Day 13 Topdeck Tour - Historical Gothic Prague

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Thursday, December 12, 2013

We were granted the small pleasure of sleeping in, and after breakfast met up with Sarah at 9am for a walking tour of Prague. It was a bit misty which is normal for Prague but we still could go enjoy he city. We caught the tram into town and first walked up the large hill with stairs to Hradcany Castle. We had great views over Prague and then walked through the Castle gates (with cool guards) and saw the magnificent St Vitus Cathedral. It was huge and grand with large gothic spires and gargoyles. Located inside are many Bohemian kings tombs. We later went in but was a bit disappointed as the most spectacular parts were only the glass stained windows. We went into the court yard which had the palace building surrounding it. This was the site of Defenestration of Prague which occurred twice in history. It literally means throwing someone out of the window, and the second time was between Catholics and Protestants and resulted in the Protestant royals throwing two Catholic pamphleteers out of the window. The Catholics believe they were saved by angels who caught them, while the Protestants believe they fell into a heap of horse manure! This resulted in the Thirty Years' War in Prague. Rather interesting history!

We headed down from the Castle and headed towards the river. We did walk pass a very impressive statue which were off two men peeing on what looked like Czechoslovakia. More impressively they were holding their penises which moved up and down and their hips moved left to right. Was hilarious.

Then we got to the stunning Charles Bridge which is the most spectacular bridge crossing Vitava river. It’s construction started in 1357 but was only completed in the 15th century. It is decorated by 3 bridge towers and 30 statues all replaced by replicas now. There is apparently gold coins hidden on the bridge which move due to them being magical but we couldn’t find any!

As we walked into the old town and then into the Old Town Square we hit the jackpot with Christmas markets! Massive Christmas tree in the centre also to complete the mood. By the square is the famous Astronomical Clock, it is the third oldest being first installed in 1410 and the only one still working. Every hour it chimes and the characters around the face move and little windows reveal other characters. Opposite the clock is the Church of Our Lady before Tyn (also known as Tyn Cathedral) which has two large 80 meter tall towers which are slightly different in one is masculine and the other is feminine. Joel and I went in for a look but also wasn’t that spectacular compared to the outside but did have a lot of gold statues.

Walking away from the square we headed to Wenceslas Square which is the main city square in Prague and leads up to the National museum. The square was the site for the student riots in the velvet revolution which resulted in 120 deaths and has a memorial cross to Jan Palach which set himself on fire to protest the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union in 1968.

The walking tour ended here and Joel and I stopped in to have a coffee and make a plan for the day. Great coffee but unfortunately cultural clashes resulted in people smoking inside which was bit gross. We headed back through Old Town Square and went to the Jewish Ghetto. Tickets were bit expensive so we just walked around the walls which surrounded the neighbourhood where Jews were confided before WW2. The main part I wanted to see was the Jewish Cemetery which is the most remarkable in Europe and results from numerous graves being stacked on top of each other due to the lack of space and a confusing array of head stones. There is a total of 12 layers of graves and could be as many as 100,000 burials although only 12,000 tombstones can be seen dating as far back as 1439. Fortunately as we walked around the wall I had a few glimpses into the cemetery which satisfied my curiosity.

Joel and I crossed the Vitava River via a different bridge so we had some great views of Charles bridge. We headed to a church that wasn’t on our itinerary but my sister Lindi recommended to us. Saint Nicholas Cathedral is a Baroque church built in the 1700s dedicated to Saint Nicholas. This was an amazing church and great example of Baroque architecture. The inside has elaborate designs and the alcoves had lavish tombs and sculptures leading to a magnificent altar and 70m high dome with frescos. The altar has 4 large popes looking to protect it and a massive organ with over 4,000 pipes up to 6 meters which Mozart played in 1787. We were allowed to take photos fortunately and walk up into the gallery on the second floor and look up over the balcony into the church which was really spectacular and the first place we were allowed entry into this level. Was well worth a visit and the best Cathedral in Prague. Thank you for the recommendation Lindi!

We were tired and starving so we stopped for lunch. We read the menu outside and headed in but ended up at a bit more fancy place than we thought and was bit more pricey. But in saying that the mushroom soup served in bread and the beef goulash was amazing.

Well rested we headed up the hill to Hradcany Castel and had a walk around. We tried to get to the Golden Mile which is street where the houses are made very small and look very quaint but we couldn’t find it or it was closed. It was getting dark and we were tired with Joel’s knee aching and the back of my knee feeling like I pulled a tendon. To make it easy for ourselves we caught the same tram home and got in around 4.30pm. Joel and I went down to have a sauna but it took about 30 minutes to warm up and I nearly fell asleep in there.

Out group had previously decided to meet Sarah in the city for a night out so Joel, Gemma, Amanda and I caught a tram into the city and walked across Charles bridge at night. It was stunning with the lights and there was a fine misty rain which I secretly think was snow. We got to the old town square and Joel went up the clock tower to get nice views of the square. It was nearly 8pm so we saw the hourly chiming of the astronomical clock which had the parts moving as was well worth the wait.

In a back street we found a local brewery pub and got out of the cold and into the warmth of food and beer. Joel had dumplings filled with pork and I had beef goulash. Pretty epic pub food.

As we waited in the square by the giant Christmas tree, freezing out toes off, we thought the others had bailed. We were pleasantly surprised when Sarah arrive with about 7 other people. A lot of people were to sick and didn’t want to come out in the cold but the rest of us made an effort. We went to a few bars had a few drinks. I tried elderflower cider which was very refreshing. One place even had a dancer in a small sparkling bikini dancing on a stage. At about 12 we called it and hailed some taxis to go home. A few people decided to stay out and party bit longer but sleep sounded like a better idea.
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