Prague or Praha... Where do I even start this city is amazing!! It is a city with a mixed culture of Eastern and Western Europe and was spared from the WWI and WWII bombings making it one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. We took an early flight out Saturday morning and after arriving headed straight to the Prague castle. When I heard of the medieval Prague castle, I imagined thick stone walls, a moat, and a drawbridge like a fortress, which is not at all what it looks like. The Prague castle is really a whole complex of buildings up on a hill overlooking the city. It has a cathedral, the Czech presidential offices and residence, open squares, small residential alleyways, and several other buildings and churches.
Here is the main gate to the castle complex. These buildings are newer than the cathedral you can see peeking from behind and house the current Czech presidential offices and living quarters.
Here are some pictures from the inner courtyard with the St. Vitus cathedral in the background. Parts of this cathedral date to the 12th century, although it has been added to several times over the years. The very first church on this site was built all the way back in the 900's and you can still see some of the foundations from that original church building.
The inside of the cathedral was pretty impressive. The Czech Republic was controlled by several different groups throughout history and at times was the ruling seat for much of Eastern Europe. Inside the cathedral they had the coats of arms of several different kingdoms that were once ruled from Prague including Hungary, Bosnia, Dalmatia, Poland, Moravia, Lusatia, Silesia, and Bohemia.
The Czech people are very fond of their national saints. Three of them are particularly well represented In this cathedral. The cathedral is named after St. Vitus. It also contains a large chapel in honor of the Wenceslas, who ruled in the early 900's and built the first church on this location. Finally, in this picture you can see the tomb of St. John of Nepomuk. He is another saint who was drowned in the Vltava river after he refused to reveal to the king what the king's wife had told him during confessional. There is also a large sculpture of St. John on the Charles bridge where he was supposedly dropped into the river.
Aside from the cathedral, the Prague castle has a lot of fun little streets to explore. The pictures above show Golden lane, a narrow street with tiny houses built right into the castle wall. The wall was constructed with arches on the inside of the wall and the laborers were told that they could build houses into the archways as long as they didn't stick out into the street. They built these charming little houses right into the wall that are probably only 8 feet from front to back.
After touring the castle complex, we walked down the hill to the square at St. Nicolas church. From the square we had some pretty awesome views of the castle on the hill and decided to eat at an outdoor cafe.
We both ordered dumplings, which are a Czech specialty. Kellen had beef and I decided to be brave and try the roast duck. I actually thought it was pretty good and we both liked the dumplings.
Further down this street we stopped for some treats, first we sampled gingerbread at the cutest little gingerbread cookie store. Next, we grabbed some good old ice cream. And lastly, some Trdelnik, which is cinnamon sugar bread. So yummy!! As you can tell we really like treats.
Also on this street we stopped check out some of the knick knack shops. Prague is full of shops selling marionettes. They have them in all sizes and types, including some creepy ones they call kitchen witches. Apparently you are supposed to keep a witch in your kitchen to keep out evil spirits. Luckily, we haven't ever suffered from evil spirits in our kitchen, so we passed on picking up a kitchen witch. Prague also has a lot of shops selling Russian nesting dolls, even though apparently they are not a traditional Czech item. I guess they figure if you put something in enough touristy shops, the tourists will think it is authentic and buy it.
At the end of day one we stopped off at the Charles bridge before returning to our hotel. We were excited to find that the Sheraton had provided us with some yummy treats in our room. I guess there are definitely some benefits to having your husband spend a third of the year in a hotel!
On day two we did a walking tour from "New Town" to "Old Town" Prague. Thanks to trusty Rick Steves. We started in Wenceslas square, which is famous as the site for the beginning of Velvet Revolution in 1989 when the Czech people rose up to overthrow the Communist party and escape Soviet control.
The Hotel Europa, here in yellow, was one of the key meeting places for the revolutionaries.
This is the Powder Tower, the last remaining gate from the original wall around the Old Town.
Here are several pictures from the Old Town square. You can see the Tyn church peeking from behind the modern buildings. Across the square is the Old Town hall that has a really cool old astronomical clock. Every hour a big group gathers to watch the clock put on a little show.
From the Old Town square we walked over to the Jewish quarter. Prague has a really interesting Jewish quarter with several synagogues and a really old cemetery. During portions of the history of Prague the Jews were only allowed to be buried in this one cemetery. It is now the oldest preserved Jewish cemetery in Eastern Europe, with some graves dating back to as early as 1439. It is very creepy cemetery where thousands of people are buried and old headstones are crumbling and leaning onto each other.
By the time we made it to the Jewish quarter, baby Maddie was pretty wiped out. She didn't get to see much of that area of town ;)!
After the Jewish quarter we stopped by a traditional Czech cafeteria style restaurant called Havelska Koruna. This was a recommendation we took from Kellen's best friend Blake, who served a mission in the Czech Republic. Kellen ordered something called svickova which Blake had recommended and described as "meat with wet bread, gravy stuff, and jelly on top," which doesn't sound too amazing. Turns out it was actually really good! Thanks Blake!
In the evening we went out to enjoy the streets at sunset. Maddie loved the little cobblestone sidewalks in Prague- little cobblestones for a cute little baby!
Along one of the streets in the Old Town we watched a candy shop making hard candies. It was really cool to watch them; we saw the whole process from liquid butter and food coloring through to little hard candies with little elaborate fruit designs in the middle.
We spent the evening on Charles Bridge watching the sun set behind the castle and taking pictures. Maddie was in such a fun mood with the biggest smile and we had a bunch of random people who wanted to stop and take pictures with her. We are constantly amazed at the attention she attracts from strangers. She is so happy with such a big smile and she just draws people in. It is especially interesting when we are traveling because a lot of the time the people who come up don't even speak English, but they still just want to talk with her and get pictures with her.
Thanks for a great weekend, Prague!