Ahh, Praha

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May 032009
 
Ahoy from St Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle

Ahoy from St Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle

Ahoy (hello) from Prague, the old-new city.  Old because Prague’s architecture escaped the war damage of the last century; and new because it is only 20 years since the Czech Republic was freed from Communist rule.  Being a long weekend, we had our first real encounter of the trip with the hordes – thousands of snap-happy, hungry tourist lemmmings filled the streets.  Can’t wait for Rome…

Prague is cheap.  Half a litre glass of Pilsner Urquell costs 30Kč ($2) while you can get a decent meal for between 150-200Kč.  The crown is only our fourth currency of the trip, by the way, not bad for nine countries!  We ate some superb vegetarian at Lehká Hlava (Clear Head) located in a back alley away from the crowds.  If you’re ever in Prague, do yourself a favour and go there.

The main sights in Prague sit either side of the Vltava River – Prague Castle on the hill of the west bank overlooking the Old Town and the Jewish Quarter on the east bank.  The 14th century Charles Bridge joins the two banks – it has lasted so long because the foundation stone was laid in 1357 on the 9th July at 5:31 (135797531).  Amazing!

Charles Bridge, Prague

Charles Bridge, Prague

The Astronomical Clock (1572) in Old Town Square is exactly that – astronomically difficult to read.  I blame daylight savings time.

Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square, Prague

Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square, Prague

Inscribed on the walls of the Pinkas Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter are the names and last known dates to be alive of 80,000 Czech Jews sent to the Nazi concentration camps.  The handwritten names fill the walls from floor to ceiling, covering the insides of the entire synagogue.  Close by is the Old Jewish Cemetary (1439-1787), squeezing about 12,000 tombstones (many more are buried here) into about 200sqm.  Needless to say, layering was required.  The end result is a picturesque but pensive scene of crooked tombstones reaching for any light breaking through the trees.

Prague Castle & Charles Bridge by night

Prague Castle & Charles Bridge by night

For some colour photos, here’s our Czech gallery.