Let there be light . . .

December 12, 2009

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Dark picture, artificially lightened, and no, not snowing inside!  Still, I wanted to show the richness of this window.  It was a grey gloomy day outside with bouts of rain and drizzle.  Yet, inside this magnificent cathedral, the light came through and showed them perfectly to my great pleasure!  I loved the huge spaces inside this HUGE church…the vaulted ceilings above, and adornments everywhere.  The reverent and hushed whispers of the people inside. They, like me, stood open mouthed and speechless.  It is just incredible to realize, let alone understand, the artists of those days, the abilities to build in such a grand way! 

I did find it difficult to take pictures….frankly, I wanted to just walk around and look, be in the moment, and ponder and WONDER at it all! 

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The last window by Alfons Mucha….(more about him later)

–Remember to click on the photo to enlarge–

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And now the Castle—No, Its a church!

December 6, 2009

Prague castle was where the Czech kings, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic have had their offices. The Czech Crown Jewels are kept here. Prague Castle is one of the biggest castles in the world.  The history of the castle stretches back to the 9th century (870).

The castle is so huge and there is so much history here that I think it probably would take many trips and a lot of reading to fully comprehend what we were seeing.  It actually was so awesome (and overwhelming), that at times I just did not take pictures because I would be taking them constantly.  I wanted to not worry about pictures, but to just absorb all the magnificence.

We are now ready to buy tickets, but wait!  People seem to be heading towards one of the main sites without tickets?  Well, let’s be sheep and follow the crowd…maybe today we will be lucky and find out it is FREE DAY?  So off we trotted to the huge church called St. Vitus. (By the way, we found out why no tickets required!  It is a church (cathedral really) and you cannot ask money from churches.  It was the only place you could see without a ticket. And WHAT a "freebie"!

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Top Half 

To many people, St. Vitus Cathedral is Prague Castle. While the enormous Prague Castle complex includes many fine buildings, St. Vitus is the one that dominates the city skyline and is visible from far and wide.

St. Vitus is the spiritual symbol of the Czech state. A Gothic masterpiece, work on the cathedral was commissioned by Charles IV and began in 1344 upon the site of an earlier 10th century rotunda. In all, it took nearly six centuries to complete.

The final phase of construction only ended during the period 1873-1929.

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Bottom Half

As well as being the largest and most important temple in Prague, St. Vitus Cathedral also oversaw the coronations of Czech kings and queens.

In the chancel of the cathedral, in front of the high alter, is the royal mausoleum. Below this, in the crypt, there are the royal tombs. Czech kings and queens and patron saints are interred here.

St. Wenceslas Chapel is decorated with frescoes and semi-precious stones. A door in the south-western corner of the chapel leads to the Crown Chamber in which the Bohemian Coronation Jewels are stored.

clip_image001[7]On this side is the former main entrance to the cathedral called Golden Portal. A large mosaic above the entrance was made in a Bohemian glass factory with the assistance of Italian artists. It depicts the Last Judgement. Jesus is surrounded by angels and the kneeling Czech patrons – St Prokop, St Zikmund and St Vitus on the left and St Wenceslas, St Ludmila and St Vojtech on the right. The mosaic covers an area of 82 square meters.

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The back side . . .

Then inside.

clip_image001[11]Michael has used his wide angle lens here in the central nave.

 

 

 

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My camera shows the window more brightly…although I had to lighten it up.  This is a very hard church to take pictures in–often you cannot use flash, so most turn out very dark.

 

 

 

clip_image001[15]Not sure what this was, but think it was where the Holy Scriptures are read.  Always as close to heaven as possible! 

More inside to come . . .

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.