Friday, October 22, 2010

Prague Blogue

We loved Prague but our time there was riddled with small problems. I'll just start from the beginning. We didn't get off on the wrong stop this time. We actually walked from the train station to the hotel and found our way just fine. The center of Prague is small just like Amsterdam, so it's easy to walk everywhere. The sound of our luggage wheels on the cobblestones was pretty annoying, though. Cobblestones and brick and any kind of stone street is very attractive looking. And not really all that practical. We got in after dinner time so we just grabbed a quick bite to eat (which turned out to be REALLY good) and then headed to bed for a long, haphazard day to follow.

We wanted to take a little trip while we were in Prague, over to Kutna Hora to see the Bone Church (will explain what this is later). So we planned to walk around Prague in the morning, then go to Kutna Hora in the afternoon. First we headed out to the Old Town Square (I think that's what it's called) to see the Astronomical Clock and all the old churches and Gothic architecture and whatnot. Here are the photos from that:

Us in the square.

Loved this dark, eerie statue in the square.

Us again, the trees were pretty and the tower with the Astronomical clock was right behind.

The Astronomical Clock.

Andrew in front of the clock.

I thought it was nice of this statue to hold out her arm for the bird to perch on like that. They look cozy together!

The four figures on the clock represent 4 things that were feared/despised/warned against. Here is Death and the infidel Turk (old school bigotry, check).

And these figures represent vanity and greed by a Jew holding a bag of money. Old school bigotry still intact? Check!

Close up of the zodiac ring.

I love all the ceilings in these gothic buildings.

The really awesome stairwell with a small cylindrical elevator in the middle, on our way up to the top of the tower.

Our view from the top of the tower.

The square down below.

More view.

It was great up there!

Still love it!

About an hour or two into our day, our camera battery started to die. We didn't want to venture out too much without the ability to take pictures so we headed back to the hotel to charge it for an hour. By then it was time to head out to Kutna Hora so we just walked to the train station. We were sorta pressed for time so we hurried to and around the station. But our train had a final destination in a bigger city so we couldn't find our destination on any of the boards. We had to go to 2 information booths to figure it out, and we just barely made the train out of Prague. We had to navigate our way through only 1 train change (sounds easy, but not a word of English was spoken once we left Prague, not even by the train conductors). We figured out the trains, got to Kutna Hora, figured out the busses and finally made it to Bone Church.

The city was small and kinda rural, the church was small, was basically one room.... and it was totally worth it! It was like nothing either of us have ever seen. This old church is completely decorated with human bones. Skulls were strung to make a sort of garland draping the ceilings. These were all bodies of those that perished during the black plague. We read that about 40,000 (or more) bones were used in the church. Here are the photos:

The entryway... lovely bone garland and ornaments:

A delightful bone chalice:

Some of the skulls still had teeth!

A whole lot of bones.

Bone lettering:

Lots and lots.

The ornamental centerpiece - garland around the chandelier.

Stunning bone chandelier... who wants one of their very own?

I think we're going to decorate like this when we get home.

Who WOULDN'T want their skull to end up a votive?

Okay, these photos are my favorite. It's a family crest all in bones. So cool! Check out the close ups:

Some of them did NOT die from natural causes.

Cheery bone sunburst.

Andrew wanted to show everyone how big the structures were.

The bones peering at us as we leave.

Last view of the entrance as we leave.

Andrew standing at the entrance.

We were spellbound by the Bone Church. But then it was all downhill from there! We stopped at a little cafe to grab a sandwich to take with us back on the train (we hadn't eaten lunch yet). I ordered a hot chocolate to drink because it's pretty cold in this part of Europe in October, even during the day. The first sip into my hot chocolate and I feel something not liquid in my mouth. Something solid. I quickly take it out. And it's a fly. A fly! There was a fly in my hot chocolate! And then in my mouth! It must have gotten in there before the waitress put the whipped cream on, then it got stuck under the layer of whipped cream. I tried very hard (successfully) not to freak out. Then I washed my mouth out with Andrew's beer (keep in mind, I hate beer so I certainly wouldn't rush to swish with it... but I needed the cleansing properties of the alcohol, AND something else to gross me out besides the memory of the feel of the fly on my tongue). Needless to say, we wrapped it up in that cafe after that and hit the road.

Back at the bus stop, we were unsure of which bus to look for and which side of the street to catch it on. So we went from one side of the street to the other. And missed the bus on the opposite side. Then we decided that maybe we could just walk back to the train station (our train back to Prague was leaving in 30 minutes) so we walked down the street so we could look around the bend and tell how long the street is. And in the meantime we missed the bus on our side of the street. I began stewing with fly-induced frustration. We waited and waited, but no other bus arrived. Finally when it did, it was on the wrong side of the street but we got on it anyway thinking it would get us to the train station quickly enough. It didn't. We came upon a different station just as my patience was running out and I saw a sign for Prague leaving in about 4 minutes. I made the call. Go for it! We got off the bus, studied the board, took a look around... turns out, that was a bus station. And we had train tickets. So now we have definitely missed our train back to Prague. It would be an hour wait for the next one. At a small train station in Czech hicksville, no indoor seating, no one speaking English at the station, just us standing out in the cold to wait for our train, hoping we're in the right spot, walking around asking people "Prague?" and "Kolin?" (the city along the way) in our best, exaggerated, high-pitched, question voices. Finally we find the train to Prague. Well, first to Kolin, then we have to change to get the train to Prague. We get into Kolin and see a train to Prague waiting to leave. We decide to hop on it (as opposed to waiting 5 minutes for the train we intended on taking back to Prague). It was a local commuter train. The 1-hour train ride took us 30 minutes extra on this train, stopping at every small station on the way. I could have shot laser beams out of my eyes by this point. This excursion took us almost an extra 2 hours and we were tight on time anyway!

We got back into Prague, went to the hotel room, and I passed out. Andrew went to the bar for a drink. Let's just say grumpy Christina isn't his favorite Christina and leave it at that. After my nap, we went out to dinner to try to forget the day's mishaps. The restaurant was cool - in this old 15th century catacombs. The food was good but expensive. We paid for the atmosphere:

After dinner we waked to Charles Bridge and slowly meandered back to the hotel:

Walking onto the bridge.

They're good with their ceilings here!

View of the castle from the bridge.

View of us on the bridge.

Can't get enough of the castle at night! Really!

Andrew thought this was cool. I thought it was gross. Yes, it was real.

Classic paintings!

The next day was much better. We went to Prague Castle, took some tours there, then to the Jewish Quarter, took several tours there, had a good lunch, finally made our way back to the hotel to pick up our luggage, and walked to the train station. Here are our photos from the day:

The monsters all over the castle were dripping as they drained the rainwater.

Andrew loved these monkey guys.

Creatures all over the castle!

More awesome ceilings but even more awesome stained glass!

It was amazing stained glass. Photos can't do it justice.

Love it!

The outside of the Cathedral.

Tombs inside the Cathedral - this guy's got a panther at his feet.

Big silver tomb.

Andrew liked the lion holding the sword.

Can't get enough of the stained glass!

Okay, I have a thing for old wooden doors. I think they're so pretty, especially the arch-shaped ones.

One of the views of Prague from inside the castle.

Me in front of one of my favorite things - an old wooden door!

This frame was all gold and really amazing!

Oh yeah, I like ceilings too. Andrew will work on this for the condo when we get back.

This was an entryway into the castle for the knights on horseback. Extra tall and wide and the steps were low and widely spaced out.

Some building at the castle... I forget.

The photo I snuck inside the castle. I'm such a rebel!

Blacksmith at work.

Andrew has a theory that he works on the same piece of metal all day long and the stuff he sells is from Amazon or eBay or something.

The view of Prague as we leave the castle.

Me and doors... can't help it. Andrew obliged by posing.

Snuck this photo illegally. Andrew looking at a very old Torah.

These guys have been holding up this building for a LOOOOONG time!

These are all photos at the Jewish Cemetary. This was the only place Jews were allowed to bury for years. Gravestones upon gravestones:

We couldn't take a lot of photos of things inside Prague Castle or the Jewish Quarter (especially the Jewish Quarter) but they had lots of cool, old artifacts inside the synagogues (old Torahs, Torah shields and crowns, shrouds, drawings, paintings, books, etc.). One of the synagogues was actually turned into a memorial to the murdered Jews of the Czech Republic during the Holocaust. The walls were completely covered with the names of the victims. The writing was small and the synagogue was big. It was sort of like visiting the Vietnam Wall memorial. Only there were 80,000 names, each listed in alphabetical order, grouped by city. Andrew looked for the Kolazek family name (on his mother's father's side of the family) but didn't find it.

We really liked Prague despite that one terrible afternoon. The buildings were just amazing. The people were pretty nice. We would love to go back and explore some more neighborhoods. Next time!

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