Sunday, January 31, 2016


Fodor's Travel website introduces Prague perfectly:

One of Europe’s best-preserved cities, Prague has a romantic riverside location enhanced by graceful bridges and a magnificent skyline punctuated with medieval church spires. Its historic Old Town follows a plan laid out 1,000 years ago, with ancient squares and winding cobblestone streets. Haunting Prague Castle looms large across the Vltava River, rising above the exquisite Charles Bridge. Add extravagant, fairy-tale architecture; memorable classical music; and, these days, good food and drink, and it’s easy to see why Prague charms everyone who visits.

We had 3 1/2 perfect days to explore the city, so we stuck to the historic district and enjoyed every minute.    Using travel websites, we found a little hotel smack-dab in the middle of the old town called Hotel Cerny Slon (the Black Elephant)  Since my maiden name is the Slovenian equivalent ot Cerny, we had to try it.  

See the window with the dormer on the roof?  That was our room...5 floors up (about 14 steps for each floor), no elevator; but then I felt much better about all the beer and Czech food I ate!  Here is our room and our ceiling:

The view down from that window:

And across the street, at the Black Elk:

Down that alleyway next to the building is the city square....

The double-spired church there is the one right next to our hotel - it is a museum now, of course, but has Masses a few times a week.  Many of the churches are being restored, but are usually meant for tourists and for classical music concerts.  

We took a free city walking tour - we have found these in all of the European cities and they are great.  The tour guides are proud locals with lots of history and fun stories to share.  They expect a tip at the end but no high pressure.  We always pick one with high ratings on tripadvisor.

Here is our guide sharing events that happened in the city square - the most fascinating facts were about both Nazi and then Soviet occupation.  He says this is the BEST time in Czech history - freedom, education, culture, food, beauty, and really great beer.

In a 12th century courtyard, he pointed out his statue of St. John of Nepomunk.  He is always depicted with that halo of stars behind his head.  We will see him later on the bridge...he was thrown off the bridge by order of King Wenceslas; traditionally, the reason was that the monk would not tell the king what the queen had confessed to him.
We had a lovely Italian dinner that night in an outdoor cafe just below this statue.

An ancient Black Madonna - if he had not pointed it out, we never would have noticed this pretty icon. It is perched on the corner of the Black Madonna House, an oft-referred to example of architectural Cubism in Prague..

Continuing in the Architecture part of the tour:

The Opera House, where Mozart debuted several of his works:

Just another pretty lintel:

Fred and Ginger, the Dancing House  (which is available for lease)

Wenceslas Sqaure

Looking down from the top of the square

The Powder Tower, a piece of the old city wall.  Absolutely Gorgeous.  

View from the Powder Gate:

There is a large Jewish Quarter with ancient cemeteries, several Synagogues, museums, etc. which we visited but didn't get a photo permit, so I only have this one photo of a restored synagogue.
 Look this site for great photos and descriptions:

We heard about the Czech heroes from WWII who succeeded in the only assassination of a Nazi top official.  After the deed, they holed up in the basement of a church but were caught and killed there. (In retlation, the Nazis then killed a whole Czech village)   Here is the memorial, with the bullets holes still there:

THE CHARLES BRIDGE is probably the most famous site.  It is lined with amazing statues of saints, biblical and mythological scenes.  Some have been restored and some are covered with black from pollution.  Crossing the bridge is an event in itself - musicians, artists, crafts, acrobats and LOTS of people.  We were happy we were there on a drizzly September day...I can't imagine how crowded it would be in the summer!

Fabulous musicians:

The Bridge leads up to the "castle on the hill," the place of government even today.  On the grounds inside the wall is the St. Vitus Cathedral.  (I can just hear my mother admonishing us to stop fidgeting and doing the St. Vitus Dance)

One side of a silver monument to afore-mentioned St. John...this is only one fourth of it:

Cool Medival Memorials:

Coffee with a view!!!!!!

And the guards:

Medieval shop houses on the castle grounds:

I had to buy some Christmas ornaments...

My mother had a special devotion to the Infant of Prague...many Catholics will recognize the toddler-age Jesus with a crown and elaborate gowns.  We saw the original in a small church (Our Lady Victorious)  below the castle hill;  the statue was given to Prague by Empress Maria Theresa in the 18th Century. (You can just see the little guy among all the gilt and silver)

The church includes a museum to all the outfits given to the statue...

and a beautiful Jesus hidden in the stairway

Now a bunch of photos of amazing sites:

A special note for travelers:  We took the tram and city buses with no trouble.  Very easy to use!

Kafka monuments:

The stone streets are Art To Walk On:

An Abbey Brewery that featured a new Zombie craft beer:

Just a spot at the train station:

Lots of great beer

Outdoor market lunch for the local businesspeople

Look it goat or pig or lamb??

Live, really good JAZZ every night in little local bars:

And a fun waiter:  (notice the "Typical Czech Restaurant" with Mojito San Francisco  :)  )

Off to Berlin in the morning!!!