Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 3 - Prague

Well, we woke up early (for Prague anyway) and went for a run on those beautiful paths we walked through yesterday (see below).  Then, we had breakfast, and went out on the town... again.

We headed for the Jewish Quarter of Prague for day three.  Although most cities in Europe have extensive Jewish history (not very much of it being altogether rosy), Prague has a somewhat unique story, especially with regards to WWII.  The story goes like this: Although German troops occupied Prague, and could have demolished the Jewish section of the city, they planned to keep it (and other Jewish artifacts from other parts of Europe) intact in order to establish an "exotic museum of an extinct race."  (That's the short version).

Anyway, the Jewish Museum of Prague is made up of several historical buildings and the Jewish cemetery, all of which are fascinating and well worth the time we spent there.

First, though, we had to get there, which meant walking over the Charles Bridge, and then through Old Town Square (the location of the astronomical clock).

Not more than a couple of blocks to the north, and you are in the Jewish Quarter.  There are several synagogues, one of which is called the Old New Synagogue (Completed in 1270, so "New" is a relative term) which is the oldest active synagogue in Europe:

Then, on to the Old Jewish Cemetery.  This place was incredible.  The small space meant that eventually the graves had to be placed on top of each other.  This meant removing the existing headstone, making a new grave above the old, then replacing both headstones, repeating as needed.  Over centuries, this meant that a small space ended up being the final resting place to (perhaps, about) 100,000 people.  There are about 12,000 headstones present.  It is beautiful in a somber and somewhat weird way.

After the Jewish Quarter, we headed south towards a cathedral we had seen during our run in the morning.  It stands out, so we figured we'd just walk there.  It was a longer walk than we expected, but it was worth it.

This place is called Vyšehrad Castle and dates to the 10th century, so it is somewhat older than you and I.  It was built not too long after Prague Castle was built and, being on the opposite bank of the Vltava River, it really was influential over a different part of what would eventually become Prague.  On the grounds of the castle are the Basilica of St Peter and St Paul, as well as the Vyšehrad cemetery.  It is a very beautiful spot, with fantastic views of the city and river.

I got this shot of Katie as we left the grounds and headed back to our hotel:

It was a long day, but a good one.  We should go have dinner with our new friends...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Prague - Day 2

Alright, the first day was great, but by this time, we had gained a better understanding of the city, and the forecast was great.  First thing in the morning...

We hopped on to tram #22:

It took us up the hill to the area where Prague Castle is.  We got off at what seemed an appropriate place, and started walking.  The map showed some small streets to the west of the castle, so we thought we'd head that way first.  We're glad we did.  This is an old part of an old city, and the streets were very cool.  Narrow, cobbled paths with small side walks and buildings with lots of character.  I good place to poke around.

We wandered through this area for a while, generally making our way towards the castle...

And, we made it back to where we had gone the day before.  The weather was a bit more cooperative as far as spending time outside was concerned.  The "castle" is really a conglomeration of several buildings of varying ages, built by successive rulers, and the centerpiece is (as far as I'm concerned) the Cathedral: St. Vitus.

After St. Vitus', we walked through castle grounds and then moseyed on down towards the city.  This eventually will take you to some great views of the city and, if you walk far enough, back to the river "downtown."  

As part of our circuitous return to the hotel, we wandered through some beautiful orchards in full bloom.  Views of the city and castle came and went.

Well, it was a busy day.  I think it's time for to retire to the hotel to rest a bit before dinner...  see you later.