09.21.2011 - 09.21.2011
I started my day about 30 feet from my hotel, at Bethlehem Chapel.
The chapel was built in 1394, but much of it has been rebuilt since then. This is the site where Jan Hus, the Protestant theologian preached sermons that were critical of the Catholic Church in the 1400s. He was eventually burned at the stake, but the Hussite Movement continued without him. In fact, one of his followers founded the town of Tábor, where my great-grandfather was born.
In the chapel, I saw the original pulpit where Hus preached. The building is now used by a university and only holds religious services one day a year – on the anniversary of Hus’ death. The main room in the chapel is fairly sparse, but still very pretty.
On the second level is a small exhibit about the history of Hus, the Hussite Movement and the chapel.
Next, I moved on to the second church of the day, the Týn Church on Old Town Square. The church was completed in the late 1300s and became the main church of the Hussite Movement. The main entrance is blocked by other buildings that were built when the Catholic Habsburg family was in power.
Photography is not allowed inside, but believe me when I say it was amazing.
After the Týn Church, I went back toward the Charles Bridge and visited the Bedřich Smetana Museum, which is dedicated to the patriotic composer. The museum’s collection includes a couple of ceremonial batons he was given, a costume worn by an actress in one of his operas, some manuscripts of his music and some first editions of Má Vlast, a set of six symphonic poems about the Czech lands.
When I left the Smetana Museum, I crossed the Charles Bridge and went to Kampa Island, which is an island between the river and a canal. I took a set of stairs from the bridge down to a small square on the island.
It was such a contrast to the hustle and bustle on the bridge. The square was very quiet and quaint. On the other side of the square is Kampa Park, which seemed to be a favorite spot for locals.
Then, I went to Petrín Hill. I took a funicular from the street level up to the top of the hill. At the top, there is a large rose garden and the flowers were still in bloom.
I also saw the Hunger Wall, which is a purpose-less wall the king had built in the 1300s to provide jobs for the poor.
The main reason for visiting Petrín Hill is the Petrín Tower, a one-third replica of the Eiffel Tower. I took the elevator to the top (along with the three other people who fit in the tiny elevator). From the observation deck, I saw some nice views of the city.
I took the stairs on the way down, which I regretted since the sides of the spiral staircase were somewhat open to the outside. That made me a little nervous, although I was glad to not be the guy who was strapped to the side painting the tower. Needless to say, I made it safely back down to the ground.
Next to the tower is a house of mirrors, which sounded like fun until I saw a group of school kids going in. I decided to skip it. Instead of taking the funicular back down the hill, I walked. Along the path down were some paintings and nice park areas.
After a quick break at the hotel, I went to St. Salvator Church for a concert. This time there was an organist, violinist and vocalist.
The concert was lovely and so was the inside of the church. I liked all the arches on the ceiling and around the windows.
After the concert, I decided to go back to the square on Kampa Island because I had seen some restaurants there. I think that was one of my favorite spots in the city. It was so close to one of the major tourist attractions and yet it was so peaceful. The name of the restaurant was U Zlatych Núžek.