Sunday, July 4, 2010

Prague Day 2, Morning

  I awoke early on day two, a man with a mission.  Cafe Imperial!  My guidebook said "a tour de force of Art Nouveau tiling" and "excellent eggs Benedict."  Either of those statements alone would have sufficed; together, they exerted a powerful effect upon my soul.  It was in the same direction I had gone on day one, but I had not had the wisdom to continue for another two blocks to reach it.  Older and wiser, I arrived to the promised land on day two:

  Actually one of the better eggs Benedict I have had.  The sauce was nice and tart, enough ham was provided, and the muffins were nice and crisp.  I don't think I shall post the menu this time; it was not anything terribly unexpected.  It is available upon request.  :->
  Onward towards Prague Castle; that was my overall goal for the day.  On the way, the Prague post office:

  Seems like those figures ought to be doing something more obviously post-related, but there you are.  Now I got into a maze of twisty little passages:

and here saw Prague's oldest surviving Gothic building, according to my guidebook, the Convent of St. Agnes:

  Unfortunately the gates were to remain locked for the next hour, so that photo through the locked gate was as close as I got.  Onward to Josefov, the old Jewish quarter of Prague:

  The Jews were first confined to this ghetto by law in the 13th century, and that lasted until the 19th century.  When the laws were finally changed, many Jews decided to move out to nicer parts of the city, and Josefov became a slum.  In the 20th century most of the old buildings were demolished in favor of Art Nouveau apartment blocks such as the one above; only a few of the old buildings remain, such as the  old Jewish town hall:

  Because Hebrew is read from right to left, the hands of the clock on the town hall run anticlockwise, or so I was told.  Another surviving old building is a synagogue:

  No idea what that plaque on the synagogue says; someone who can read Hebrew could perhaps fill me in.  Another synagogue, probably less old:

  A bit more nice detail on a building:

  And now I left Josefov.  (I had planned to go to the Jewish cemetery there, but the city of Prague has turned it into a tourist trap with paid admission, and I have a strong objection to paying admission to see the graves of dead people — did they consent to being a source of tourist dollars for the city of Prague before they died??? — so I passed that up and moved on.)  I zipped through the museum quarter, stopping only to snap photos; the actual museums will have to wait until I have a bit more time to see the city:

  That last is a statue of Dvorak that is in front of the museum.  Now crossing the river by yet another bridge (Manesuv most, I think), I got a nice view of my final objective:

  But my plan was to get there along the Lonely Planet guide's Hradcany walking tour, so I first had to walk northward quite a ways to get to the start of the path.  Past a WWII monument:

through a garden with modern art statues:

and now I'm at Pisek Gate:

  This was built in 1721 as part of the fortifications of Prague.  On to the Royal Garden, with lovely views of the castle:

as well as some other rather stunning architecture:

  Now I was within spitting distance of the castle:

  But then I got distracted.  There was a woman with a display of various raptors and owls:

  There were perhaps as many as a dozen different birds, all different species, perched around the courtyard:

and for an inconsequential 100 Czech crowns (hmm, $4?) I got to hold a Golden Eagle on my arm:

  That's right, that's a Golden Eagle.  I got to stroke her breast feathers.  She was quite heavy, as you might imagine; I held for for several minutes, and my arm got quite tired.  It should be noted that Golden Eagles are not local to the Czech Republic; they just happened to have one there, and that was the bird I wanted to hold.  She was hooded because she doesn't tolerate being held by anyone but her handler, whom she imprinted upon as a chick:

  I like his rather eagle-eyed gaze at her.  I can see why she might regard him as a member of her species.  :->  So, after that rather remarkable experience, I finally reached the castle:

  They have their fair share of silly guards stationed around the castle, armed with bayonets, for the tourists.  However, lest you think these guards are entirely soft, let me warn you: stay out of their way.  When I was walking around later, a set of three guards were marching from point A to point B in formation, and an oblivious tourist was standing right in their path.  They didn't slow down one iota; at the last minute, the guard in the lead gave her a very vigorous shove that actually knocked her right over.  They kept on marching without missing a beat.  Rather interesting, really.
  Anyhow, now inside the castle, one of the first sights to confront me was the gargoyles of the St. Vitus Cathedral:

  Just wonderful.  Note the downspouts that exit through their mouths; I'd love to be there in a rainstorm. I got a peek at the inside of the cathedral; a service was being held, but they had left a side door open, and a small crowd of tourists had found their way in to gawk.  I chose to join the gawkers:

  Then we were discovered by some functionary, and summarily escorted off the premises (he actually snapped his fingers at us and pointed at the door, which I thought was amusing).
  There were some other beautiful old buildings in the castle grounds:

  But my eye just always returned to the cathedral:

  Just astounding.  Everywhere you look, the detail and beauty of the craftsmanship is almost beyond belief.  And on that note, I think I'll end this post.

1 comment:

  1. I don't read Hebrew, but I can confirm that the Josefov clock is arranged anti-clockwise.