Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Germany Trip Part 8 - Prague, Day 2

We spent day 2 in Prague exclusively on the other side of the river, exploring Prague Castle!  The castle dates back to the 9th century when it was home to the kings of Bohemia. The entire complex sits atop a hill and is huge!  It contains 4 churches including the Basilica of St. George and the famous Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, whose towers you can see on the left side of the picture above, 4 palaces, an art museum, a museum housing the crown jewels of Bohemia, sprawling gardens and Golden Lane, a small alley where artisans and soldiers (and later on Franz Kafka) used to live.

In order to get to the castle side of the river, we got to cross the famous St. Charles bridge, flanked by stone and gilded statues and dotted with local artists and kiosks selling their touristy wares.  We set out early enough in the morning that it wasn't a madhouse yet and so we could actually stop to admire some of the sculptures and the view without getting jostled. On our way up to the castle I convinced S and K to stop in a couple of art galleries - they're all over the place there and one of the fond memories I have from my last trip to Prague as well!  We went into one where I fell in love with the artist who painted the picture below.  I can actually afford the originals now, but I couldn't swallow spending quite that much money.  Maybe one day when I win the lottery...
Once we got up to the castle, things were simultaneously different and the same as what I'd remembered from my last trip.  The tourism in the castle was unreal.  There were SO MANY people and tourist groups everywhere with giant umbrellas and red balloons leading hoards of people through the courtyard.  I hadn't remembered having to pay to walk around the general castle area last time either, we'd explored freely and just happened upon certain areas.  Everything was quite crowded, which became annoying after a while, especially in Golden Lane, but the castle itself was as beautiful as ever.

We found the upper hallway above Golden Lane that K Koz and I had discovered last time.  I insisted that we had to go because my first experience here felt like we'd happened upon some hidden little nook.  This time the nook was chock full of people (it made navigating the super narrow spiral staircases a real challenge) and much less secretive than last time.  But they did still have the cross bow range and so K and I took a couple of shots.  The targets were just plain white paper with plain ink this time (the target from my first trip was beautiful and colorful and now actually lives framed on my wall!).  After touring the Basilica of St. George, the main palace, and Golden Lane we were ready for lunch so we headed back down the hill for some tasty Italian food and then headed back up after lunch to explore St. Vitus Cathedral and the art collection of Lobkowicz Palace. On our way out we walked through the gorgeous gardens surrounding the castle with a lovely view of the river.

We made our way back down the hill and through the cobbled streets of Old Town, head back toward the St. Charles Bridge.  We passed the Kafka Museum, snagged a pretzel and some hot chocolate tea at a shop that smelled incredible, and then stopped at a small viewing site along the shore of the river.

At this point it was getting late so we headed back to the other side of the river and snagged some dinner and drinks at this amazing (and kind of expensive) art deco restaurant around the corner from our hotel.  We were exhausted from the long day of walking and climbing, so we headed back to the hotel and crashed hard that night.  Just one more day left of our trip!!!

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