do the same a couple other rooms because they had so much stuff.

We began the end of day two with an informative tour of The Story of Chocolate museum where we saw how chocolate is produced from harvest to delicious morsels. We also purchased a bar of chocolate made from the oldest known Aztec recipe (1500 A. D.) and a bar made from the oldest known Spanish recipe (1650 A.D.). Both are delicious!

The final stop on our journey was the lego museum where they have about 2,500 models. Instead of actually learning about the history of legos and the types, we just played with them. Yep, a 25 and 24 year old played with legos. It was great.

Day three we began with a hike to Prague castle. Along the way we walked over Charles's Bridge and along the Royal Route stopping at St. Nicholas's Church. Known for it's Baroque design and giant dome, a better fact is that the communist Czech secret police used to spy on the U.S. embassy from the bell tower. Once we reached the hilltop, we spent the remainder of the day there. First we admired the beautiful stained glass in St. Vitus's Cathedral. Work began on the city's most distinctive landmark in 1344 and was completed in 1929. Yes, your math is correct, it took almost 600 years to complete. That's part of why it's such an interesting church. Where else are you going to find classic gothic architecture with art nouveau stained glass? Also St. Wenceslas, the patron St. of Bohemia, is buried here.

We then took the short tour of the Old Royal Palace which was the residence of Bohemian princes and kings from the 11th to the 16th centuries. It's another architectural mishmash consisting of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles. From there we walked across the courtyard to St. George's Basilica which is the oldest preserved church in Prague castle and was founded in 920 (things just keep getting older and older here!). Crossing to the other side of the hill to visit the Strahov Monastery, we paused to listen to the world famous chimes at the Loreto tell us it was 15:00 (3pm). At the Strahov Monastery we saw two separate libraries and a cabinet of "curiosities". The Theological hall houses 20,000 volumes and some famous globes from the 17th century whereas the Philosophical hall houses 34,000 volumes and a ceiling fresco depicting the struggle of mankind to know real history.

Although the two halls were very impressive, it would be hard to compare them to the Klementinum library which we saw today and houses 8 million volumes. It also has the beautiful Chapel of Mirrors where Mozart is believed to have practiced the organ when in town, and an astronomical tower where Johannes Kepler worked and developed his three laws of planetary motion (really big deal, look it up if you don't know about it). Today we also walked along the river, known as the Prague Riviera, and spent some time at Vysehrad.

Vysehrad has been a fortified hill top since the 10th century, and it use to be the seat of the Premyslid princes. From this hilltop to Prague castle marks the boundaries of Old Prague. The hilltop is a beautiful park, so we enjoyed the nature and views of the city and river. We took a look inside the Neo Gothic church of St. Peter and St. Paul, reluctantly passed through the cemetery and went on a tour of the casemate where we saw the real statues that topped Charles's bridge ( the ones in the photos of the bridge itself are fakes fyi).

We've had a busy few days, but there's always more to see!

Your Starry-Eyed

Katherine and Zack

P.s. all photos are courtesy of Zack Lakeman on the iphone!
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Comments

Shauna on

Always good to take time out of your busy day to play with the legos!! Loved the photos; what good pictures your iphone takes. Hope you are keeping warm!

Louise grandmother on

A great big W O W for Zack and his Iphone,wonderful slideshow and especially when you two are in them.I have looked till my eyes are tired and want to see again and again.Love your blog,you two are brilliant in your in depth writing so descriptive.I am so thrilled you are coming home to Ca then sometime to AL
love you much

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