The Retirees go Abroad – Prague and the Czech Republic – Here we found Paradise

The weather has taken a definite turn for the hottest. Many of the Czechs we speak to say that this is their hottest and driest summer. Friday, after recovering from our tour of Terezin we decided we would walk to Prague Castle early in the morning for breakfast. This is the best time to walk the streets of Prague – when the bloody tourists are still in bed. Here are some photos of the walk – the view to another bridge, the castle on the hill, the statue that grants you your wish 6 months later (see the bright spots – that is where people rub with their left hand whilst making their wish), the penguins, some chestnuts on a tree by the bridge, and a peculiar statue which includes a disinterested Turk on the left hand side.

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Through the gatehouse onto another square (that is a convent you can see in the background), then these modern hitching rails, a memorial to the students killed in riots against the Soviets invasion in 1948 and then we found Paradise. It could be the buffet breakfast or it could be the Gardens of Paradise adjoining the castle. We then went for a walk in the King’s vineyard. Here are the photos.

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The Czech Republic has a well recorded history. The lands formerly called Bohemia, Moravia and Lower Silesia, were settled by Celtic tribes then by Germanic tribes and then by Western Slavic tribes. According to a popular myth, the Slavic settlers come from Forefather Čech who settled at Říp Mountain and from this comes the name Czech Republic. Ethnic Czechs were called Bohemians in English until the early 20th century, referring to the late Iron Age tribe of Celtic Boii and their land Bohemia.

The lands were ruled by a King as the Holy Roman Empire for many hundreds of years until the last Wenceslas died without issue and his sister took over but married a Prince of Luxembourg, the most successful and influential of all Czech kings Charles IV, who also became the Holy Roman Emperor. After Charles the Hapsburgs came to power breaking up the Holy Roman Empire and creating the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia became part of that empire for the next 400 years until Ferdinand was shot and WW1 broke out. After WW1 Czechoslovakia was created with the help of Woodrow Wilson of the USA until 1939 when the Germans invaded then the Russians in 1948 until the “velvet revolution” in 1989 when Czechoslovakia was recreated only to be peaceably dissolved to become the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

We had read about the Marionette Theatre of Prague and this night we were determined to see the performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Dinner was at the U Prince Restaurant just beside the Old Town Square between Coyotes and Hard Rock Café. I think we made the right choice for us. We enjoyed it so much we returned for coffee and dessert.

The Marionettes was something to behold. The serious performance of Don Giovanni performed by Marionettes and their handlers left us uncertain as to whether it was enjoyed or stared at in amazement. From the orchestra leader who became bored then drunk throughout the performance to the handler who got impatient with the closing duet and tried to stop the show it was unique in all aspects. It claims to have been running for 15 years.

 

The Retirees go Abroad – Prague and the Czech Republic – Meet the Worrells

Ivor and Shanelle arrived this afternoon from Vienna. We met out the front of the Apartments as though we were meeting at Carindale Shopping Centre and that we had done so recently – last time we met was probably 18 months ago. After settling in we set off to show them the sights. Our apartment is in Wenceslas Square and is central for all the things that Prague offers. So we walked to the main square to view the astronomical clock and its hourly show along with the myriad of other tourists who turn up from everywhere. Whilst visiting the clock we also visited the tower. You access the tower from the adjoining building. Just past the lift is a dramatic glass wall made with glass logs with a feature “carved” into it. From the top of the tower we could see the city. Starting with the Powder tower once part of the city defences it is called the powder tower as that is where they stored their gun powder. Then the spires of St Vitus church, the Jan Huss memorial, the road to the Jewish Quarter, the roof tops off some of the elegant hotels.

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After getting our over view we choose to walk through the Jewish Quarter where there are some fascinating buildings decorated with motifs that seem to have no meaning. We then strolled around to Charles Bridge where we had spotted a restaurant for dinner and discussed our plans for tomorrow.

Thursday and its chilly with a forecast of the weather warming with the day. We have chosen to do a private tour. We can hire an open top mini bus for 2 hours for 3,000 Czech Koruna. Although we will repeat a lot of what Kerry and I have already seen, there is so much that we don’t mind seeing it again. The tour starts with a pass by the National Play House and swings through the Jewish quarter, past the powder tower, and the National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square and the good King (who only reigned in the 11th century till he was 26 years old when his brother stabbed him) sits astride his horse. We then head for the other side of the River Vlana passed the “Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire” building and up to Prague Castle.

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At the castle we walked through the courtyard of the Presidential Palace into the main square where the changing of the guard takes place. We are too early for it this time. The President is home – the flag is flying. The Square has a grand fountain and what appears to be the former well covered by a bird cage. Oh and there is Shanelle and a strange man watching her. Look at that she’s picked him up. And it appears she is giving him ideas about what she wants. Just in time out come the guards to take control followed by the band. All sorts of vehicles are adapted to tourist coaches. Here one of the open top sports cars that carries four passengers.

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The Retirees go Abroad – Prague and the Czech Republic – Getting To Know Praha

We arranged a tour of the city (called Praha by the Czechs) not on the traditional hop on hop off bus but on a small tour which rushed us around the city after which we end at the Prague Castle and then we walked down the hill to the old town. The day started with drizzle and grey skies but finished in sunshine. While waiting for the tour to start we visited an arcade. Prague is remarkable for its architecture. It is baroque, art nouveau, renaissance and gothic and on and on. The arcades are charming and popular. Here are photos of an arcade with a theatre as the centre piece.

The bus tour was a rush with a combination of English and Italian speaking tourists which meant the guide was saying everything twice and you never knew quite which building she was talking about. She took us through Jewish Town with its world listed synagogue and a history of Jewish settlement from the 10th century until WW2.

Everything else was so much of a rush that I could not be bothered trying to take photos. Once we arrived at the “castle” it became apparent that it is not a castle but rather the district is called Prague Castle. It is the old centre where the King of Bohemia, Moravia and Lower Silesia and the Holy Roman Emperor resided and his court surrounded him and the foreign dignitaries filled in the Lesser Town. So there are numerous Palaces of the King and the court making up the “Castle”. Lots of churches and disused churches like the photo below where one has been transformed into a hotel with an ecclesiastical feel. Each district making up Prague had its own town hall some grand and some like the castle where the King was top dog – quite minor. Again the architecture was fascinating like the palace below where the exterior was covered in a patterned design.

The Cathedral was as you would expect outstanding.

Then there was St Georges Cathedral with its rouge colour and phallic tower. In the courtyard of the Cathedral was the statue of a naked boy and the belief is that if fair maidens rub his phallus then they will become fertile. You will notice the only shiny part of the statue is his phallus so there are a lot of horny dick rubbing women visit Prague including the young American nurse who was amongst our tour group (centre of the photo).

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We moved down the hill through the various castle buildings and came to our restaurant where lunch awaited us. Czech ham, followed by Salmon on a potato mash and then a sorbet. Very tasty and not too filling. Down, down, down to the river we went until we came to Prague’s narrowest street. A signalised footpath would you believe it.

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We were making our way to the Charles Bridge so that we could cross to the Old Town/New Town side of the bridge (the new town dates from the 13th century and the old town from the 8th century).

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The Charles Bridge built in the 14th century by Charles IV is just for pedestrians now and it replaces two former bridges. (You can see the remains of the earlier bridges on the boat trip of the Vltana River.) It has fortified towers at either end and in the 18th century someone thought it would be a good idea to build 30 statues to saints on the bridge. The photos give you the views from the bridge to the castle to the bridge towers to a little house by the bridge, the top of the National Theatre with its golden crown, a nearby tower with the unusual turrets around the centre spire, Charles atop a pedestal to the university he created and two panoramic shots looking up and down the river.

We came upon the boat quay behind the statue of Charles and under the arch of the Charles Bridge and the remaining arches of the Judith bridge from the 11th century and another bridge lost in a flood to provide a covered harbour for these tourist ferries. Quite honestly they don’t do much and the trip was quite boring except for the beer and the ice cream handed out to all passengers. My photos show the banks of the river with Charles bridge, the yellow penguins at Kamil Lhotak an art gallery I gather, the water wheel in Certovka Canal (“certovka” is roughly devil woman and it relates to an ugly old witch who lived in a street nearby and the locals identified by painting 7 devils on her house that remain there to today).

After the boat ride we went to the astronomical clock. The Orloj is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town City Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; “The Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. According to local legend, the city will suffer if the clock is neglected and its good operation is placed in jeopardy and a skeleton, mounted on the clock, was supposed to nod his head in confirmation. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working.

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Our tour ended in a quarter of the old town created by Charles to house foreign businessmen in Prague. He was wanting to ensure they did not avoid the Kings taxes. So he built a quarter of luxury accommodation, a church, a mosque, a synagogue and a brothel for their comfort and containment. It is just off the old town square.

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There were two other Aussies on this tour – Pam and Vic from Oxenford. Pam’s feet were tired so whilst we mapped our way back to the apartment and Vic got instructions from our guide Pam pulled up a chair in a cafe and that is where we all rested until we had coffee and a chat. Parting was such sweet sorrow but we wanted to fit in another walk tonight so we left them in the cafe and went back to the square to find our way home.

This is where we met our destiny for Tuesday – we booked a Segway tour. I left Kerry to take some photos while she tried a Segway to see if she liked it and could handle it. The answer is obvious. I got some good photos of the memorial to Jan Hus a Czech protestant who taught in line with the protestant teachings of the English independent Wycliffe against catholic indulgences. Hus was burned at the stake as a heretic on the order of Pope John XXIIII following the Council of Constance. After Whycliffe he is considered the initiator of the Protestant movement and the martyr causing the Hussite Wars in Bohemia. On the way home I stopped to get these photos of the Lekarna Adam a pharmacy founded in 1520. On our evening walk I took shots of the National theatre and the monument to those lost in the black plague.