Sunday 26 August
The Charles Bridge is at its finest in the morning before the crowds arrive so we head off to the river. The sky is a brooding grey and I can see why many of the paintings sold on the streets and in the market are so dark.
There’s hardly anybody in the Square as we wander round taking photos of some of the more ornate buildings. We arrive at Old St Nicholas just before 10am mass so we sneak in to take a look. There is a massive chandelier in the middle! I’m guessing that once this was filled with candles. It sparkles. Like St Nicholas in the Lesser Quarter the ceilings are covered in frescoes, but the rest of the interior is white plaster with black balustrading around the alcoves above. It’s much smaller than the other St Nicholas. It’s lovely.
We keep walking/wheeling. In Prague I take my wheelchair everywhere but have my crutches on hand to walk up steps, round churches, and just to take a break from the chair. Most places that are described as wheelchair accessible have a few steps, or slopes that are very steep, but that’s ok – for me anyway.
I want to find a pharmacy and we’ve been told that there are shopping malls near the Powder Gate. We weren’t going to bother going there but I’m glad we end up where we do. It’s close to the Old Town Square where the only people you see are tourists or people servicing the tourists, but here there are real Czechs! Czech women are beautiful. They remind me of Parisiennes, beautifully groomed and petite. While we are in the mall I spy a pretty blue cotton scarf, too pretty to leave behind, so, voila! I have my Prague souvenir!
Our intention this morning was to ride the funicular to Petrin Park where there is a mini Eiffel Tower. So after a few short tram changes we’re on our way. The view over Prague from the funicular is fabulous!
It’s been a little cooler today, and at the top of the hill under the trees, it’s quite chilly. We were going to go from here back to the castle but Peter remembers that the tickets are back at the hotel. Just as well, because I’m going to dress more warmly.
It turns out that it costs only 20k for both of us to take the lift up the tower. We were going to anyway, but it’s nice to get a big discount just because I’m in a wheelchair, especially as I cause more trouble than other customers! The view over Prague is great. We’re above the castle, above the trees, above everything! And the wind is blowing hard! Back down we go, and in only thirty minutes we’re back at the hotel. Ready to leave again …
Returning to the Prague castle late afternoon is a different experience from the first: there are fewer people, I can recognise landmarks we have now visited, and I can appreciate more the feeling of Prague. It’s a moody place, sometimes light but more often dark and gothic. It’s the gold that sparkles on church spires, on the swords or shields or wings or accents on otherwise grey statues that lifts the city from its darkness.
While we wait for the concert at St George’s Basilica we sit facing the golden portal of St Vitus. What a marvellous place to wait!
St George’s Basilica is an ideal place for a concert. The acoustics are remarkable because of the dome, the stone walls, the shape of the building and the wooden ceiling. The very old Romanesque church provides a superb ambience. As soon as the ensemble strikes up we know that these are professional musicians. The music may be a selection of well known classics, but there is nothing cliched about it. From the first piece by Smetana, then Dvorak, Bizet, Vivaldi, Mozart and lastly, Brahms, these musicians play with passion, skill and sensitivity. The solo soprano is drop dead amazing. Both Peter and I nearly cry when she sings Schubert’s Ave Maria. When I hear Mozart’s Alleluia chorus I know I will never hear music as good as this ever again.
Friday’s organ recital was dramatic in the St Salvatore cathedral, Mozart with dinner was fun, but tonight’s concert is SUBLIME.
How does Czech produce so many musicians? I think I could stay in Prague for weeks and listen to a concert every night. Prague has the theatres and the talent to make every musical evening memorable. It is a city of music and drama.