Our first day in Prague my friends and I headed to Old Town Square, the tourist center of the city. The Old Town Square is home to Prague's famous astronomical clock. Although it's quite a beautiful clock and the view from the tower up top gets you the best look at the city, the clock itself is a bit disappointing. Tourists line up daily to see the four statues above the clock do their little dance every hour. To say they move at all is exaggerating the actual "dance" of the four ambiguous figures--which I learned later each represent one of the four things most despised during the time period the clock was built. A man admiring himself in a hand mirror represents vanity, a stereotypical Jew holding a bag of gold represents greed, a skeleton represents death, and a turbaned Turk represents the infidel. Obviously all very politically correct and respectful figures. Across a small park from the clock resides the beautifully constructed Hussite Cathedral. Built in the romanesque style, it's a much more friendly and welcoming church than the gothic cathedrals of Paris. Best of all (for our hungry stomaches), a small market was set up just in the middle of the square, offering goodies from smoked ham to caramelized walnuts.
The next morning we got up early and took a walking tour around the city. Of course starting at Old Town Square, we stopped at the Hussite Church, the famous Franz Kafka statue, the Jewish quarter, the Opera House, and the Charles Bridge. Our chipper guide Simon imparted to us all the history he could fit into a two hour walking tour, then left us at the bridge to admire the view of the palace across the river.
The next day we visited the Jewish quarter again. We toured the emotionally charged Jewish cemetery, where Prague inhabitants were forced to bury their dead one on top of another because of the lack of space they were allotted. We also visited the Jewish museum and the Spanish synagogue. After a day of feeling depressed, we were ready for an uplifting tour of the Prague Castle across the river. Although our tour of the actual castle fell flat (ten euros to see three empty rooms and a church the size of my bedroom), our trek across the bridge and around the castle area was full of adventure. First, crossing the bridge is an absolute sight. You have the picturesque views of the castle on one side, then the opera house on the other. Along the bridge as well there are musicians, painters, and other vendors waiting for business. Then once on the other side, the smells of cinnamon pastries and hot wine waft past, which gently nudged us towards the cart selling goodies. Then alas, once we walked through the town and up the stairs towards the castle, the views behind us showed the red-roofed homes of Prague amongst the tips of a clock tower and church dome.
Our most interesting find across the Charles bridge however was the Lennon Wall. On an otherwise hidden and quiet street lies the brightly graffitied Lennon Wall, a Czech testament to the musician John Lennon. Next to purple or green outlines of Lennon's famous face are small excerpts from his songs in scraggly letters. "Love is all you need," or "Love is old, love is new, love is all, love is you." My favorite is the colorful painting of Lennon with the words "You may say that I'm a dreamer,"written in curvy white lettering between the singer's face and a peace sign.
Our first glimpse of Old Town Square
A cute shop selling coffee, hot wine, and sweets
The famous Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square
The Hussite Church
Just a small pot to cook some potatoes in...
A cheese stand at the market (in case we miss France). I should note that after snapping this picture, the young gentlemen in the blue shirt and apron saw me and proceeded to lift his shirt giving me a great money shot.
I can't begin to pronounce what these are called in Czech, but they're bread pastries covered in cinnamon and served warm. I don't think I have to say more.
View from the market in Old Town Square around sunset
Our courageous group of travelers!
Streets of Prague at night
Courtney and I having coffee while ambling about an outdoor market
The astronomical clock
Statue depicting a scene in one of Franz Kafka's stories
View from the top of the astronomical clock
The Jewish cemetery
The Opera House
View from the Charles Bridge
In front of the Charles Bridge
The Lennon Wall
Channeling my inner John
Stairs going up to the castle
Walking back before sunset...
Ending our day at a tea house