Today was our big touristy day in Prague, seeing all the obvious sites. We started with a run along the river – it was cold and we had to run down (and then up) some seriously steep streets, but good to stretch the legs. I showed Rhonda her first view of Prague Castle.
We did the obvious tourist trail from Wencesles Square (historic, sure (it was the venue for the 1968 protests and for various proclamations about the country’s status – independent, Communist, free again) but not terribly interesting). We head through the old town to Charles Square and stop to watch the Astrological Clock strike (along with a thousand other tourists). I’m so busy filming it that I don’t actually see the best bits until I watch the video later.
Oh God. I’ve become one of those people.
We walk across the Charles Bridge (still impressive, but still very crowded even at this time of year) and up the hill to the Castle. It’s just how I remember it from my trip here 15 years ago (!) with my brother Drake. It’s huge, with lots of impressive buildings and courtyards and lots to see. I’m glad to see that St Vitus’ Cathedral is just as impressive as I remember. It was probably the first major European cathedral I ever saw, and I wondered if that had caused me to overestimate its beauty. It hadn’t. It really is profoundly beautiful, with its mix of gothic exterior and Renaissance interior, combined with 20th century stained glass (the most impressive feature).
We tour the castle itself and see the tower famous for being the scene of the Second Defenestration of Prague (in which a couple of nobles who sympathised with the Hapsburg Emperors were thrown out of the window by Protestant rebels, thus starting the 30 Year War (somehow, I’m not quite sure of the causal link, but that’s what they say). The castle tour also spends a lot of time (maybe even too much time) talking about the Land Books, essentially recordkeeping. Although I’m pleased to see that the title of one of the highest officials is translated as Chamberlain, and he even had his own coat of arms.
We finish by strolling through a strange row of houses, set right up against the walls and correspondingly very small, though with a fascinating history going back centuries, and occupants including Franz Kafka and a woman who claimed to be able to see the future (she was executed by the Nazis for prophesying the end of the war and German defeat). The rooms are set up as period re-enactments of the different occupants.
We finish with a walk through the Palace gardens and catch a tram home.