Day 2 in Prague – the castle and a Dancing House

Saturday morning, I woke up feeling fully rested and refreshed after a long night’s sleep.  After showering and getting ready, I headed up the hill for breakfast.  Castle Steps provides a free breakfast but the restaurant is about a block up the hill, so you get a little exercise in the morning before you eat.  Breakfast was very good (somewhat surprising, it was all vegan) and consisted of large, tasty bagels, fresh bread, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, fruit, thick yogurt with various cereals and granola, juice and coffee.  The hotel also provided a number of computers for guests to use and a printer, alone with wireless access. I had a netbook back at the hotel to use (courtesy of Pat) but the printer came in handy. 

After breakfast, I decided to take a quick run up to the castle.  I didn’t plan on doing any extensive touring till Pat got here but I wanted to check out the layout in advance.  Rather than walking up the very steep hill that the castle sits on top of, I took the tram up the hill to the stop above the castle. 

 

You know, if there is one thing Prague has got going for it (other than its charm and beauty), it’s great public transportation.  You can get just about anyplace in the city by tram, bus or metro.  And it’s dirt cheap, too – a ticket that is good for 75 minutes and endless transfers only costs around $1.35.  It’s easy, too – especially the trams, as you just jump on and off.  I like walking, and have certainly walked my feet off here, but it’s nice knowing that when you’re tired, you have access to a quick ride. 

Anyway, back at the castle, I wandered around the compound, which is absolutely huge!  It consists of endless buildings – the Royal Palace, St. Vitus Cathedral, the Basilica of St. George, and a gazillion royal gardens (okay, maybe not a gazillion, but at least 3-4).  I took a brief peek inside St. Vitus to catch a glimpse of the Mucha stained glass window, then headed towards the front of the palace, through the formal gardens and down a steep winding stone staircase in the direction of town. 

I wasn’t sure exactly where it would leave me but trusted blindly to luck.  As it turned out, once I got to the bottom, I found myself at the Wallenstein Palace and gardens. Wallenstein Palace, which is the home of the Czech Senate, was not open to the public, but I toured the gardens.  I wasn’t quite sure what to think about a grotto that looked like petrified plant life (and a few scary faces) creeping down a stone wall but I snapped a photo and enjoyed the experience. 

After I left the gardens, it was time to meet Pat.  Her flight got in at 11:50 am, and because I was afraid she would get lost trying to find our room, I thought it would be best to meet at the Starbucks at the Malastranski namesti tram station.  I usually HATE to frequent American fast food places in Europe, but figured that logistically, finding a place that she was familiar with made sense. 

I didn’t have to wait long—within 20 minutes or so, Pat showed up and we headed up the hill to our room. She refreshed herself and we talked about the day’s schedule, deciding that it would be best to hit the castle first since we were already halfway up the hill and could easily walk the rest of the way.  And let’s face it–it is an incredibly scenic walk up to the castle. 

So off we went up Uzov (which is a continuation of Nerudova).  Along the way, we detoured to Loreta Square. 

Loreta

 

This is considered one of the more beautiful squares in Prague, and is the home of Cernin Palace, which we did not go in, and the Loreto Shrine, which we did.  For an extra 100 crowns, we got a photo pass and I made good use of it.  The church inside the courtyard–the Church of the Nativity– was quite ornate with lots of silver and bronze and gold throughout.  The Loreta included the Treasury room, which has a large displace of ornate religious objects encrusted in various jewels.  One piece–a monstrance (whatever that is)–was encrusted with over six thousand diamonds. 

Pat and I took turns taking photos of each other with the diamond spokes coming out of our head. 

 
 
 

Shrine at Loreta

 

Next stop was the Prague Castle compound. As I explained before, it is indeed a compound.  Huge doesn’t even describe it. 

Guard at Prague Castle

 

 Luckily, I had bought a map from my earlier foray so we were able to find our way around fairly easily.  The crowds were intense and we tried to avoid them by ducking into St. Vitus Cathedral. St. Vitus, by the way, is the patron saint of epilepsy, which is where the term “St. Vitus’s Dance” comes from. The cathedral is beautiful, with huge stained glass arched windows (including one by Alfons Mucha) and high cavernous ceilings. 

Unfortunately, Golden Lane, which I had wanted to see, was closed this year for extensive renovations. So instead, we took off for the Royal Gardens, which were clustered with groups of people wandering through the green spaces.  There was nothing flowering that I could see, but the formal layout was quite charming and it was a nice change from the overpowering palace and cathedral. 

By this time, we were in desperate need of a break so we left the palace compound and found our way to the stone walkway leading down to town.  Fifteen minutes later, we were happily sitting in a sidewalk café–me with a Budweiser beer and Pat with a cappuccino. Budweiser, by the way, is a product of a local brewery in Cesky Budejovice–not Anheuser Busch’s “Bud.”  Anheuser-Butch has or had a number of lawsuits against the Czech brewery for patent infringement.  However, so far the courts seem to be siding with the Czech company, noting that it has been around for more than 700 years, compared to AB’s fairly recent beginning in the late 19th century. 

Finally, hunger took over and we set out in search of a restaurant.  Jennifer from Castle Steps had recommended Café Slavia in Nove Mestro, so we decided to walk up that way so that Pat could see some of the area.  It wasn’t that far and by the time we got to the café, we saw the Dancing House up ahead (aka Fred and Ginger) so we took a short detour to view the buildings.  It really does look like the building is moving.  We took mega pictures and then made our way back down to the restaurant where we enjoyed some typical Czech fare of pork and dumplings.  I drank a glass of Czech red wine but it wasn’t the greatest and I wish I would have stuck with beer. 

The Dancing House

 

After that, Pat was about wiped out so we started making our way back to the hotel. Of course, I had to stop for provisions at a local patisserie called Café Savoy, which makes an incredible apple cake.  Back in the Buttercup Room, we enjoyed our late night (well, not-so-late night) dessert and then Pat went to bed, while I piddled around writing and looking through guidebooks. 

Tomorrow — the Jewish cemetery and museum!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jan
    Sep 06, 2010 @ 17:32:34

    Mardee, this is thrilling! I can’t wait to read more. Beautiful pictures, too.

    Reply

  2. Peter Sherman
    Sep 06, 2010 @ 21:44:11

    Very awesome, Mardee. Enjoying the posts. Have fun and be careful!

    Reply

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