Czech Republic: Prague Castle and Churches

Travel Date : 13th and 14th July 2013

Location: Prague, Czech Republic

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Prague Castle 

We waited for Tram Number 22 at the tram stop at Malostranské náměstí, which would bring us up to Prague Castle. Dar felt excited after we told him we would be boarding a tram and going up a hill!

Luckily for him, he did not have to contain his excitement for long, as the tram arrived at the stop very soon after. Using the 24-hour transport pass (for tourists only) which we had bought earlier at the I. P. Pavlova Metro station, we boarded the tram.

It was a fun and scenic ride uphill towards the castle, with the tram going along curved tracks and gaining altitude. Soon, we arrived at the Pražský Hrad stop.

From here, it was a short walk towards the 2nd Courtyard of Prague Castle. Along the way, we walked along a wide stretch of road with nice buildings on both sides. The place was quieter than we had thought though. Few tourists were around even though it was a Saturday.

As we walked on, we noticed an open gate on our left. Most people walking by would probably missed it and continued on with their journey. Luckily for us, our curious and adventurous sides took control at that moment and we walked through the gate.

And wow!, what a great decision that was, and we were momentarily stunned by what was revealed ahead of us — the glorious and magnificent St.Vitus Cathedral!

#PhotoSpot

We stood there admiring the building as the sun rays shone onto her. After our eyes were satisfied with the feast, we took out our trusty Gorillapod to take a nice family self-portrait. Since this location was quite secluded, we didn’t have much problem getting ourselves a nice photo without any ‘walking backgrounds’. ^^

Satisfied with our good find and our happy moods raised, we left the compound and continued our journey towards the 2nd Courtyard. As we were nearing the sentry posts on the other side of a bridge, we saw the guards marching off into the courtyard with their commander. This made us curious and we decided to follow them, expecting to witness a nice change parade .

Our covert mission did not last long though, as the guards marched off at a very fast pace and we soon lost track of them. ^^|

Well, that didn’t bother us though, as we were quickly captivated by the beautiful buildings and structures all around us!

Very soon, we realised that none of these buildings was comparable to the real highlight of the place — St.Vitus Cathedral, when we finally got up-close to it!

St. Vitus Cathedral

Photo Tip: The photographer has to squat down in front of the subject to take the almost full view (still couldn’t fit in all)

It looked so much taller and magnificent than what we saw a distance away earlier! We stood there in awe (with our mouths wide open? ^^) and staring at this miraculous feat which the architects of this church had achieved!

Unfortunately, the church was already closed so we were unable to see its interior. Of course, we didn’t want our trip to be wasted and had a good tour of the exterior of the building by walking one round around it, constantly awed by more of its structural magnificence!




Old Town Square 

On our second morning in Prague, we made our way to the Old Town Square. Despite the large crowd and some interesting street performers, two structures stood out among all easily — the Astronomical Clock and the Church of our Lady before Týn.

Astronomical Clock

As we walked past the famous and ancient Astronomical Clock, added to the 15th century’s Old Town Hall Tower in 1865, we couldn’t help but notice a huge stationary crowd standing in front of it, each having their cameras ready in their palms.

At the start of every hour, the procession of the Twelve Apostles would be acted out atop the clock, where a small trap door opens and Christ march out ahead of his disciples. On the sides of the clock, a skeleton of death would be ringing a bell, a Turk shaking his head, a miser with a purse full of money, and Vanity looking in a mirror. The whole performance would end with the crowing of a golden rooster and the ringing of the huge bell at the top of the tower. So that’s what everybody was waiting for!

Indeed, at the strike of the hour, the procession began and we watched as the figurines moved about just above the clock. However, as we were standing too close to the clock and with the sun rays glaring down at us (we didn’t have sunglasses), we couldn’t quite see the ongoing procession clearly. Thus, our interests dwindled after a while and we decided to leave and head towards the Church of our Lady before Týn instead.

Church of Our Lady before Týn

As we were making our way towards the church, we went past the Market Place, a bazaar buzzing with activities.

Although we came across some souvenir stalls earlier at Wenceslas Square, a wider selection of wares were available here and there were more stalls competing against each other (means consumers have more bargaining powers? ^^|).

The souvenirs sold in Prague were generally well-made and have an artistic touch to them, making them very desirable to us, so much so that we had a hard time deciding what were the souvenirs we could buy and bring home (constrained by budget and luggage space). Most of the souvenirs were so unique (as in, you can’t find similar types in other countries) and exquisite that we wished we could buy them all!

Finally, having selected and bought a handful of nice souvenirs, we moved on to our destination.

The Church of Our Lady before Týn is a dominant feature of the Old Town of Prague, and has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church’s towers are 80m high and topped by two spires, easily standing out from the rest of the surrounding historic buildings. Interestingly, upon closer observation, the two spires are not symmetrical as they represent the masculine and feminine sides of the world, a characteristic of Gothic architecture of that period.

As we stepped into the church, we were mesmerized by its extensive gallery of Gothic, Renaissance and early Baroque works of art. Photo-taking is disallowed inside, so our eyes were the best witnesses to the beauty of this sacred place.

For the first time coming to Europe, we felt a sense of familiarity with the statues of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus and Jesus on a cross. They were at the altar and sides of the church surrounding us. Finally, this church seemed more similar to what we are used to back home and we felt more comfortable praying here for a safe journey as we continued our travels.

As we were making our way towards the exit, we could also see the Týn Church organ pitched high up above the exit, the oldest of its kind in Prague.

At the entrance, we made a voluntary small offering to purchase a postcard of the church. It’s a good keepsake since we couldn’t photograph.

We returned to our hotel stay soon after a metro ride and checked out of the hotel. It was a rush to drive back to Germany for Würzburg and Rothenburg.

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