Prague Castle

Trip Start Sep 09, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009 - Prague

Today we have grand plans. We are going to tour the castle and then get to the train station to purchase our tickets to Vienna. 

We actually manage to get up at a decent hour.  I have some coffee and Judy has her diet coke.  We head out of the room and stop by the front desk to ask directions to the castle.  We are told it is only mile and to go to the square and then take the street on the left, but don't go down the hill.  Great, we have choices to make. So guess what, we got lost. 

We made a left turn, down a hill.  We saw a beautiful church - Laterno and took pictures.  We then wondered where the entrance to the castle was.  We wandered left, we wandered right.  No grand entrance or even an entrance at all.  We decided to go further left and approached some people coming up from the direction we were going.  I asked them if they were coming from the castle.  They said no, they were trying to find it.  Well, that at least saved us from walking all the way down and then back up the hill.  So, we all turned and headed back to the square, passing Laterno again.  

Now we were at a crossroads again, and no response to my Dumber than dirt look!  Oh my gosh, had I lost my touch?  Well, not really, there wasn't anyone there.  We were distracted by a Bankomat and got some money out. 

As we strolled in the direction away from our hotel, we realized we were on the correct street this time.  Once again, we were presented with cute sidewalk cafes and quaint buildings.  We saw a military transport stop and a bunch of military fellows get out and go through a big door into a building.  Of course, once they were inside I went and stood on tippy toes to look through a window inside.  Just as I was doing so a man in uniform opened the door and scared me silly.  He laughed at me, can you imagine!  Soon a whole bunch of military guys dressed in formal uniforms came streaming out of the door and started marching in the direction we were headed.  We then realized they must be going to the castle for the changing of the guards.  We decided they would make good tour guides, so we fell in behind them and ended up right where we wanted to be - at the castle gates!

The courtyard of the palace was filled with people waiting to great us - or maybe the guards, but we had become part of the procession.  Had they heard Queen Dianne was on tour?  We watched quite an elaborate ceremony accompanied by a band with each member standing in a window around the courtyard. 

When it was finished, the crowd scattered, with most going to buy tickets for the castle attractions. We stood in line and got our along with an audio guide. .

We toured St Vitas which I believe is the only large cathedral completely surrounded by castle walls.  It is every bit as large as other cathedrals we have seen - Very gothic in nature and quite grand. There are stained glass windows everywhere and lots of crypts.  One was pure silver and weighed 2 tons.  There was a lot to see and listening to the audio guide provided lots of information and made it take quite a bit of time. The cathedral alone took more than one hour.  A choral group on a tour of the cathedral provided visitors with a lovely impromptu performance. The building had amazing acoustics.  They could be heard in every corner of the huge cathedral.

We next went to the old palace residence.  Old meaning probably from the 14th or 15th century.  Older than me even! We saw the grand hall in which medieval knights participated in jousting tournaments. We sometimes think that our era is the originator of many things, such as indoor sporting events, but here is an example of an indoor event from 500 years ago. 

 We went outside on balconies and were witness to fantastic view. We climbed up into a tower infamous for a type of execution peculiar to the area in medieval days.  People who had fallen out of favor of the current king also fell out of a window at the top of the tower.  It was called hurling. When I looked out the window I had a similar feeling.

Back down the tower's spiral staircase we exited through the equestrian stairs - made especially for the knights on horseback to get into the grand hall. 

We found ourselves in the courtyard again, and went on to our next stop which was St. Gabriel's cathedral. This one if much older, and looked very medieval, sort of like from the days of the knights Templar. It didn't look like arches had yet been perfected, for the ceiling was simply flat with long beams running the narrow width of the church.  It was very tall but narrow.

We went to the front and down to the crypt - icky - and climbed back up. We exited through a passageway out into the courtyard and were on to our next stop, the Golden Street.

Golden Street is a row of small houses within the castle wall, built in the 1500's.  These were home to craftsmen who did not want to join the goldsmith guilds in the city and the king let them live and work here.  I guess they were some of the first union dissidents!

By the time we finished the tour we had at least a kilometer or more - maybe 10 - to walk back to our hotel and it had been 5 hours since we entered through the castle gate.  We decided to get train tickets tomorrow and head back to our hotel.  We grabbed something from our usual cafe.  We stopped to have something to drink on the outdoor hotel terrace to end the day.  It was a beautiful evening and a wonderful way to end the day. 

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