Archive for November 2009

Changing of the Guard

November 22, 2009

As it turned out I am glad we did get a bit lost, and I am glad we stopped and had lunch.  Because we were just in time for the Changing of the Guard and at Noon they do it with fanfare!  We arrived just in time.  Any earlier and we wouldn’t have known it even happened!

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Here they come, from somewhere…..two of them will be the replacements.  This is taken in the square in front of the castle.

It is nothing like in Athens when they change their guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier.  There tourists see it as a bit of lark, with very tall men wearing short skirts and wearing pompoms on their toes!  And even though they look severe, you get the feeling they are just a "laugh away" (Although I have heard that is a very wrong concept – they are quite capable of handling their guns and quickly).  Here it was a bit scary.  Maybe because of the Germanic appearance.  Rigid soldiers with steel in their eyes which said,  "Don’t mess with me" attitude.  Heavy and stiff overcoats, fur hats, and grim faces.  Very Nazi, I thought, although I think the Czech’s would not like me for thinking that.

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Passing in through the Castle Gates.  Lots of people watching both outside and inside. 

 

 

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Changing of guard

 

 

 

 

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Doesn’t he look severe!

 

Hmmm.  No one had their pictures taken with them.

 

clip_image001[13]Once inside the gate they formed into formation when the National Anthem was played. Their National Anthem is from a Czech opera "Fidlovačka" written in 1834! (Where is My Homeland)

 

 

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The musicians stood in windows which was interesting I thought.  (Sorry about the bald head!  Ha, ha) 

 

 

 

And now we will proceed into the Second Courtyard (this is the First Courtyard) where we must then decide what tickets to buy…etc.

 

We may be lost?

November 21, 2009

But we don’t care.  There are too many diversions.  On just about every street corner, or in front of music halls, or in squares we were given advertisements for concerts.  They read like this:  Castle Gala Concert at St. George’s Basilica in the Castle.  Prague Royal Orchestra.
Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Bizet, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky Christmas Concert in Lichtenstein Palace.  Mozart, Vivaldi, Pachelbel, Bach, Dvorak, Brahms Don Giovanni (opera) at the National Theatre.  Advent Organ Concert at St. Michael’s Monastery.  Schubert’s Ava Maria.  Best of Mozart and Strauss with ballet and singers. And other small ones in little churches.

So you can imagine, walking through this fairyland with grand buildings and seeing the places these concerts were taking place every day….it boggled my mind.  I really feel Prague is a city of music.  I have read elsewhere that the Czech’s love music.  I guess Vienna is rated higher, but Prague must be second best!

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Maybe we should have come by this tram instead of the Metro.

Wonderful old trans maintained for "tourists" they say.  Service is fantastic, no wait longer than 10 minutes and they go EVERYWHERE!  Good way to learn the Czech  language, because the "electronic ladies voice" says all the names in Czech!  I admit to handling it VERY well!  I like the language.  This square also had a wonderful music store that I went back to on my own one day.  It was really fantastic inside, with a clerk who moved like he was stuck in molasses!  He was playing some lovely classical music, so perhaps he was mesmerized by his own choice, but he lost customers who got tired of waiting.  But not me, I enjoyed the concert and eventually he got "unstuck"!

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This view was not supposed to be on our route — roads go everywhere and the names…well, they are long and hard to read on maps.  Anyway, this is Petrin hill with a TV tower on top. There is a tram that takes you up and then you can climb to the top of the tower.  Not our cup of tea….But this valley was pretty. 

 

clip_image001[7]We were hungry and cold so we found a little pub and had soup and coffee and got directions to the Castle.  We just missed one street nearby, that is all.  So off we went, up, up, up.

 

So close, but which street? Or series of steps? 

 

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And with my zoom, I got a picture of Mala Strana. 

 

We are about to enter the Castle courtyard . . .

Still on the way to the Castle

November 21, 2009

 

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This building was PAINTED stones….

 

 

 

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Amazing, huh?

 

 

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Fancy doors opening into one of the palaces….(now government buildings or embassies)

 

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Another hand painted "crossover" from one palace to the other….

 

 

 

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This restaurant looked so inviting.  Lots and lots of these tucked away places.  Nice to stop for a cup of coffee and warm up.

 

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Detail over the restaurant.

Adventure to the Castle

November 16, 2009

 

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One of the days I ventured out into the city alone!  I felt very brave.  I picked a place on the map we had not visited, found the Metro and got off at the right place!  This tower was there and a lovely park.  Although Prague is very beautiful, how many pictures can you take of beautiful towers and buildings? 

Anyway, in my journey I found a TESCO shopping mall on 4 floors so decided to go see it. There were no groceries, just a department store, but it had exactly what I hoped to find:  a loo!  I noticed a lady at the entrance taking money, but I had to go so badly, I ignored her and just flew in!  When I needed toilet paper, I realized there was none in my stall!  Well, now I know what she wanted..money for toilet paper.  But I smugly got out my handy dandy package of tissue and all was well.  I hoped she would not glare at me when I left, and luckily she was busy so did not even notice my leaving.

I SMS’d Michael and we agreed to meet for lunch at a restaurant we had eaten at before and enjoyed.  I hoped I could find it again.  As it was, we both arrived within 1 minute of each other!  I had so much to tell him about my morning adventures.

Now that I have shown my odds and ends pictures, we will get down to the tourist sights.  We will go to the Prague Castle which is across the river on a hill overlooking Mala Strana. The famous Charles Bridge is one way to go, however we decided to take the Metro and then walk back across the Bridge on our return.  Here then is a bit about Mala Strana, the area we must first walk through in order to get to the castle.

Mala Strana (the Lesser Town or Little Quarter) clusters around the foothills of Prague Castle, on the opposite side of the river to the Old Town.

In the Middle Ages, it was a dominant centre of the ethnic German citizens of Prague. It also housed a large number of noble palaces while the right-bank towns were comparatively more bourgeois and more Bohemian Czech.

The famous statue of the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague is located in the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana.

Almost too picturesque for its own good with its ancient burgher houses and quaint side streets.

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We have just left the Metro station and are walking into Mala Strana.  There are a number of embassies in beautiful palaces on the way.

 

 

 

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Town Hall

 

 

 

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Another embassy and above you can see the towers of St. Vitus Church which is inside the Castle walls.

 

 

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Houses….

 

 

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This sidewalk goes under arches which is handy if it is raining!

 

Maybe we are half way to the Castle . . .

Wandering

November 15, 2009

 

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Again, on our way to Old Town Square, we passed an old church with a courtyard in front.  If you look closely, you can see this lady in white has something gold in her hands, and also the statues have gold branches on them.  I don’t know the reason. But at all the flower kiosks we saw, they sold these.  What I think they were….mistletoe sprayed heavily in gold paint. We saw lots of people with them, and then we saw them left at graves, or put on statues.  The brownish signs on the right had wall were bronze small plaques with names of deceased and many very very old, like 1600’s or 1700’s.  The church inside was small, dark, and smelly of old old old.  So we took a quick look and left.

(Any one knowing the tradition of the gold branches, please comment.)

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Now on to the Old Jewish Quarter also known as Josevina.  There are six synagogues in this area and a Jewish cemetery.   We were LOST AGAIN, and found ourselves here before we had intended to come.  Unfortunately, we did not get back to the Museum or to see the Cemetery.  Here is a bit of trivia regarding Madeleine Albright, our one time Secretary of State:

Marie Jana Korbelová was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) and raised as a Roman Catholic by her parents, who had converted from Judaism in order to escape persecution. "Madeleine" was the French version of "Madlenka", a nickname given by her grandmother. Albright adopted the new name when she attended a Swiss boarding school. Albright is the daughter of a diplomat—her father had served in the Czech diplomatic service.  Many of her Jewish relatives in Czechoslovakia were killed in the Holocaust, including three of her grandparents. She and her parents fled again when the Communists assumed power over Czechoslovakia, moving to the United States in 1948.

The happy ending for her was that she came to see her grandparents graves and to find her roots.  The Czechs are proud of her as well.

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A street behind a synagogue…in the Jewish Quarter. Nice houses.

 

 

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I like this silhouette of the towers against the sky.

 

 

 

 

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Republiky Namesti (Republic Square). 

Also food booths, but not as big as Old Town.  This beautiful building houses the Palladium Shopping Center. 

 

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And each day another window lit up!  Like a Christmas Advent Calendar….clever!