The Retirees go Abroad – Prague and the Czech Republic – Getting To Know Praha

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We arranged a tour of the city (called Praha by the Czechs) not on the traditional hop on hop off bus but on a small tour which rushed us around the city after which we end at the Prague Castle and then we walked down the hill to the old town. The day started with drizzle and grey skies but finished in sunshine. While waiting for the tour to start we visited an arcade. Prague is remarkable for its architecture. It is baroque, art nouveau, renaissance and gothic and on and on. The arcades are charming and popular. Here are photos of an arcade with a theatre as the centre piece.

The bus tour was a rush with a combination of English and Italian speaking tourists which meant the guide was saying everything twice and you never knew quite which building she was talking about. She took us through Jewish Town with its world listed synagogue and a history of Jewish settlement from the 10th century until WW2.

Everything else was so much of a rush that I could not be bothered trying to take photos. Once we arrived at the “castle” it became apparent that it is not a castle but rather the district is called Prague Castle. It is the old centre where the King of Bohemia, Moravia and Lower Silesia and the Holy Roman Emperor resided and his court surrounded him and the foreign dignitaries filled in the Lesser Town. So there are numerous Palaces of the King and the court making up the “Castle”. Lots of churches and disused churches like the photo below where one has been transformed into a hotel with an ecclesiastical feel. Each district making up Prague had its own town hall some grand and some like the castle where the King was top dog – quite minor. Again the architecture was fascinating like the palace below where the exterior was covered in a patterned design.

The Cathedral was as you would expect outstanding.

Then there was St Georges Cathedral with its rouge colour and phallic tower. In the courtyard of the Cathedral was the statue of a naked boy and the belief is that if fair maidens rub his phallus then they will become fertile. You will notice the only shiny part of the statue is his phallus so there are a lot of horny dick rubbing women visit Prague including the young American nurse who was amongst our tour group (centre of the photo).

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We moved down the hill through the various castle buildings and came to our restaurant where lunch awaited us. Czech ham, followed by Salmon on a potato mash and then a sorbet. Very tasty and not too filling. Down, down, down to the river we went until we came to Prague’s narrowest street. A signalised footpath would you believe it.

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We were making our way to the Charles Bridge so that we could cross to the Old Town/New Town side of the bridge (the new town dates from the 13th century and the old town from the 8th century).

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The Charles Bridge built in the 14th century by Charles IV is just for pedestrians now and it replaces two former bridges. (You can see the remains of the earlier bridges on the boat trip of the Vltana River.) It has fortified towers at either end and in the 18th century someone thought it would be a good idea to build 30 statues to saints on the bridge. The photos give you the views from the bridge to the castle to the bridge towers to a little house by the bridge, the top of the National Theatre with its golden crown, a nearby tower with the unusual turrets around the centre spire, Charles atop a pedestal to the university he created and two panoramic shots looking up and down the river.

We came upon the boat quay behind the statue of Charles and under the arch of the Charles Bridge and the remaining arches of the Judith bridge from the 11th century and another bridge lost in a flood to provide a covered harbour for these tourist ferries. Quite honestly they don’t do much and the trip was quite boring except for the beer and the ice cream handed out to all passengers. My photos show the banks of the river with Charles bridge, the yellow penguins at Kamil Lhotak an art gallery I gather, the water wheel in Certovka Canal (“certovka” is roughly devil woman and it relates to an ugly old witch who lived in a street nearby and the locals identified by painting 7 devils on her house that remain there to today).

After the boat ride we went to the astronomical clock. The Orloj is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town City Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; “The Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. According to local legend, the city will suffer if the clock is neglected and its good operation is placed in jeopardy and a skeleton, mounted on the clock, was supposed to nod his head in confirmation. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working.

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Our tour ended in a quarter of the old town created by Charles to house foreign businessmen in Prague. He was wanting to ensure they did not avoid the Kings taxes. So he built a quarter of luxury accommodation, a church, a mosque, a synagogue and a brothel for their comfort and containment. It is just off the old town square.

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There were two other Aussies on this tour – Pam and Vic from Oxenford. Pam’s feet were tired so whilst we mapped our way back to the apartment and Vic got instructions from our guide Pam pulled up a chair in a cafe and that is where we all rested until we had coffee and a chat. Parting was such sweet sorrow but we wanted to fit in another walk tonight so we left them in the cafe and went back to the square to find our way home.

This is where we met our destiny for Tuesday – we booked a Segway tour. I left Kerry to take some photos while she tried a Segway to see if she liked it and could handle it. The answer is obvious. I got some good photos of the memorial to Jan Hus a Czech protestant who taught in line with the protestant teachings of the English independent Wycliffe against catholic indulgences. Hus was burned at the stake as a heretic on the order of Pope John XXIIII following the Council of Constance. After Whycliffe he is considered the initiator of the Protestant movement and the martyr causing the Hussite Wars in Bohemia. On the way home I stopped to get these photos of the Lekarna Adam a pharmacy founded in 1520. On our evening walk I took shots of the National theatre and the monument to those lost in the black plague.

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