Tuesday, November 22, 2016


As I have said in the previous post, Prague is magical. This magic is concentrated in basically one area – the Old Town. The adjoining Wenceslas Square in the so called New Town is nice to a lesser extent. The Castle District across the river is the other magical area. Of course, the area around the Old and New Towns, all within walking distance, and the riverfront have some really exquisite buildings too. But to experience Prague, I really recommend you stay in the Old Town area.

Old Town and the square is the sanctum sanctorum of Prague from a tourist’s perspective. This area is similar in structure, though much larger and with many more buildings, as the Grand Place or Grote Markt in Brussels. Every tourist is here. So, you have the attendant detritus – Thai Massage Parlours, trinket and souvenir shops, the street performers be they acrobats, magicians and those dressed in costume mimicking statues, restaurants with tables  spilling out onto the square, poor touristic food, guides on Segway’s, miscellaneous touts and so on. This unfortunately is part and parcel of visiting a really beautiful destination. However, all this does not in any manner detract from the sheer beauty of this area. 

Beautiful building after beautiful building, pristine, each painted in a pastel shade, each having in its façade some sort of statue or metallic design element.

Along the River were some exquisite buildings. Just ordinary residential buildings. Really nice.

And then we came to the highly controversial new structure called Fred & Ginger after the legendary Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers. This pair of buildings were designed by the American Architect Frank Gehry who also designed the genre busting Dancing House. You decide if this makes sense.

The Square has the Astronomical Clock constructed in 1490. You have a dial showing the phases of the Sun and the Moon, various other moving components including a moving skeleton and a procession of moving Apostles. This little performance can be seen at the stroke of the hour right through the day, needless to say, the maximum `clock action’ is at 12 noon. Hundreds of tourists, scores of guides, people on Segway’s all await with open mouths the wonders of this Astronomical Clock as the minute hand moves to 12. There is chiming, a window opens and the Apostles flit about and that is about it. It is pretty amazing how a little noise and some `naach gaana’ can thrill us. I don’t have a video to show you, please make do with the photos and use your imagination.

At one corner of the Old Town is the historic Jewish Quarter known as Josevof. This small area is in one way tragic and on the other hand, has some of the most expensive boutiques sitting cheek by jowl with the tragedy. The Jews were banned from living anywhere else in Prague. Subsequently, Jews were allowed out and this area was redeveloped. Ultimately only a few Synagogues remained with the old Cemetery. The Cemetery is rather shocking. Although the cemetery was expanded several times over the centuries, it was still not big enough to meet the needs of the Jewish Town. As space was scarce, bodies were buried on top of each other, with graves layered up to 10 deep. There are about 12,000 tombstones in the cemetery, and even more disturbingly, the cemetery is some 15 to 20 feet above street level. There is also a Jewish Museum dedicated to those who lost their lives in WWII. This is chilling. This Museum, the size of a bungalow, has the names of the Jews killed written in small font on the walls. All the walls of all the rooms are filled with names. Upsetting. 

There is also a sculpture representing Franz Kafka a Jew who lived here. 

Wenceslas Square is a newer part of Prague. At the top of the Square, is the National Museum and the Statue of Wenceslas. This Square has been the site of the Velvet Revolution. Celebrations and protests are all held at the Square. A longish street, lined with upmarket shops connects the Old Town to Wenceslas Square. 

Across the river is the Castle district. The area is situated on the top of a hill. We walked to it. Took about an hour. You could take a tram up. I must confess that we were both rather disappointed by the buildings and the exhibitions in the buildings. The buildings were old and rather sparse. We felt that the admission fees to enter the Palace were wasted. 

Then we stepped into the St Vitus Cathedral. This was magnificent. Really impressive and beautiful. The stained glass windows in the Cathedral were something else. Unusually, you could get close to the windows. This is not something that is possible in the other Cathedrals we have visited. The windows are massive each with multiple individual panels, all of which make one window. Each of the windows has a theme and each of the panels is part of that theme. I have taken a few photos to show you how really intricate that work is.

How do you keep things clean? Well, by cleaning them.

The magnificent Cathedral

Beautiful painting inside the Palace 

I must say that the sight of the Old Town from the Castle District is very pretty. Count the spires.

Have a look at the photographs. I am sure you will be enchanted.

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