Thursday, September 11, 2014

Prague: Chesky Krumlov castle

There are a number of day trips one can arrange from Prague. We decided on Chesky Krumlov castle. The location was a good choice, the tour company however ...
It started with the threat of rain. Luckily, we had brought along the umbrellas we bought in Budapest when we were caught in that shower so that didn't cause too much trouble. The real problem was our guide. First, he had to give the tour in English and in Spanish and he kept forgetting which language he was in! He'd start in English, then forget to repeat in Spanish. Then he's start in Spanish and realise he was trying to talk to the English speaking tourists. He kept correcting himself, forgetting names, dates and events. It was a bit of a mess.

But, the place was beautiful and the castle tour itself was very interesting (different guide) except that they didn't allow photos, which I think it just mean.
This is a bridge that connects the different parts of the castle over this ravine. 
The town was so gorgeous with this river running through it and the old houses.
There are all kinds of different architectural types in the same place here. Our guide said it was because the town was too poor to tear down the previous style and rebuild in their own. Lucky for us!  If you look closely, you'll see Jesus and a bishop entertaining the kids by the monument.
View after view and each one better than the last. Too bad for the cloudy skies. 

You can see the kayakers in this photo. They get a little bit of rapids as they go over the dam.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Prague: St. Vitus Cathedral

As I mentioned in the previous post, St. Vitus Cathedral is the heart of the Prague Castle complex. It's huge, very gothic and very interesting. Let's have a look.
Front entrance. There is free entry for all up until a certain point. After that, to get a closer look, you need to purchase a ticket.
Lots of gargoyles to help the water drain off the roof. We were near here during a pretty heavy downpour so got to see them up close and in action. 
A view of some of the stained glass. I have quite a few photos of the windows, but I just can't get them to turn out.
Here's a view of the organ. They have concerts here as well each evening, but we didn't end up fitting one in. I'm sure it's amazing acoustics.
These are the actual crypts of some of the Hapsburg royalty who play a prominent role in Prague history. What I found interesting is that they are in the middle of the church itself. Those are pews on either side. Not sure I'd be that comfortable sitting next to them during Sunday mass.
Confessionals. I love the contrasting colors in this picture.
All along the far end of the church are these small separate chapels paying homage to various rulers, patrons or saints of the church. They each have their own style, which makes for an eclectic hodgepodge of a collection, but very interesting. 
For example, this is the crypt of John Nepomuk who was one of the queen's confessors. When the king insisted he spill the queen's secrets, he refused and was then thrown off the Charles Bridge. He now has this monstrosity (all silver and weighing many tons) in St. Vitus and has his own larger chapel in another part of the castle grounds.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Prague Castle

An absolute must-do on any trip to Prague is a visit to the Prague Castle. It's a beacon and a landmark as it sits high on a hill that you can see from most vantage points in the city. You really get a sense of how life must have been before skyscrapers and cars. Everything would start at the castle and flow down the hillside to the river and then over to the other side.

Prague Castle is a complex of many buildings and we spent 2 half days there in order to get a look at everything. You can rent an audio guide for up to 3 hours that provides more information than your head can take it. We did that the first afternoon and felt a bit rushed trying to fit everything in. The second afternoon, we took our time without the guide to really enjoy the place.
This is the first inner courtyard of the castle just inside the gates. We took these during our Segway tour around 10:30am on Sunday morning so it wasn't very crowded.
Fountain in that same courtyard. Still enough tourists that I couldn't get a shot of just the fountain. You can see in the background some of the restoration going on.
This is outside the gates and looking back to the castle compound. You can see the crowd starting to form for the hourly changing of the guard.
Here's a better view of the front gates shortly before noon for the changing of the guard ceremony. Now you really get a sense of the crowds!
This is the end of the ceremony and the guards heading away from the castle. I captured some nice video of the event, but can't get it to upload into the blog.
This is inside the castle complex near an area called Golden Alley where the merchants for the royal family lived and set up shop. It started to rain about this time, which, of course, we loved, but did put a damper on our photo ops.
Sun back out and one of the chapels in the castle complex. The largest structure is the St. Vitus Cathedral, and that's so cool, it deserves it's own blog post. You can see the poster for the evening concert. Again, music everywhere in Prague!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Prague: Jazz Boat tour

Opportunities to hear live music are abundant in Prague. Our first night, we attended a Mozart Opera dinner with a small quintet, soprano and tenor. Most other nights, we stumbled across someone in the street playing this or that. There is music everywhere! This night, we went on the Jazz Boat, which is a dinner cruise with live jazz. We were inside so some of my photos have a glare, but you'll get the idea.
The boat leaves shortly before sunset and runs about 2 hours - plenty of time to enjoy dinner, the view and the jazz.
Here's a shot of the band. They have a different group every night and you can see the schedule when you reserve the tickets. We wanted to have a band and not a singer. They were really good!
And of course, the best part was to see Prague from the river.
Charles Bridge.
No idea what the penguins are about, but they were so cute I had to take a photo.
The glare is bad on this one, but it was the best I could manage. I put the camera away at this point since the photos weren't turning out anyway and just enjoyed the music, the food and the company.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Prague: Astronomical Clock Tower

This astronomical clock is the oldest of its kind still operational. It was installed in 1410 and is still running today. Each hour, the clock chimes the time and puts on a little show where the 12 apostles peak out the two windows at the top. A massive crowd gathers every hour to see it. I have a video of the event, but can't see to get it to load through the blog. So, enjoy the photos instead.

Next we went to the top of the tower to get a great view of Prague. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Prague: Sunday Morning Segway

Charles Bridge is a pedestrian bridge crossing the river Vltava and connecting both sides of Prague. It's a gorgeous bridge with even more stunning views, but most of the time it's teeming with tourists and street artists. Our first morning in Prague, Sunday, we had scheduled a 9am Segway tour so headed out quite early for a Sunday morning. Our reward? The city practically to ourselves. Even our Segway tour guide was amazed at how quiet everything was. A good tip for the Prague tourist - get up early on Sunday!
This area later in the day is packed with tourists and street artists.
A glimpse of Prague castle. Unfortunately, we were running late so I couldn't stop to take a lot of pictures. In hindsight, I should have as we were the only two on the tour.

This is Wenceslas Square which is also usually crowded with tourists. This view the night before was completely different!

More photos of our tour to come as they relate to the different areas of the city.