Czech Republic Day 13: Back to Prague
This was one of those days that I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do justice to in words. It was an unexpectedly fun and wonderfully weird day.
It began with Tang and hotdogs for breakfast. So...Hotel U Kata (Executioner) isn't know for its breakfast...ahem.
I took the train from Kutna Hora to Prague. It took some doing getting the train tickets as the attendant didn't understand what I was asking and I didn't understand her either. I'd written where, when, and on what date I wanted a train down on a paper, a technique that had thus far worked for me. Eventually, all was happily worked out and I was on the way back to Prague.
I was picked up at the train station by Mira, the owner of the apartment I rented for the remainder of my stay. He was super helpful and interesting. That he offers to pick up people renting his apartments is fantastic.
The apartment was located up six flights of stairs, which was daunting, but it had an amazing view across the roofs of the Old Town from the bedroom. And it was red. I love red. The apartment is located in a beautiful old building on Bethlehem Square. The House of the Golden Arrow. It is located across from the House of the Red Chair, home to Choco Cafe, which I would later discover makes the best hot chocolate on the planet. It's like mainlining the world's best dark chocolate. Amazing. The House of the Red Chair also, allegedly, may have housed the alchemist Edward Kelley at one time.
|The incredible staircase to the apartment.
For the first time I got to see Prague when it was sunny AND clear. I walked down Liliova Street, which dumped me onto Karlova Street and into the heart of the crowds streaming through the Old Town. This also placed me right right near the Old Town Gate Tower and Charles Bridge.
|Karlova Street looking relatively deserted, actually.
|Church of St. Salvatore.
I climbed the Old Town Bridge Tower. I watched the hoards of people wandering across Charles Bridge. According to legend, the first foundation stone of the new bridge was laid on the advice of Charles IV's astrologers on the palindromic date and time of 5:31 am July 9, 1357. This translates to 135797531. There are also legends that bulls blood was used in the construction and swords embedded in the foundations to make the bridge strong. As I stood there, watching all the people, I could the hear a jazz band adding its beat to the dance of tourists threading their way along the bridge. This drew me down to the bridge and thus began a strange and wonderful encounter with clashing musical styles.
|As you get near the top of the 138 steps in the Old Town Bridge Tower you are greeted by this horrible visage. I forgot what saint this was.
|Looking down toward the Church of St. Salvatore, the Klementium, the Church of St. Francis of Assissi, and the statue of Charles IV.
|The constant flow of people across Charles Bridge. Prague Castle and Mala Strana in the background.
|Renaissance ceiling in one of the rooms in the tower.
I wandered across the bridge. The jazz band was going to full strength, the percussionist making great use of whisks. Having dabbled in kitchen implement percussion myself, I appreciated his technique. Then on Kampa Island a group was playing medieval and baroque music. This I really enjoyed. I listened to them for a while, eating sausage and inhaling the burnt sugar marshmallow scent of trdlo baking over coals and the smoky scent of ham roasting over open fire. Eventually I wandered back across the bridge. I encountered a violinist playing Frank Sinatra standards and farther down the bridge the jazz band boomed away. By the Old Town Gate Tower Hare Krishnas were singing, drumming and dancing. I followed them, not on purpose but because we were going the same direction, to Old Town Square, where I found a young man at a keyboard in the center of the square singing whiny boy emo music. And, if that wasn't enough, there was a woman swallowing a balloon and then she followed that rather large appetizer with full meal of fire. And on the other side of a square someone played guitar manically with a belly dancer as accompaniment. I finally watched the famous astronomical clock do its thing with Death ringing the bell and the saints going around in the circle and the rooster crowing. It was interesting but not half as interesting as the four girls who, on a whim, cartwheeled by in procession right in front of the clock as it was completing its little show. This is why I love Prague right down to the nucleic acid in my DNA.
I had booked a "witch" tour of Prague. I was expecting stories of witches or at least legends about magic and other esoteric things. The guide wasn't the person who normally conducts the tour. We got legends but not so many stories about witchcraft in the Czech Republic as I was hoping. She was a fabulously interesting human being though. A dabbler in witchcraft, a tour guide, and an organizer of bar crawls and stag parties for visiting bachelors. She was wearing hot pants. It was kind of amazing. The first stop on the tour was the former Executioner's house that is now a bar (U Kata), which is on the backside of the Old Town Hall. I went from Hotel Executioner to the Bar Executioner, all in one day! We also saw the Powder Gate and the House of the Black Madonna (considered a fine example of Cubist architecture but, upon seeing it, I now know why Cubist architecture didn't take off in popularity). We talked of esoteric things and various spiritual philosophies both light and dark. There were drinks in a bar with the tour group and there might have been a ritual performed outside a church where a cemetery would have been centuries ago. But that might have been a dream or an apparition of deeds done in the far past. There was a candle burning in a pentacle...perhaps. This place is so full of stories.
After the tour, I was filled with a strange energy. I love Prague at night. In the dark, it sparkles like a jewel. I let my camera lead me, looking for interesting sites in the dark in need of capture. I climbed the clock tower of the Old Town Hall. I admired the city sparkling below me, around me, a sea of stars brought down to earth, captured by buildings from folklore and fairytales.
|On Charles Bridge. Foot traffic never seems to stop.
|You see these kneeling penitents often.
|Looking northeast across the Vltava
|On Kampa Island.
|On Kampa Island. The roast pork is sold by weight. Be cautious when ordering or you'll get the biggest plate of roast pork you've ever seen.
|Charles Bridge from Kampa
|A very young fan of Medieval and Baroque music. She was entranced. Click the video below to listen.
|The Frank Sinatra Violinist
|Man returning from gathering mushrooms. This is the season for it in the Czech Republic.
|Charles Bridge Jazz Band
|Charles Bridge Jazz Band
|Charles Bridge Jazz Band. If you can't bake/cook you can become a percussionist.
|Yes, she's swallowing a balloon...
|Balloons give one indigestion, apparently.
|The Prague Meridian. Used from 1652 to tell when noon was.
|Belly Dancer with Old Town Hall in the distance.
|Prague is known for its puppets/marionettes. I'm afraid of them. I used to run screaming from the room when the puppets on Mr. Rogers appeared. I hate them. They were the scariest thing I saw during my trip.
|The art nouveau facade of the Municipal House. You'll learn more about this place in the next post.
|The beautifully gothic Powder Tower. One of the original 13 gates to the city. Dates to the 11th century.
|The Powder Gate is attached to the Municipal house through the relatively "modern" gate between them.
|The Powder Gate.
|The Powder Gate.
|Flute player with two dogs.
|The House of the Black Madonna. Example of Cubist architecture. It was build to be a department store. Built around 1911 and 1912. The statue that gives the building its name is on the upper right corner.
|Gratuitous horse shot. I like horses.
|The Astronomical Clock doing its thing. There is a legend that the city officials had the clockmaker blinded so that he could never create another such amazing device. He allegedly got them back by throwing himself in the clock's mechanism and killing himself and making the clock inoperable for nearly 100 years.
|Old Town Square from the Old Town Hall Tower.
|Tyn Church from the Old Town Hall Tower.