Thursday 23 August
We’re here! The hotel is quite close to the Charles Bridge and to the Old town Square, but I’m not sure I can explore the area walking. We wheel/walk to the river. The sun is on Charles Bridge and there are few people around. We go over the bridge toward the Lesser Quarter, then turn and go back toward the Old Town Square. The towers at either end of the bridge are impressive. They are made of dark stone with grey statues and decorated with shields and bits of gold. Along the bridge are larger than life statues with religious significance, some saints, a crucifix and so on.
We continue on to the Old Town Square and the first thing we see is the astronomical clock on the Clock Tower. It’s fantastic in every sense of the word. No wonder it’s such an icon of Prague. It has a fairy tale appearance but it’s nothing of the sort. The clock must have seemed a wonder at the time it was built, and six hundred years later it still is. It had to have been the product of a Mathematical and Engineering genius, a genius who also had an artists’s eye because it is beautiful. The colours …. The shapes … The figures … The parade of the apostles … It’s as much a sculpture as a clock. The heraldry is great too. After the mechanical performance on the hour, a trumpeter plays from the top of the tower from all four walls. It’s a real spectacle!
I decide to take the lift to the top of the tower, rather than walk up the steep ramp. From the top there is a great view over Prague, especially towards the castle. St Vitus dominates the skyline, but there are domes and spires of churches everywhere as far as the eye can see … Well almost … There are big concrete apartment blocks that were probably built during the time of communism. Apart from these ugly blocks there doesn’t seem much left to mark their legacy. There are large tracts of forests near the castle, and these make Prague seem quite green.
Our Lady Before Tyn is on the opposite side of the Square from the Clock. It’s twin towers are massive, but inside it is spectacular. The vault is really, really high and long. The main altar and the chapels are all made of black wood with lots of gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. On Black. There are friezes on the ceiling but my greatest impression is of lots of gold on black.
On our way to the Halveska, Havel’s market, we wander into a few galleries. One has fabulous original oil paintings of scenes around Prague. These originals have been reproduced by the tens of thousands and their prints are sold everywhere. I’d like to buy one of the astronomical clock, I love the way it’s painted, but at over one thousand euro it’s a little pricey! Its interesting that none of the street vendors seem to know who the original artist is, yet the gallery that sells his work is only a few hundred metres away.
Some of the vendors at the market sell their original art as well as the prints. I love the work of one artist, and given what it is, I think that one hundred euro is a good price, but Peter doesn’t much like it. It’s a collage technique using old paper, calligraphy, gilt, and textures. She happily shows me her other other work knowing that I won’t buy anything, but perhaps likes my enthusiasm for her work. There are so many talented artists in Prague! I am amazed!
We head off to Wencelas Square, not knowing what to expect. It’s a sort of strip mall with nice shops leading ultimately to the National Museum. It’s closed for renovations so we only walk halfway down. I find the H&M shop where Amy bought some inexpensive tops, but other than buying Peter a cap in one store and an a tie in another, our money stays in our wallets.
We go back to the hotel to check in. We’re tired from the long flights but want to see the day out so that our bodies can adjust as soon as possible to the time difference. So we visit St Jilji. It’s a smaller version of the Tyn Church, but just as OTT.
Between 4 & 5 we go round in circles within the old town centre. We find a bakery, yum, and eventually break out of the narrow winding lanes.
We’re in bed by 6.30. End of day one!