Praha (Prague): 11th September

I should warn you all, this will be a long post, simply because I think I took about 300 photos on this day.

We had an early start on our first day in Praha (in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m endeavouring to use the local names for places, ‘cause it seems silly to me that we have our own special ‘English’ names), which was a good thing, ‘cause it was hoooooot. Like 28, 29º (felt more like 35 really). We met our local guide, whose name sounds like ‘Shaka,’ but I’m almost positive that’s not how you spell it and she took us up to the castle, which is an interesting collection of buildings from different eras.

You can almost see by looking at that picture how hot it was. And it was only like 8.30am.

The main entrance to the castle is still guarded by two volunteer soldiers, decked out in uniforms designed by a dude with a flamboyant-sounding name (which, alas, I cannot remember), as one of the palaces inside the walls (that’s right – one of the palaces) is still the home of the Czech President.

The guards have one-hour-long shifts, and have to stay completely still for that time. Which means that they get the usual nonsense from tourists, jumping up and down and getting photos taken with them. Shaka told us that they had to put a little fence up around each guard post because some ladies kept trying to kiss them. Which grosses me out to the max. As did this:

That really sums it up. These poor dudes had possum-in-the-headlights expressions on their faces, probably very uncomfortable in the knowledge that they will forever be in a whole lot of tourists’ holiday snaps. From my tone you can probably figure out that I refrained from this parade of obnoxious voyeurism.

The main courtyard houses a well, a fountain and a cathedral, and the flag on the pole in the background on the roof meant that the President was in residence at the time.

The well was apparently once used for finding out if women were witches, but not in the usual if-she-drowns-she’s-innocent sort of a way. That is a box of fluffy bunnies compared to the way the Czech did it. Suffices to say that one is not supposed to touch the bars of the well, as the curses of hundreds of dying witches have made them too dangerous. My mother got this amazing picture of the well:

(And I think it was entirely by accident. Awesome).

We went through a little passage-way and then came out into another courtyard, and in unison, all of our jaws dropped.

St Vitus’ Cathedral, or Katedrála svatého Vita in Czech, which is truly spectacular, especially glinting in the morning sunlight.

Fantastically gothic, it was covered in gargoyles,

like Nôtre Dame, but better. At least I think so.

There was a neat wee statue of St George and the Dragon:

and a stunning mosaic:

The thing about this place was that every time you thought you’d seen the most beautiful thing to see, you’d turn a corner and see another.

The palace gates featured some weird and wonderful things, including giants wrestling:

and a thing which I think is a bird, but my mum thinks is a dragon:

We then came across the most astounding view:

complete with painter:

(Yes we are wearing nametags. Shuddup, we’re cool).

After the castle we headed into the Old Town, as things continued to get progressively more beautiful (and hotter).

We wandered over the Praha Bridge,

and down Pařížská třída, or Paris Avenue, which houses all the fancy schmancy fashion labels, which is so weird when you realise that the whole country was communist only 20 years ago.

From the beginning of Pařížská třída, you can see the Prague Metronome, which is actually a huge working metronome:

It was placed on the spot where there used to be a gigantic 50-foot-high statue of Stalin, which I found a picture of (thanks wikipedia) –

How typical is that? I mean really it is fairly arrogant to have a 50 foot statue of yourself erected right there where all the city could see it. Then again, Stalin wasn’t known for his modesty.

Anyway, the metronome was like a big ‘yeah you better run’ to the Soviets when Prague gained its independence.

What amazes me about Europe is that even shopping streets are beautiful:

We caught a glimpse of the Jewish Quarter, and found out that the whole thing is sunk a couple of metres into the ground (which meant that when the Vltava flooded, guess who suffered?) showing that one can in fact be architecturally anti-semitic.

Unfortunately the Old Town Square was covered in road works (as really everything seems to be at the moment. Except Auckland. For the first time in about five years. But BAHAHAHA I don’t have to care), but it was still absolutely gorgeous.

We went to a café just off the square and had some iced tea (well, it may have been iced once, but it was slightly-chilled-water-ed tea by the time we got it) and strudel while admiring the surroundings.

There was a church (a heads up – they’re EVERYWHERE)

with a very pretty clock

See that little skeleton on the right? That’s Death. He rings a bell on the hour, then a little dude with a trumpet sounds it from the top of the building to ward off death. It’s something like that, I wasn’t listening properly to Shaka at this point.

And we could see the town hall (or, as I say since spending some time in Germany, the Rathaus)

It was a nice place to have a sit

even though this photo was taken about 10 seconds before we were attacked by about five wasps. OK, attacked may be an exaggeration (did I mention there are wasps everywhere in Europe?)

After that, we headed back to the river for our lunch cruise thingy down the Vltava.

On the cruse we spotted the Charles Bridge:

The ‘Dance House’

some swans:

and generally breathtaking river views

plus this little castle which is cool (transaltion: I cannot for the life of me remember what it’s called)

After our cruise we headed back to the hotel to avoid the hottest part of the day and to pack for our departure to Budapest the next day.

We both completely fell in love with Prague, it’s absolutely beautiful, even while crawling with tourists like us. I hope I get to go back some day.

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