Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Day in Prague

In June I attended a conference in Prague, and I was able to take a day to explore the city a bit. It was also an opportunity to learn to use my new and first ever digital camera! (Thanks Mom and Dad!) It's not as easy as it seams to take non blury pictures. I deleted them all, but now I'm kind of wishing I'd kept a few just to show how bad I was to start with.

I did eventually figure things out with my camera. Here is a bit about my day in Prague.

We started the day by walking across the Charles Bridge, which spans the Vltava river in Prague. This site has some nice pictures and a bit of history and info about the bridge. It involves lots of floods and revolts. There were many statues as well as street vendors selling art and other stuff. Supposedly, the Charles Bridge also has the highest percentage of pickpockets in Prague. Luckily we didn't encounter any of them. At each end of the bridge are the bridge towers. A few of us went up the bridge tower on the right of the arch in this first picture. This tower is on the Lesser Quarter side of the bridge, which sounds like a place where the bad guys from J.R. Ward's Blackdagger Brotherhood series would live. I took the next picture from the top of the tower, looking back over the Charles Bridge. In the distance above the trees you can see the bridge tower on the Old Town side of the bridge. Yes, it was a beautiful day. A few other people were out enjoying the day as well.

After crossing the bridge, we slowly worked our way up to Prague Castle (Hradcany Castle). On the way there, we stopped to see St. Nicholas Cathedral, which was just beautiful. The architecture and the interior are in the Baroque style, according the the pamphlet. (See, I learned something even.) The walls and domed ceilings are all painted in perspective illusive paintings, which are just really cool. Here are some of the pictures I took. The last one is from the Chapel of St. Barbara, a chapel of the dead (hence the skull and slightly gruesome paintings).

After enjoying some really yummy ice cream, we finally reached the castle. Two guards flank the entrance to the castle. I failed to take a picture, but here is one that I found of the changing of the guard (thanks to LoriPori at virtualtourist). Much like the guards at Buckingham Palace, these guards stand there immobile, staring straight ahead, and tourists try to get them to smile. If you google "prague castle changing guard" there are some videos out there showing the changing of the guard. In the ones I found, the guards were wearing the old uniforms, though, from when the Czech Republic was not the Czech Republic.

Prague Castle is a huge sprawling complex. We really only saw a little bit of it. One bit that we did see was Saint Vitus Cathedral, which is an example of gothic architecture, complete with gargoyles! The cathedral is huge. Every alcove (probably not what they're called) has intricate stained glass windows. Here is one. There are lots and lots of pictures on the web of the cathedral and its windows. Here is one site that has quite a few. I would really like to go back and see the cathedral again, especially if a time could be found when it's not being mobbed by tourists.
One last picture from the cathedral of St. Wenceslas Chapel. The walls are covered in semi-precious stones! (Why can't I have that decor?) And somewhere in there is a door leading to the Bohemian Coronation Jewels.

Walking down from the castle, I took this picture of the city of Prague. Beautiful, isn't it? You can see the Vltava River and the Charles Bridge, with the bridge tower in Old Town.

Our last stop of the day was to see the Dancing Building, a famous architectural landmark in Prague. I took this picture, which looks remarkably like the many, many other pictures out there if you search the web. The nickname of the building is "Fred and Ginger," because it looks like a couple dancing. It is very interesting to see, but there is only so long you can look at a building.

After that, it was back to the conference hotel, which was about as far from the center of Prague as could be and still be considered part of the city. The conference went well, and the flight back home was uneventful. We didn't even have to wait for them to put the seats in the plane this time. Yes, there is a story there, but I think I'll save it for a time when I want to rant against airlines. I did thoroughly enjoy my day in Prague. I hope I will have a chance to go back again and see more of the city.