Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Prague weekend

Just in case I needed an excuse to visit another great European city for a weekend, good friend (& one of my oldest) Levi having been somewhat exiled to Czech while he tries to get back in to the UK provided such a reason. As Levi was travelling in by train from the east of the country, he arrived at our apartment (but fifty metres from Old Town Square) a little before me.

Although so close to the centre of the old, & therefore most visited, part of town the apartment was set well back in a big, enclosed courtyard & was super quiet & conducive to sleep. We were bemused by this door as we eventually wandered out to explore the city Saturday morning.

It became apparent quickly that Prague is filled with beautiful buildings.  This is the Rudolfinum - a concert hall home of the Prague Spring Music Festival. 

Crossing the river (Vltava), we were wandering towards the castle to have a look. I spent a little bit of time explaining to Levi modern-European history - well, as much as I know - when we came across this monument marking the German occupation before and during WWII.
Spying a small gate in a large wall, we somewhat stumbled across the beautiful gardens of the Senate.  Eventually we found our way to the one exhibition I particularly wanted to see - the Lobkowicz collection.  A family collection, there was more fascinating history here as the family had their extensive property confiscated & regained not once, but twice over fifty-odd years in the twentieth century.  The first time the Nazis took it all and shortly after getting it back from them, the Soviets came & took it all again for much longer.  The audio tour, by members of the family, was surprisingly good.  The highlight of the entire collection was Haymaking by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, part of his seasons series - another one, The Harvesters, I remember vividly from the Met in NYC.  A couple of large Canolettos of London panoramas were also particularly interesting.

By now we were within the walls of the castle (which is much more impressive from a distance).  In the middle of it is St Vitus Cathedral:

All around Prague were these old open-topped cars for showing tourists around, the one on the right is an old Skoda that somehow is still going.

We were both intrigued by the patterns on the side of this building:

There were plenty of trams around, some sleek & new - others like this one below made me feel like I'd stepped in to an old Bond film.

This poster, on a rather circuitous walk to more fantastic food, I found deliciously ironic:

National Museum

It's not quite the Kaituna River

Prague Castle from Charles Bridge
In between watching the Olympics (with the Czech commentary very quiet), there was plenty of time to wander around & look at the beautiful sights.  This is the Prague Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square - the oldest working example of such a clock in the world, dating from the early 1400s.  It puts on quite the show on the hour, but as a timepiece is extremely difficult to read - we got more enjoyment looking at the crowds delighting in the clock & even cheering it on.

With more delicious gelato & smooth beer consumed, at different times, it was very nice to end up relaxing on one of the islands in the middle of the river.
Dancing House down near the river.
Plenty of people out pedalloing

Did I mention we ate a lot? Gorgeous salmon down near the John Lennon wall.

So a fantastic weekend hanging out in Prague with Levi, strangely we talked an awful lot of cycle-touring - must be a good place for it, seeing the sights & enjoying the local food & beer.

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