Wednesday 26 July 2017

This morning we have a guided tour (with that 08:15 start) of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic.

We are only aboard the coach for a few minutes – it is taking us to Prague Castle and thereafter we are on foot for the rest of the tour, luckily it is nearly all downhill!

The castle is a huge complex and is recorded as  the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 750,000 square feet; hidden away deep inside are the Bohemian Crown Jewels.  The complex also remains the official residence of the Czech President, although not in the main palace areas.

We see the changing of the Guard (not very numerous to be honest) before moving on to the dominant building of the complex which is St Vitus Cathedral.  A brief word on St Vitus and his dance before we move on.  He lived in Sicily and died as a Christian martyr under Roman rule in 303AD aged 12 or 13.  He was tortured and as this did not shake his faith was placed among lions who would not touch him.  He was therefore placed in boiling oil and danced as he died (according to legend).  He was adopted as the patron saint of dancers and it became an established belief that to dance in front of his statue would give a year of good health to the dancer; this became a common belief in Germany in the sixteenth century.

We visit other parts of the castle including the Vladislav Hall leaving it by the Horse Staircase, which was of sufficient size to allow for ridden horses to enter and leave, presumably very carefully.

Outside of the main complex we visit the houses originally created as accommodation for archers, later becoming the residences of artists and writers, including Franz Kafka, the author.  The houses had easy access to the ramparts from where the original occupants could send arrows down on those attacking the castle.  The ramparts have a museum of military weapons.  The interiors of the houses have been refitted to show the typical usage by potters and seamstresses etc during the period of occupation by creative people.

Our party then commence the descent to the city itself.  You can enter the castle this way but you would be exhausted before you started a tour of the Castle (particularly if the arrows were raining down from above)!

The group reach the west side of Charles Bridge and we take a coffee break before we progress across the bridge itself, a very crowded place with many visitors.  As we progress the architecture is simply magnificent and the photos mentioned below try to capture the wonderful style which exists.

The guide then leads us into Staromestske Square which is the old town centre square and where traders would come from all directions to trade.  It is now encircled by cafes and restaurants for tourists, so the use may have changed but the visitors still come here in huge numbers, probably larger than the original use.  The astronomical clock is not working properly as it is undergoing further restoration but it is still chiming the hours in front of large crowds.  It dates back to 1410.

My photographs are here.

The guided tour ends and we thread through the Staromestske Square and then head down a quiet side street where we find a small place for lunch.  We order a platter of Italian meats and cheeses which turns out to be more than we can eat.  We also have some alcohol which seems to addle brains slightly as we are unable to follow the given instructions to find the trams!  However we do eventually find the tram stop for a route which stops upside our hotel.  Once back at the hotel it is time to have a rest and upload some photos.

In the evening we take the Metro (underground) back into town going as far as Mustek which allows for direct access into Wenceslas Square, which in contrast to the name is actually very oblong in shape and this is now the main modern shopping area.  We then head back towards Staromestske Square via a market and some more picturesque alleys for our booking at Café Mozart.  This destination had been identified and booked prior to our departure as having a jazz evening on the spare night we have in Prague and we enjoy a reasonable four course meal.  The singer/pianist was supported by an excellent saxophone player.  It was less jazz standards than popular music given a jazzy edge.  Slightly disappointing was the overall customer care before and particularly at the end of the meal – the lights go up and it is exceptionally clear that the guests should go and go now!