23 February, 2017

Praha part II - Old town & Vyšehrad

New day, new adventures ahead: after fighting the instinct to remain in bed for a little longer, it was time for a quick breakfast and off we go into a rather cold autumn morning. To get familiar with the city, we decided to just stroll around a little bit according to my schematic plan. 
Because I actually managed to make a list of what I want to see, and even scheduled the attractions on a daily basis considering their vicinity and opening hours. But as always, you skip one thing and spend a little longer in another, and on the way find something you didn't even plan to see... However, looking back I think we've seen quite a bit of the city and certainly more than any tourist agency would show us in that amount of time. 
Past interesting sights and historic buildings...
We made our way to Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměsti), one of the main city squares. Surrounded by wonderful facades and overlooked by a huge statue of Bohemia's patron saint, it has always been a popular place for public gatherings. On an early October morning however, it was as quiet as city squares are before  the daily busines starts.
Soon, we moved on to the old city center, namely the area around the Municipal House (Obecní dům) and Powder Tower (Prašná brána). While the first is an outstanding piece of Art Noveau architecture, the latter one is actually one of the 13 city gates but has its name after being used as a gunpowder storage in the 17th century. After some puffing and coughing while climbing the stars to the top, it offered a great aerial impression of where we actually are.
And suddenly, it becomes clear why Prague is called the "city of the hundred spires"...
A little further, the next huge square awaited us: the historic Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměsti) with a huge Jan Hus monument as its centerpiece. 
Again, the square is lined by historic buildings: if you can find the entrance (hint: straight through the arcades of Kinský Palace), you might want to have a look at the Church of Our Lady before Týn (Chrám Matky Boží před Týnem) with its rich interior. If you're cold and need a place to warm up (or just have a little bit of time to kill), the art museum at Kinský Palace might have an interesting exhibition on display. In our case, it turned out to be a great show of Asian Art. And no worries - the entrance is included in your Prague Card ;)
Probably the most tourist-ish sight however lies just across the square: Prague's Old Town Hall (Staroměstská radnice) with its famous Astronomical clock (Pražský orloj). Being installed in 1410, it's the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating. 
From the astronomical dial which represents the position of sun and moon as well as other astronomical details, to a calendar dial and a clockwork, one can get lost in the numerous details on display. The figures surrounding it come to life every hour, in addition to a presentation of the Apostles.
Since we just missed the show, we decided to have a look at the inside first. 
In spite of the misleading sight of crowds in front of the door under the clockwork, it is the red house a few steps away that hides the entrance to the tower...
... And probably the coolest elevator I've ever seen.
Despite my expectation of crowds of tourists on the viewing platform, it wasn't half that bad and we could easily enjoy a 360° view of the city. 
People gathering in front of the astronomical clock for the hourly animation
View towards Vyšehrad
Prague Castle
Giant babies taking over the Žižkov television tower
Needless to say, lots of tourists means lots of things to buy everywhere. 
Off to the other side of the Vltava
After some more walking and lots more stairs, we would reach the part of Letná Park that is dominated by a huge metronome and popular among skaters. 
Towards the city however, it becomes greener and offers views of Prague, its river and bridges.
Hi there :)
Back on the riverside, what looked seagull-like white spots from the distance turned out to be a huge colony of swans. 
To the amusement of tourists, they are not in the least shy and if it wasn't for mom I'd probably settle down there until dusk.
Swan lake
Past yellow penguins, giant babies and loads of locks...
... Towards what is alledgedly Prague's narrowest street. Obviously, you need to wait for the green light to walk it in order to make sure you don't get stuck trying to pass another person.
Since we still had part of the day to use, we decided to visit Prague's old castle Vyšehrad. Perfectly accessible by tram, metro and even ferry boat, it resides high above the Vltava river. Of course, that means climbing stairs again, but a little excercise is never bad for you ;)
Built in the 10th century and later rebuilt into a major fort, the main attractions on site nowadays are the gothic basilica of St. Peter and Paul...
... And the cemetrety that is the resting place of numerous famous Czech personalities. 
The nation's most notable citizens are interred in the Slavín tomb in the back of the impressive church.
Above all however, Vyšehrad is a lovely green oasis with almost no tourists at all, while it offers the same stunning views of Prague as any of the inner city attraction. Unfortunately, as the sun was setting we didn't have the chance to explore the huge park and its treasures, but it sure is on my "when I come back one day" list.
Once you've had your share of sunshine, or if you just prefer it a little darker and older, you can have a look at the casemate located underneath the huge walls. It takes a *little* time to find the entrance, but once you make it through the narrow underground passage, you'll get to see the original statues that were once placed on Charles bridge
(However, the place seems to have two exits and if you see a group, you might want to add yoursself to it even though you are visiting alone. You don't need to join, just make sure to follow. We thought they'd catch up on us where we came in, only to find out we were locked. Obviously, the guide decided to have a second look, or was sent back by the lady at the counter, but I sure had my pitch of adrenalin for the day.)
Outside again, I managed to find a giant mushroom :)
And as if it wanted to make up for the grey day, the evening sky turned blue and gold.
Time to head home, or rather: into the maw of the metro. 
Matching the autumn-ish colours outside: one of Prague's metro stations. Only after a couple of days of staring at the golden vaultings on the wall, thinking and trying to remember what they remind me of, I suddenly realized: Toffifee
And what's on the menue tomorrow?

~ to be continued ~

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