Prague, Czech Republic: September 22 – September 29
Let me just start off by saying that I already know that I will need two pages for photos and notes.
Prague is unbelievably beautiful. We are staying in Old Town and every time you turn around there is another magnificent building that is just a bunch of apartments or crazy historic buildings like the oldest Jewish Synagogue in all of Europe – built in 1270!
I wonder if the people who live here and see all of this every day begin to take it for granted?
For me, this was one of the best days of the trip thus far. However, it started out a bit uncertain. When we arrived at the apartment we found out that the original apartment we booked had been sold so was no longer available for rent. This was news to me. 😦 So, they gave us two apartments that were near each other but not adjoining. We stayed in one of the two rooms last night because (thankfully) there were two king-size beds in this one room. It’s big.
The day started out cool — about 45 degrees with sunshine. Woke up and had a great “American style” breakfast. Kids had pancakes, eggs, and bacon. Henry says it was one of “his best meals since he left Atlanta”. He’s easy to please! I like that.
After our breakfast, we walked around a bit and came back to the apartment, made a call to the company we rented the apartment from and they had come up with a good solution. There’s an adjoining room they opened for us so we have one long apartment with two big bedrooms and a living room, kitchen and bath. The kids’ room has a sofa, mini fridge, plasma TV and stereo. At this moment (6:25 pm), they are locked in their room having what they call a “kids-only” party behind their closed door. Elsa is pouring water and setting the table for “dinner”. She called Henry her “husband” earlier because they now have their own space. It’s a little early for that, isn’t it?
Regardless, a kid party is okay by me. A little space for everyone is needed.
The location of the apartment could not be better. We are literally 150 feet from the edge of Old Town Square which is the most popular tourist destination in all of Prague. This is for a good reason. See the neighborhood photos above.
The Old Town Square is the oldest and most important square of the historical Prague. It is surrounded with historical buildings such as the Old Town City Hall with the famous Astronomical Clock, the imposing St. Nicholas Church and Church of Our Lady before Tyn, and many houses and palaces of various architectural styles and colourful history. It has been a centre of Prague Old Town since the middle ages, when it was a market place at the crossing of European merchants´ roads.
We took a city tour from Prague Tours. Elsa would not ride on the tandem so Charlie had to pull her in the buggy. Not the best view but she hung in there just fine over the crazy cobblestone streets and curbs and steps. Henry did great. He cruised right along with the group.
The tour lasted 2 1/2 hours and was really well done. We saw a lot of the city — had to dodge some dicey traffic and pesky pedestrians but it gave us a great perspective on the city and where things were at along with a very interesting history of this country and city.
One of our stops on the tour was the Lennon Wall — Below is an excerpt from Lonely Planet that describes the history behind it and says it way better than i ever could:
After his murder on 8 December 1980 John Lennon became a pacifist hero for many young Czechs. An image of Lennon was painted on a wall in a secluded square opposite the French Embassy (there is a niche on the wall that looks like a tombstone), along with political graffiti and Beatles lyrics. Despite repeated coats of whitewash, the secret police never managed to keep it clean for long, and the Lennon Wall became a political focus for Prague youth (most Western pop music was banned by the communists, and some Czech musicians were even jailed for playing it). Post-1989 weathering and lightweight graffiti ate away at the political messages and images, until little remained of Lennon but his eyes, but visiting tourists began making their own contributions. The wall is the property of the Knights of Malta, and they have repainted it several times, but it soon gets covered with more Lennon images, peace messages and inconsequential tourist graffiti. In recent years the Knights have bowed to the inevitable and now don’t bother to whitewash it any more.
After explaining the significance of the wall, our tour guide handed out markers to those who wanted to leave their mark on the wall. Of course, Henry and Elsa could not refuse. They have a (semi) permanent place on the Lennon Wall. That’s cool.
Heading to dinner in a bit. Hope to get some photos of the Square at night.
Had a chance to watch the astronomical clock at 8 pm tonight. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working. At 8 pm, the trumpet plays what we thought was the Czech republic anthem. The four figures flanking the clock are set in motion at the hour, these represent four things that were despised at the time of the clock’s making in 1410. The first figure is Vanity, represented by a figure admiring himself in a mirror. Next, is a miser holding a bag of gold which represents greed. Across the clock stands Death, a skeleton that strikes the time upon the hour. Finally, the “Turk” tells pleasure and entertainment. I will get some more shots of it in the daylight tomorrow so you can see it in detail.
Church of the Tyn right off the square. At first glance, it looks like a princess castle – something out of Disney. Then, upon closer inspection, you realize just how amazing it is in its grandeur which seems just so ordinary, right here on the square. This place makes you shake your head at every turn of the corner.
Thanks for reading. Miss you all.
Monday, September 24: Happy birthday to our dear friend Goose! We miss you and hope your day is terrific!
Our second full day in Prague turned out to a little warmer than yesterday.
Homeschooled – interesting to note but days with homeschooling have a very different rhythm than those without.
After schooling, we had out “family trip to the grocery store”. Henry hates these trips though I don’t know why. We always come home with bags of stuff the kids want. 🙂 Anyway, since we don’t have a car we have to walk to the grocery with our reusable bags. It usually takes all four of us to carry home the food for the week. This time, we took a bit of a wrong turn through Old Town and missed the left toward TESCO. Took a bit of a detour but saw some more beautiful stuff anyway.
Finally found Tesco and wound my way through the store with the two kids who were distracted by everything chocolate and i could not read a label to save my life. I thought it was hard in Berlin – ha! That was a piece of cake compared to Prague.
Got our goods home and unloaded. The kids continued their great time in the “Kids Club” – a place where adults are rarely invited which is okay with me.
About 2:30 or so we headed out to Prague Castle. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Prague Castle is the largest castle complex in the world! It is also one of the oldest – being founded in 880! Now, that makes my head hurt.
We ended up getting to the Castle a little too close to closing to really explore so our plan is to come back another day. We are getting acclimated and are starting to know our way around the area.
Thanks for reading. Miss you all.
Tuesday, September 25: Strahov Monastery was on the agenda for today. We walked across the Charles Bridge and through the hilly streets of the Lesser Side up to the Strahov Monastery. The Strahov Monastery buildings were founded in 1142 and are very impressive. We viewed the libraries and the “Cabinet of Curiosities”, visited a traveling exhibit of Bohemian Baroque religious art – some of which made Henry close his eyes as I had to guide him out of the exhibit. 🙂
Part of the monastery complex is the Strahov Monastery Brewery. Of course, we wished that our brother-in-law Kevin could have been there to enjoy the beer since this is “right up his alley”. The microbrewery sits on top of the hill leading up to the castle. Just stone’s steps away from the Prague Castle – where we are heading today.
The grounds include the church where Mozart played the organ on his visit to the monastery in 1787. Lest not forget the famous library which houses the Philosophical Hall with its fresco ceilings and ancient books.
After the hike, we were treated to an unbelievable view of Prague from the hillside. It is such a beautiful town – both from street (or eye) level as well as from above.
After a pretty full day, we walked back across town and got ready to head to the concert at the Municipal House and a dinner reservation at the Francouzska Restaurant.
After dinner, we headed to the concert which was on the main floor of the Municipal House. The concert program, included Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Pachelbel’s Canon in D.
It was a very intimate setting. The acoustics were great and it was terrific to be so close where you could see the musicians up close. What a neat experience.
Today, we plan on doing the Prague Castle justice by devoting more time to it and probably taking a guided tour.
Thanks for reading. Miss you all.