"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad


Prague: Pilsners, Trdlo, and Chipsy's

How many times did we hear, "Oh, Prague! (sigh) You've got to go to Prague while you're living in Germany." Well we went. And we, too, were entranced by the city. After our short stay in Dresden, we took a train to Prague and stayed there for four delightful nights.
The best thing about Prague is that it is dirt cheap, especially when it comes to food, transportation and hotels. We stayed in a brand new apartment in a nice area for four nights for the price of what one night in a nice hotel room in Heidelberg would cost. One Euro equals about 25 Crowns, so it looked like a lot when the menu said the main course costs 80 Crowns, but it was really just a little over 3 Euros for dinner.

Prague has the reputation of consuming the most beer per capita, and we could easily see why. Not only is it cheap (about one Euro for the mug of beer below), but Pilsner beer is originally from the area and known to be the best around. Apparently the American Budweiser company actually stole the name from the famous Budweiser brewery first located outside of Prague.

We were immediately overwhelmed by all that there is to do and see in Prague. It seemed like everywhere you looked there was a huge cathedral, historical building, museum or monument. And the architecture! I was completely happy just walking down the street gazing at the buildings. Since Prague has really never seen great destruction through war like many other European cities, most of the buildings have been preserved.

The weekend we were in Prague there was an Easter festival. There were booths set up in the main square selling food, trinkets and Easter eggs. Prague is famous for its handpainted eggs. They are real eggs that they poke holes in both ends, blow out the insides, and decorate the outside with intricate designs. Then they hang them on tree branches around Easter time. We picked out a bright red and orange egg for Penelope. I don't have a picture of that, but here is a picture of the main part of the festival.
My personal favorite aspect of this event was the featured food called "TRDLO" in Czech, but which I affectionately called "turds." It's basically sweet dough that is rolled into a long string, brushed with butter, rolled in a cinnamon-sugar-almond dusting, wrapped around a metal cylinder, and cooked over an open flame. The reult is warm, flaky, sweet goodness.
It was like me and gelatto in Rome. I just couldn't get enough!
Our friends Sam and Jamie joined us for part of the time, and Rebecca also came. (Unfortunately Rebecca's wallet was stolen the second day, which sort of put a damper on her trip. Definite drawback about Prague: pickpockets rule the tourist areas.)
But back to trdlo's. We all decided the Czech language is a very strange one. Take their way of ignoring the usefulness of vowels, for example. It also appeared that their way to "Czechize" an English word was to just add "sy" to the end. When we went to the grocery store we spent some time on the "chipsy" and "dezertsy" aisle. Our favorite was finding the former house of "Franzy Kafky."

Here Penelope is enjoying a snacksy at the Easter festival.
Our first whole day in Prague was spent exploring the castle. Here you can see the huge complex at the top of the hill and the Vltava River down below.
The castle was founded in the 9th century and was added to over the centuries to include several palaces, three churches and a monastery.
We got a bit overwhelmed by all that there was to see inside the castle walls, but our handsdown favorite was the huge St. Vitus's Cathedral.

The windows of the cathedral are amazing, colorful works of art. We were fortunate enough to be walking through the cathedral as the sun was shining through the East side. This is a close up of the outside of St. Vitus.
And of the same window from the inside. This rose window depicts scenes from the Genesis account of creation.
Looking down the chancel. The ceiling seems impossibly high above you. Take note of the crowds of people. Like most tourist stops in Prague, this place was packed with tour groups.
Here are two other favorite windows of St. Vitus...
And then we come to this montrosity:
It is the tomb of St.John Nepomuk crafted in solid silver.
But wait, there's more. A gaudy thing hangs above it as well.
He was a leader in the Counter Reformation. The story goes that he was tortured to death, and his body was thrown off Charles Bridge. Later his body was found, but his tongue was still intact and hadn't decayed, which was heralded as a miracle. (Recently, scientists concluded it was not his tongue but rather part of his brain. Yuck! Sorry if you're reading this during your lunch break.)

I might as well mention that this is also the sight of the montrosity of Penelope's ear-piercing cries as she fought hard against a morning nap while I was carrying her around in the Ergo and engulfed in a tour group so large that I could not escape. After lots of looks both from the offended tourists ("can't you make her stop?!") and myself ("move out of my way fella, and stop poking at her granny and maybe she'd be able to go to sleep!!!"), she finally conked out.

Now those are some flying buttresses!
This is Golden Lane. It's a row of tiny cottages along the inside of the castle wall that were built in the 16th century for the castle's guards and gunners. Now they house artisans' shops. Franz Kafka lived in the blue one for a year.
Penelope hanging out by the Dalibor Tower, a former prison. Notice how she is about to kick her right boot off. I think I picked that boot up off of the ground 100 times that day. I seriously contemplated putting her in that prison for a time-out in hopes of her changing her ways. Instead, I just threw the boot in the diaper bag and let her go shoeless. Of course, that prompted every other person we passed on the street to stop us and let us know that she was missing a shoe.

Shoeless Penelope and the Father outside the castle gates.

Entering the Charles Bridge through the Gothic tower. The Charles Bridge is Prague's most familiar monument.
Walking across Charles Bridge with all the other millions of tourists towards the Old Town Bridge Tower.

 On the edge of Old town Square. The Church of Our Lady before Tyn rises in the center. Built in 1365, it became the Hussite church in Prague during the 15th and 16th centuries. A monument to Jan Hus sits in the square nearby.
The Old Town Hall from 1338 is on the left in the photo. You can see the crowd gathering below the Town Hall tower for the mid-day chiming of the bells.

The astronomical clock shows the movement of the sun and moon, the signs of the zodiac, the date, and the hourly time in three different ways. But the reason all the people come to see the clock chime is because of the little dance the figures on the clock do. First, the skeleton on the right pulls a rope and inverts an hourglass, and then the two little windows up top open and the 12 Apostles parade around. Next, a cock crows and the bells chime the hour. Then a Turk next to the skeleton shakes his head, Vanity looks at himself in the mirror, and Greed shakes his bag of money. Finally, a (real) man on the top of the tower plays his trumpet. Whew!

Prague has an amazing Jewish Quarter that has existed since the middle Ages. You can enter several synagogues where there are museum exhibits about the history of the Jews in Prague. My favorite was the Spanish Synagogue. It sits on the site of the first synagogue from the 11th century. The current building is only from late 1800's, but it is painted from floor-to-ceiling in bright colors with crazy geometric designs. (Like all synagogues, no cameras allowed, so you'll just have to use your imagination.)

The Old-New Synagogue, from 1270 and the oldest synagogue in Europe and still in use.
The Father illegally snapped this photo inside. (Shhh! don't tell!)
The worshippers sit in the wooden seats around the walls, and the metal Gothic grill surrounds the cantor's platform. The shrine on the back wall holds the scared scrolls of the Torah, and circumscisions take place in front of it. As you can see, the male visitors had to wear a yamaka hat when going inside.
Headless sleeping Penelope outside of the Klausen Synagogue and Ceremonial Hall.
The Old Jewish Cemetary.
Because of the lack of space people had to be buried on top of each other, up to 12 layers deep. 100,000 people are thought to have been buried here. There are tombstones here from over 700 years ago.

One afternoon we took a walk through Petrin Park, which is up on the hill close to the castle. It provided a great view of the city. The hill below was covered in vineyards and fruit trees.
On the top of the hill is this Observation Tower, a replica of the Eiffel Tower. I don't get it.

This is the front of the Loreto. We hiked up to it on our last day, but it was unfortunately closed being that it was a Monday. It is basically a cloister built around a replica of the house believed to be the Virgin Mary's. The house became an important place of pilgrimage for Czech Catholics. The Church of the Nativity, which is part of the cloister, houses gruesome relics, including fully-clothed skeletons with death masks made of wax. Needless to say, we were quite disappointed that we didn't get to see the creepy relics or Mary's house. Oh well, next trip.

And so ends our trip to Prague.

"Bye-bye Prague," calls out Penelope from the top of the Powder Tower. Thanks for the memories!

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