We started our day at the train station booking our reservations for the next legs of our journey. From there we headed back to Old Town with the intent of exploring The Jewish Quarter. However, once we got there we got caught up in watching the Astronomical Clock again (still can’t tell the time) and having some lunch. For whatever reason, we headed away from The Jewish Quarter and ended up crossing the Charles Bridge. This historical bridge was built under Charles IV in the early 15th century. It served as the only bridge across the River Vltava until 1841 so was the most important route through Old Town to the Prague Castle. This beautiful old bridge is lined with statues – mostly of religious nature – and most of which are copies of the originals. We wandered along this bridge enjoying the different buskers, artists and vendors, each hawking their wares. Before reaching the end of the bridge, we followed a number of people down a set of steps, down the street and around the corner to the Lennon Wall. After his murder on the 8th of December 1980, John Lennon became a pacifist hero for many young Czechs. An image of Lennon was painted on a wall in this secluded square opposite the French embassy, along with political graffiti and occasionally Beatles lyrics. Though it has been whitewashed many times, graffiti is always replaced, originally by Prague youth determined to undermine communism, and after 1989 by tourists, determined to continue the tradition. The wall is no longer whitewashed and stands as a testament to free speech and pacifism.
Because we were now on the other side of the river, we decided that we might as well continue walking up to the Prague Castle. The climb was easy enough and at the top, we took in the magnificent views of the city and decided that we would by tickets for the castle and the grounds. The complex dates back to the 9th century and is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. In the past, the castle has been the seat of power for kings of Bohemia and Holy Roman emperors. The most significant structure within the complex is St. Vitus Cathedral. Though construction on the cathedral began in 1344, it was not completed until almost 600 years later in 1929. The church is large and of course beautiful, featuring not one but two pipe organs and the Chapel of St. Wenceslas, which contains relics of the said saint.
The castle complex also contains the Basilica of St. George, much smaller and less ornate than St. Vitus. It is the oldest surviving church building within Prague Castle, founded by Vratislaus I of Bohemia in 920. The basilica was substantially enlarged in 973 with the addition of the Benedictine St. George’s Abbey.
Also within the complex is the Old Royal Palace which houses a copy of the crown jewels, the Vladislav Hall (which is still used for inaugurations), the Observation Tower and the Rider Stairs – my favorite, as these stairs were built so that the knights could ride their horses into the castle.
The final tour on our ticket took us along the Golden Lane. Though originally it looked like a street full of vendors, it actually contained a few old buildings that housed medieval armour, a torture chamber and other tidbits relating to war, espionage and defense.
The Lane exited us at the outside wall of the Castle so we decided that it must mean it was time to head back home. We had been on our feet for about five hours so we were ready to head back down the hill. Though our plan was to either take a tram home or at least stop for a drink on the way back, we actually ended up walking all the way home with no drink stop. Our host had pointed out a couple of local watering holes on our first night in Prague so after a quick bathroom stop at the apartment, we headed across the street for a much needed drink. A cozy little bar, fairly busy with an after work crowd and even a dog.
Speaking of dogs, since we have been in Europe, we have seen many dogs. Some large, some small, most on leash, some with muzzles but shops, bars and restaurants seem to have no problem allowing them all in. This is always uplifting after a particularly long day and I try to pet as many as I can.
We have two more days in Prague so with any luck, we will make it back to the Jewish Quarter to experience yet another aspect of Czech life and history.
The old square by the Astronomical Clock. Again, so much for slow tourist season.
The Charles Bridge.
Lennon Wall….. Imagine.
The torture chamber, Prague Castle and some views from the top.