Prague

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I had been planning to go to Prague for a few years already but whenever I was getting close to realizing the visit things would crop up at the last minute that would prevent me from going. In the end I went on short notice with a good friend for a long week-end. We decided to split the visit equally between shopping and sight-seeing and indeed there are some very nice shopping opportunities in Prague. This, however, will not be described in more detail here. Prague is definitely a place to visit and also a place to revisit. While you feel like you get a good idea of the city in a few days, I’m sure there would be enough things to see for months. Additionally the city has a very nice active but relaxed vibe and people just seem happier there than at home. This just makes you want to stay there longer. We arrived in full preparations for easter, the easter market had just opened that week-end and we saw plenty of easter decorations on the large squares.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On our first day we decided to join one of the many free sightseeing tours through the city. We were shown were the main sights are and told some of the history of the city. We started out at the famous astrological clock on the old city hall. The clock was built in the 15th century and does not only show the hour but also the date and then walked us through the old town, the jewish quarter and to the famous Charles’ bridge. It was the perfect start to be able to decide what else we would want to visit since these tours really just visit buildings “from the outside” or even “in the distance” in the case of the castle on the other side of the river. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe quickly agreed that we would come back to the castle the next day and that we wanted to see the Jewish quarter and the old synagogues. We also decided that we would not catch the Karluv bridge at the “best time” to see it empty since this time is apparently around 4-5am, when everyone else is asleep.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo the next morning we crossed the bridge with many other people and  walked up to Prague Castle, the castle dates back to the 9th century and is still, today, the residence of the president of the Czech republic. The castle is the largest in Europe with some 700 rooms, however this does not make it more impressive, quite the contrary. The castle is so vast and stretched out that you barely notice whether you’re inside or outside it. The interesting part is less the castle itself but the buildings contained in the castle. For example St Vitus Cathedral. We had started by walking some of the gardens around the castle itself before entering, we ended up coming through the walls and face to face with the huge cathedral gleaming in the sun. Its entire side is covered in glistening golden decorations and images. With 120m in length it is also the largest church in Prague.  Founded around the time the castle was built, the ground stone of the current Gothic church dates back to the 14th century. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHowever the completion of the church took time and, indeed, it was only in 1929, some 600 years later, that the church would finally be fully completed. So, even though the church is clearly Gothic in its design, there is also much that has been mixed in from different eras. The fact that there is a cohesive look to the church is due to the final master of construction that decided to complete the missing parts of the church in a neo-Gothic style and also removed some of the elements he considered “disturbing”.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last day was really just a half day, so we spent the morning strolling through the jewish quarter and enjoying tasty pastries. We also visited the jewish cemetery which is completely overfilled and has the moss covered grave stones stacked against each other. The oldest ones dating back into the 15th century.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA From there we walked through small streets and along lovely houses towards the Jewish quarter, where we got a short history of the “old new” synagogue from the 13th century which is home to a Golem which reputedly roamed and protected the Jewish quarter in Prague for 600 years. The “old old synagogue” was unfortunately replaced by a newer one in the 19th century, so that it no longer exists today. The Spanish Synagogue replacing it is however also a very interesting sight as it closely resembles the mosques in Southern Spain (hence the name).