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The castle above the river

Prague is often compared with Budapest, which is understandable. I like Budapest, and I’m sure I would have liked Prague just as much. It has the same kind of feel, grand architecture and a cosmopolitan flavour that made me feel comfortable – or at least as comfortable as I could under the circumstances.

As always with APT, we were put up in a hotel close to the old town, within walking distance of Wenceslas Square. The fellow on the horse is Wenceslas himself, a ruler in the tenth century who converted his people to Christianity. Like St Stephen of Hungary, Wenceslas was made a saint. You might remember the Christmas song, “Good king Wenceslas looked down, on the feast of Stephen…” (Sorry about the ear worm ? )

After a night tucked up in bed we gathered bright and early for the visit to Prague’s castle precinct – which includes St Vitus Cathedral, so we could see it all in one place. Our local guide for Prague was Tomas’s mum, Marta, who certainly knew her stuff. The bus climbed the hill overlooking the river to where the castle stands. For a nice change, the day was fine, with the mist hanging around the tops of the towers burning off quickly. We arrived in time to see the changing of the guard – but in the photo you’ll see the soldier in camouflage dress. He wasn’t the only one around.

The cathedral is an interesting mix of old and new. Building started in the fourteenth century but it wasn’t finally consecrated until1929. The windows, in particular, reflect that mix of styles over time. I recall Marta pointing out some features in the newer windows which are effectively ads for people who donated to the work. As usual, this strategically important site would have been a fortress of some sort for far longer than the current buildings have existed. Excavation is taking place, uncovering much older remains that have been built over. And while they’re at, fixing a few of the footings.

Archaeological excavation
Love the reflected light
The very Gothic nave
The rose window
The gargoyles are very compelling. This one looks like it’s the night after

We were lucky we arrived early. I’m sure Marta and Tomas arranged the visit deliberately so we could avoid the rush. I must say, I think hordes of Chinese would have to be the rudest tourists in the world. After we’d visited the castle, Marta took us to a restaurant nearby, where we bought very good coffee and a piece of carrot cake. I was expecting, you know, a slice of cake with maybe some cream cheese frosting. This is what I got (not my picture).

This photo of Cafe 22 is courtesy of TripAdvisor

It was delicious.

We were given the option of walking back to the hotel from the castle, over the Charles Bridge and through the Old Town while Marta told us all about the sights. It would have been nice, but a few of us passed. Long haul flight day after tomorrow. Being sick on holiday sucks. But we did wander around the area near the hotel. The Czechs have some very weird art, and some very cool shops.

Art in Wenceslas Square
Items in an antique shop

That’s Wenceslas on that dead horse. Here’s the story

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