09.20.2011 - 09.20.2011
The Prague Castle is more than just a castle. It is a complex of buildings, all of which have some historical significance. I knew it would take some time to go through all of it, so I got a pretty early start. From my hotel, I went back to the Charles Bridge and crossed to the other side of the Vltava, where the castle complex is. The bridge was much different at 9 a.m. than it was in the middle of the afternoon the day before. The artists had not set up their booths and the tourists were not out in force, yet. It was nice to see the bridge at a more quiet and calm time.
The walk to the castle turned out to be a much longer (and uphill) walk than I expected, so I was kind of worn out by the time I got there.
Why didn’t I take the tram? Anyway, the whole complex sits on a hill and from there, you can get some really nice views of the rest of the city.
There was a little band playing at the entrance.
The first thing you see is the Matthias Gateway. Yes, that’s a gate, not a building. Once you walk through it, you get to the first (of several) courtyard.
From here, you can see the Holy Rood Chapel. The chapel was closed that day, so I didn’t get to go inside. Inside is the royal crypt, where the remains of several kings and royal family members are.
On the other side of the courtyard is St. Vitus Cathedral. This is the focal point of the castle complex and can be seen from just about anywhere in the city. The building of the cathedral started in the 900s, but has had several additions since then. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a great picture of the outside because it is too close to the surrounding buildings.
Inside, the cathedral is very ornate with beautiful stained glass windows and altar pieces.
Back on the outside of the cathedral, I saw the Golden Gate, which used to be used during coronations (if I’m remembering that correctly).
Above the doorway, is this beautiful mosaic.
After I left the cathedral, I went to the “castle” part of the castle complex: the Old Royal Palace. Bohemian royals lived here for more than 700 years beginning in the 9th century. The main attraction inside is the Vladislav Hall, a huge room where coronations used to take place. Off of the hall is a narrow staircase that leads up to a small tower.
Outside of the Old Royal Palace is an obelisk, which is a memorial to Czechs who died in World War I. I assume this is the newest construction in the castle complex.
Next was St. George’s Basilica.
St. George himself is seen in the courtyard.
The inside the church, which was built in the 10th century, is pretty simple compared to St. Vitus.
My next stop was the Lobkowicz Palace. I think this was one of the highlights of my day. I listened to an audio guide throughout the museum, which was narrated by members of the Lobkowicz family and gave some very interesting information about their impressive collection of Czech art.
One of the Princes Lobkowicz was a music lover and a benefactor for Ludwig van Beethoven (before he was famous). The museum houses a large collection of instruments and music, including an original manuscript of Handel’s Messiah.
I had lunch at the museum café, which was on a terrace overlooking the city. It was a great view to enjoy while I ate my chicken schnitzel. After lunch, I attended a short concert in the palace. Three musicians (piano, viola and flute) played a selection of mostly Czech classical music.
After the concert, I was almost at the end of the castle complex. I walked down Golden Lane, which is a teeny tiny street of teeny tiny houses. Most of them have been turned into little shops or have been set up to look the way they would have looked throughout history.
Franz Kafka is said to have lived at No. 22.
At the end of Golden Lane is Daliborka Tower. This is where prisoners used to be kept.
The narrow stairs lead down to the dungeon.
Outside of the Daliborka Tower are a couple of terraces where you can get some more nice views of the city.
As I left the castle complex, I walked down a long staircase that led to the Wallenstein Palace. Today, this is used as the home of the Czech Senate, but the grounds are open to visitors.
The gardens are very nice. There is an artificial rock wall where it is said that you can find the faces of various monsters.
Before I crossed back to the other side of the Charles Bridge, I stopped at the Church of St. Nicholas in Malá Strana. This is not to be confused with the Church of St. Nicholas in Staré Mĕsto at the Old Town Square, but it was designed by the same man. Somehow, I didn’t get a picture of the outside, but the inside is much more ornate than the one in Old Town. Upstairs is a small gallery of 12 paintings depicting the Passion of Christ.
After dinner at the pizzeria next door to the hotel (where the waitress was less than thrilled at my lack of knowledge of the Czech language), I went back to the Old Town Square and just walked around. The buildings are lit up very nicely at night. Unfortunately, my camera doesn’t take great nighttime pictures, but these came out okay.
I had some fun listening to all the different languages around me. I tried to identify them, but had some trouble. On this night, I sat down on a bench where there were two other ladies. I sat listening to them for about five minutes before I realized they were actually speaking English! They were apparently from somewhere in the U.K., but I couldn’t place the accent.