The Day We Spent in the Golden City

Trip Start Jul 17, 2010
Trip End Aug 07, 2010

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

From Cari: Today we took a self-guided tour of Old Town in Prague following the coronation route of the old Bohemian kings.

First, we saw the Powder Tower and the Municipal House. The Tower was where the gun powder used to be stored and the Municipal House (according to my guide book) was built as a symbol of Czech nationalism during a time when Germans and Czechs were struggling for cultural supremacy.

From Greg: I really wonder what the government at the time told the people they were building it for. I struggle to believe that they would build a multi-million dollar building just for the purpose of showing up the Germans. Now, it is an outdoor strip mall. I wonder what it was meant for then.

From Cari: Next, we saw the Estates Theatre, which saw the world premiere of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni in 1787. There was a creepy cloaked statute in front of the Theatre commemorating the premiere.

Third, we came to Old Town Square, which was bustling with people. In front of us was the Old Town Hall with the astronomical clock on its side. To our right was the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn We made it to the Square just in time to watch the Astronomical Clock chime on the top of the hour. We were off to the side so we couldn’t see all of the action, but it gave us the perfect opportunity to beat the line to buy tickets to climb the tower of the Old Town Hall. 

From Greg: We saw some sites and a castle. Funny story though; so, there are a number of towers in the area. I’m sure that at some point in history someone believed that the structures served some real purpose, however, now the purpose that the towers serve is to slowly sap tourists of their Euros. Which I suppose is a worthwhile goal in itself… but that’s not the point. The point is that Cari and I climbed to the top of one of these towers. Upon entering the tower we first took an elevator up three stories where we were greeted by an individual that wanted paid. We obliged. Following that we entered a chamber that contained a spiral ramp that wound upwards and out of sight. We began to climb with Cari as our fearless leader. Days later we reached the top only to be greeted by a tightly winding spiral staircase that hung out over the pit-of-doom that we had so carefully been navigating for the previous 72 hours. Cari made it a quarter turn on the spiral staircase before she was hyperventilating like a fish on the chopping block.

From Cari: We bought our tickets and headed through the glass double doors which led to a lift which took us to the base of a winding ramp that led to the tower. The ramp kept going and going and going until we reached a spiral iron staircase that led from the top of the ramp straight up into the tower. It was about this time that I started to panic because of the height. The staircase actually extended out of the edge of the ramp, and you could see straight through each stair. Despite my panicking, I made it to the top and was able to go and take some great pictures (although I made sure to stay glued to the inside wall of the outside walkway.)

Next, a walk down Karlova Street led us past Franz Kafka’s old house, the "House at the Minute." We also found house number 4 which was once the residence of Johannes Kepler, who finally figured out that the sun lies at the center of the solar system. 

Passing all of the tourist shops and restaurants eventually led us to the Charles Bridge. The Charles Bridge is, arguably, the most recognizable sight in Prague. It is lined with giant statutes, although not very many of them are originals. The statutes are all of religious imagery, the work of the Hapsburgs when they conquered Prague and attempted to re-Catholicize it. The statute of St. John of Nepomuk supposedly brings good luck if you touch it, as he was allegedly tossed from the bridge and drowned. I wanted some good luck, so I touched it (making sure to sanitize my hands thoroughly after)

From Greg: I touched a lucky foot. I think my foot is lucky, and I will begin selling touches for one euro. 

From Cari: Critics regard the statute of St. Luitgarde as the most valuable. 

From Greg: Who gave the critics that authority? And how do I get them to bless my foot?

From Cari: We walked through Lower Towne Square and passed St. Nicholas Church (there was a wedding going on, it seemed). Greg tried to pay sixty euros for a bottle of water before the guy stopped him. (From Greg: In my defense, it all looks like monopoly money…especially the Czech Crowns.) A steep climb up Nerudova led to Prague Castle. Along this road, there were many houses, such as the “House of the Three Violins” or the “House of the Red Lamb.” After we realized that the names were just the decoration on the front of the house, Greg and I started giving them names. 

Prague Castle complex was immense, stretching far above the river. Outside the complex, there were guards in guard houses like the guards outside the Buckingham Palace in London. One of the guards was doing a great job standing still, but the guard on the left must have been new because he was swaying and moving all over the place. 

We went through the gates to entertain getting tickets to see the inside of the Palace. The line to get into the inside of the Royal Palace and St. Vitus Cathedral was really long, and we elected to wander around the Castle grounds instead as there was still plenty to look at outside.

By the time we were done looking around, it was nearly 1PM and way past lunchtime. We wandered through the streets of the Lower Town and eventually made our way back across the Charles Bridge. On Karlova, we found an authentic Czech Pizza and Pasta place. (I’m not even kidding; that’s what the sign advertised.) It was decent enough and made us much less hungry. 

From Greg: But they ran out of salami! What kind of pizza place doesn’t have pepperoni? Authentic…..phhh.

From Cari: After lunch, we were both worse for wear, and, therefore, some relaxation was in order. Greg and I headed back to the hotel for some reading/writing/Internet. The internet connection sucked, but it was free. 

After relaxing for a bit, we went to exchange more money, walk past the train station which turned out to be only three blocks up from our hotel, and went souvenir shopping. Nobody had pins anywhere, but I finally found one that would do for my collection. Greg found a Pilsner Urqell glass and bottle of water (the glass cost less than the water).  

From Greg: :( 

From Cari: We were by the Astronomical Clock again, this time in plenty of time (two or three minutes beforehand) to position ourselves in a better spot to see. It wasn’t all that special, but it was neat to see up close. A trumpet player in the Tower played a little ditty every time the clock chimed and would then wave to the people below (the people working along the coronation route were all wearing some really ridiculous Medieval Times-esque outfits). .

A bit about the Astronomical Clock: The clock is meant to mark the phase of the moon, the seasons, and the Christian holidays. At the top of the hour, the two doors slide open and the twelve (or thirteen if you are the guy in front of us explaining it to his friend) apostles glide past, while the 15th century symbols of evil (death, vanity, corruption, and greed) shake below. 

After the show finished, we walked EVERYWHERE to find a Budweiser beer (apparently the Czechs make a Budweiser lager, too). We finally found a bar that served it. It seems that bars in Prague serve only one kind of beer on tap, and you can tell by the umbrellas they have on their patios which beer they serve. He said the Urquell was better. I had a Strawberry smoothie. 

From Greg: I late found out that American Budweiser cannot be sold in the Czech Republic because of trademark infringement. Hahah. Screw you, In Bev. 

From Cari: We made our way back to the National Theatre and across the bridge for dinner on the river. It was close to where we paddled the night before. In fact, both of us remembered seeing the restaurant and thinking it looked tacky. It wasn’t. We both enjoyed the Czech wine (after it aerated), the balsamic vinegar that they had imported from Italy, and the atmosphere. It was very longue. We sat in wicker chairs but it was still white table cloth (but cost about as much as Applebee’s). 

After dinner, we ate ice cream in the main tourist area while making our way back to the hotel for the night.

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