Casa’s Blog

A Life Abroad

I don’t want to live in the modern world. I don’t want to live in the modern world. I’m the class of 13. In the era of dissent…

Well it is quite wet in Europe and looking at the forecast it is going to stay that way for the next few days.  Tomorrow I head to Vienna and the forecast is for thunderstorms everyday I am there. Now that doesn’t seem possible to me, but you never know.  Regardless, I will just have to get used to being a little damp me thinks.  To get myself well trained I realised that as the rain fell this morning the only thing I had planned to do today was Charles Bridge which is fully outside.  Not being one to complain I just had to stomach the cold and damp conditions and brave it out.

After a good sleep in, I headed off on the tram to Charles Bridge.  My tram dropped me off in little town and there was St Nicholas’ Church right there and as it dominates that bank of the river I had to pop in for a look.  It is described as a Baroque building (whatever that means :P) but in my opinion it was just an amazing structure.  Unlike the castle yesterday (which was “story/history cool”, it very much was “visually cool” – both inside and out.  The exterior is defined by the massive dome and the interior is lined with meticulous designed and cut marble structures and metalwork.  Somewhat surprisingly in such a good looking church the windows were very plain but if anything it just gave greater focus on to the great marble structures.  Kind of like how the white spaces on art gallery walls help draw the eye.  I must say though that the paintings that lined the upper gallery weren’t that impressive. They were of “church size” but not of the standard I, with my untrained eye, have seen elsewhere.

I did find myself taking a little time to just sit down and explore every corner of the church with my eye.  Some people have raised whether seeing all these amazing churches could sway me in my religious thinking.  Well there is no chance of that.  There is just a little bit too much of a gulf between me and the Church, but it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy these buildings from a visual or historical or even reflective level.  Regardless of your beliefs you have to be taken back by the respectful nature to religious buildings and the devotion that leads to their construction.  It is an amazing thing that everyone slows down and becomes quieter the minute they step foot in a church due to the nature of the surroundings.

I was happy to see that as I strolled towards Charles Bridge that the rain had eased.  Charles Bridge, as one of Prague’s main attractions, is  long, old bridge across the river (for a long time it was the only bridge) and it is adorned with statues of various saints and religious figures.  I actually think that it was a good time to see the bridge as the rain had stopped but as a result very few people were on the bridge that is well known for his overcrowding with tourists all day – particularly in good weather.  As a result I could take my time to stroll across her and take a good time to look at all the statues (well the ones that weren’t being restored).  Some of the statues were better than others in my opinion.  The one below was probably my favourite and I am assuming there is some sort of Hell or evil forces edge to it so it doesn’t surprise me that I was drawn to it as those religious topics seem to be of more interest to me.  I did also rub the plaque on the St John of Nepomuk statue which every tourist has to  do. So here is hoping for some good luck coming my way.

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After crossing the bridge I was back in the Old Town area so I thought I would stop in on another church that we had been told about.  I can’t remember its name but it is opposite Fat Boy’s the Australian Bar.  It is well known for the story of a their who tried to steal a necklace from a statue but the statue came to life and grabbed his arm.  Eventually he was caught, repented but they still had to cut his arm off to free him. The arm was then mummified and hung above the door to warn off other thieves.  Now as you know how cool the bone church was in my opinion, so I just HAD to see the mummy arm church.  The church itself was pretty impressive as I had not expected much.  There seems to be plenty of things to steal. Yes you can still see the arm, although part of me thinks that very little of the old tale would be true (the fact the statue grabbed his arm is a slight give away IMO) and I was looking at the arm thinking…I wonder exactly what is in that.  Did they use a real arm or is it just stuffing or is it like some other sort of creature mummified in to the shape of an arm?  Who knows.  I doubt they would let someone x-ray it in case of them losing the tourist interest from people like me who just want to see the  mummy arm.

Anyway that was the end of my day as I needed to go back and pack and prepare to leave for Austria early tomorrow.  There was one last thing I had to do before I left Europe though and I thought I might as well do it before I left Prague…

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Yes, that is beer 😀 😀 😀

June 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Its spitting, Angels die with you.

Some of the more observant readers may have noticed that before today I was yet to do two of the big things that one goes to Prague to do.  Yes I have seen the clock and drunk the beer…but I was yet to do the Prague Castle or Charles Bridge.  Well the Charles Bridge is on the list for tomorrow (my last day in Prague) and today I went and explored the grounds of the old Prague Castle.

Getting there was easy as Justin had already given me the heads up on which tram to take and which stop to get off at.  The weather was far from perfect.  Reading via facebook statuses that it was “hot” and “sunny” in Leeds while I was stuck with cold and light showers in Prague made me as jealous as a kid who sees the rich kid walking out of the Melbourne show with every showbag.  Regardless though I was going to make the most of the day, not let the weather deter me and so I went to the castle, bought my ticket and an audio guide and started at  St Vitus’s Cathedral.

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The Cathedral is the main visual landmark of the castle as it sits imposingly above Prague city.  You can basically see it from whereever you are in the city and it is even more imposing up close.  With the audio guide you got to skip the line and I got a detailed explanation of every aspect of the building and its construction which was quite insightful.  The cathedral in many respects reflects the Czech history in my opinion. It has been attacked numerous times, oppressed for periods, re-built many times (even before it was finished) and has had many influences over the hundreds and hundreds of years it took to complete.  It was also only finished recently and I think there is a connection there as well.   There are many different parts to the cathedral and although it is not as impressive as others you may see it did seem to have more of a story to tell.  The silver tomb of St John Nepomucene was definitely a sight worth seeing.  Unfortunately, in addition to the rather dodgy weather the tower and the crypt were closed which was unfortunate.  In particular the tomb of Charles IV would’ve been cool to see.

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I then followed on the numbers on the audio guide to the Old Royal Palace.  Although not really what one would consider luxurious there is plenty about this palace to interest you in the history and the stories the walls could tell.  The big hall is somewhat of an architectural masterpiece of its time and the defenestration stories never get old (the fact there is a word for “throwing people out of the window” boggles the mind). I am not sure if I was king I would like to live here though, it is definitely a cold and drafty place and lacked the beautiful details that we saw at the Karlstejn Castle.  Maybe they have just not been as well preserved over the years.

It was then time to explore more of the rooms of the palace which have now been dedicated to a museum on “The Story of Prague Castle.”  I was initially hesitant to do this as it cost a little extra to get the “grand tour” ticket but I am so glad I did.  It is obviously a recent addition, all the exhibits are in Czech and English and there are even some interactive displays.  It traces the history of the castle and its grounds over time starting in the pre-historic and ending at the end of the First Republic with detours for particular parts of Castle life such as eating or heating (it was somewhat ironic how cold the room where the heating exhibit was!).  I was amazed many of the artifacts had survived, particularly the accent fabrics and textiles.  Quite a few of the displays leave you with that weird feeling you get when you realise that they seem to be basically the benefits of disturbed graves.  The graves of the kings and queens of old may not have been robbed in the strict sense but they have definitely been disturbed when there are skeletons and burial clothes on display.  It is probably similar to seeing a mummy in a Museum but at least with mummies there is a level of distance as a lot is unknown about the people they were when they were alive.  Reading a play by play description of someone’s life and then seeing the shoes they were buried in is slightly off putting to me…or maybe I think too much.  After all the idea of religious relics (including body parts and remains of Saints) and the moving of people’s remains appears to have been a regular aspect of Czech history.  If not human history.

St George’s Basillica was next on the list and it is hardly a beautiful building.  There is some beauty from the outside but inside it is just large bare undecorated stone and once again it is the history of the place and not the visuals that you come to see. There was a really awesome caved skeleton statue in the crypt though!  The castle consists of many different other parts and things to see including the Golden Lane (which is now just a tourist strip) and many different gardens and courtyards.  I think they would’ve been much nicer on a better day but they were still cool to explore, even if the amount of ‘tourist tackiness’ detracts from them slightly.  The two most interesting other parts of the castle for me though were the Powder Tower and the Hradcanske namesti.  The Hradcanske Namesti (or Hradcanske Square) was cool as it had the best view of the castle as it is the front square just in front of the main gate, but it was also cool as it was the square where Obama gave that speech that my damn lucky brother got to see live.  The Powder Tower was more of a surprise coolness though.  It had a display about the Castle Guard who are basically the Czech equivalent of the dudes with funny hats who march at Buckingham Palace in London.  What made the exhibits so interesting as through the Role and costume of the Castle Guard throughout the 20th Century it basically tells the story of the Czech people and politics over that time.  In the First Republic (between WW1 and WW2) they wore the uniforms model on the French, Italy and Russian Armies who had played a role in them gaining independence.  The role of the Castle guard was suppressed under the Nazi reign and their uniforms adapted to reflect those of Hitler’s army.  Once they were liberated post World War 2 there was a short return the uniforms of old before the Russian Communist influence lead to them being replaced with russian uniforms and largely neutralised.  There was short revival during the Prague Spring of the late 60s, but it wasn’t until Czechoslovak independence in the late 80s/early 90s that they returned to their position of glory and importance.  It really was an interesting distillation of Czech politics.  It was also funny that the costume designer for Amadeus designed their current uniforms I think!

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With my time in the castle complete.  I then went for  a walk through the little town.  It really is a nice part of Prague and again would only be nicer on a better day.  I walked past the Lennon Wall which was a wall for anti-communist rebellion in the 60s and 70s and still persists as as political protest wall to this day although it is much more haphazard than the murals of Belfast or the like.  It was then time for a late lunch in Bar Bar (the restaurant named by someone with a stuttar, recommended by Lonely Planet and with Aboriginal Art on the walls).  The food was good and cheap though so what more could you ask?

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Anyway I better add some photos to this and the last few posts or they really will be walls of text 😛

June 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment