Thursday, June 11, 2009

Prague (and pictures galore)

Let's forget that about two seconds after we crossed the border into the Czech Republic we got stopped by the "police" (to this day I am convinced they were paramedics), who told us we didn't have the proper decal in our window to be driving on Czech highways (which is true). So, Mom went into the gas station we were stopped for lunch and bought one. That wasn't good enough, however, so they sweeped us clean of Euros, after first threatening to impound our rental car.


For about 6 hours after that, I was pretty much convinced that everyone we met in the country would try to cheat us, and I was convinced I would never go back to the horribly corrupt place--ever.

Well, it's still not likely that I'll go back any time soon unless I'm with someone who speaks Czech, or unless I go by train. That whole encounter with the "cops" turned me off of driving in the CR forever.

So, annoying parts aside... Prague is spectacular! There is quite a bit of communist-era architecture (a.k.a. boring and run-down buildings), but there are also a lot of colorful and beautiful buildings--especially around the older parts of town where all of the tourist sites are.

I'm not going to caption all of the pictures, because there are just too many (over 80). So I'll group them together by topic or place and just let you look. If I feel the need to comment on a certain picture, I will. But really, mostly the captions would read, "I thought this was pretty, don't you?"

Sound good?

These were all taken in the main square, where they were having an Easter Market and festival.

They had a little guest book that people could sign and write comments about their visit to the city and the festival.

The famous clock.

This sculpture was in front of the Opera. I love it, and I especially liked the way the sunset glowed through, highlighting all of the letters and characters.

Prague Castle, just before the sun disappeared completely.

More Art Nouveau (there's also another great art Nouveau building in Prague that you'll see below).

The Charles Bridge was being worked on...

Views from the bridge...

The building below was the home of some noble or royal family, and was across the plaza from the Archbishop's residence, just outside the palace complex.

Above is the Archbishop's residence.

There is an Eiffel Tower replica (1/5 the regular size) just over this hill. Not worth the trip around the hill, but kind of funny anyway.

Musicians outside the palace gates. They were very talented.
I love the mustache.

The cathedral in the castle complex.

I thought the stained glass in this cathedral was really interesting. For example, contrasting the above picture and this one just below... it looks like the one below is machine-made. I really like it, regardless, but the style is just so different it made me wonder. I really liked the stained glass in this cathedral in general, because there were a lot of really bright colors. More than what I had seen almost anywhere except maybe Sainte-Chappelle

The national saint, Saint John of Nepomuk's tomb is housed in the cathedral in the castle complex. It is made up of several tons of silver, apparently.

This entrance to the cathedral has a mosaic representing the resurrection and last judgement.

Into the Museum of Arms and Armor!

I love this He-Man style armor...

And this ensemble is kind of creepy to me, actually. "Watch it, or I'll gauge your eyes out with my steel beak."

After the Arms and Armor museum (it was tiny, so didn't take too long), we saw the tower housing the torture instruments. My stomach churns just looking at them.
A Spanish Boot.

The Rack.
(I was going to link to descriptions of these two devices on Wikipedia, but if you want to know more, look them up yourself. The Spanish Boot description almost made me throw up.)

Lovely Amy, sitting for a minute as we walked through the gardens just below the castle wall.

I would live there. In that actual house. Wouldn't you? (If you look closely, you can see a nice table and chairs next to the little pond. Hmm. I would eat lunch outside every day if I had a yard like that).

Okay, I don't know which church this was, but it has to be one of my least favorite churches ever. It's way too ornate for my taste, and there is too much mauve faux-marble (really, if you're going to paint the columns and archways to look like marble, did you have to pick mauve?)

However, unlike some people, my lack of appreciation didn't actually lead me to vandalism...

Back in the square at the Easter Market, there was a man weaving on a loom. It was fascinating to watch. I bought two bags from him. (Hooray for handmade!)

There was also a blacksmith making door bells. (Actual bells... very cool.)
You could also buy half of a pig to eat for dinner.
Okay, not really. They took those off the spit and divided them into smaller chunks.
We passed on the chunk o' pig and went for sausage made from pig instead.
They also sold really yummy mini-churro-like treats in bags like French Fries. They were great, as well. Carnival food... it may vary depending on where you are, but it's never healthy.
Just off the square is the famous astrological clock. It's really beautiful, and we watched it "perform" a couple of times. Still pictures don't to it justice, though, so I'll have to see if someone in the fam has some video footage.

Wenceslas Square (FULL of history and great architecture)

There is another area of the city where you can see several different styles of architecture right next to each other at an intersection. I loved seeing the varying styles right next to and across from each other.

I don't know why, but I LOVE the building pictured just above. I think I really like the strong geometric forms and the simplicity. But, that being said, I also really love the Art Nouveau building above as well (the stained glass and metal work, at least).
The Jewish Cemetery was amazing--there were so many people to be buried generation after generation that they kept bringing in more earth and sort of created "layers" of the cemetery, always moving the gravestones up to the top layer, of course. So it looks incredibly crowded. Which it is. But it's also very peaceful and solemn.

I had seen small pebbles left on all of the Holocaust memorials in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, and didn't understand it. Our guidebook explained a little, but I don't trust myself to explain it correctly, so here are a couple of brief explanations of the practice of leaving small pebbles on the headstones.

The cemetery is the only place in all of the Jewish sites where photography was allowed. So I don't have pictures of anything else, but here is what I will say:
The church right by the cemetery where all of the exported Jews' names are painted on the walls, the cemetery itself, and the Spanish Synagogue were the most interesting parts of the Jewish Quarter, in my opinion. There was so much information and so many items to see in the other locations that I just sort of skimmed over them (being a bit museum-ed out at this point in our vacation). If you have the time and want to learn more about Jewish culture and religion, these museums and synagogues would all be a great resource.

Another church. Don't remember which one.

Prauge Castle in the early evening.

So, that's it for Prague. I hope the pictures helped you get a glimpse of the city. It really is very beautiful, easy to get around, and everyone we met (our pseudo-policemen aside) was very nice. Speaking Czech would still help, though. :)


Diane said...

LOVE PRAGUE! I would go back in a minute, but I guess only by train. I am not against driving, especially since we now know about the special sticker we needed.

Roxanne said...

Wonderful pictures. Doug's mother's family is from that part of the world. It looks fabulous.