Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Prague castle, greedy swans and James Brown

Once again we walked through the maze of cobbled streets, through the massive Old Town Hall Square with its many buskers to the river, where we crossed a bridge over the Vltava River and walked up the hill to the most massive castle complex in continental Europe: Prague Castle. We toured the impressive St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St. George's Basilica and the Golden Lane.

Today Prague Castle, besides being the seat of the head of state, is also an important cultural and historical monument. We saw the Crown Jewels and relics of Bohemian kings, precious Christian relics, art treasures and historical documents. Events important for the whole country have taken place within its walls. Hence Prague Castle is the embodiment of the historical tradition of the Czech state, linking the present with the past.

My favourite part was the Golden Lane, an ancient street within the castle complex. Golden Lane dates from the 15th Century and has a beautiful, olden world quaintness about it. It comprises 11 tiny historic houses, inside which period scenes have been created to show the life of the artisans who once worked, ate, drank and slept in them.

Golden Lane was created when a new outer wall was added to the existing Romanesque castle complex. It was originally known as Goldsmith's Lane, due to the many goldsmiths residing in the houses; some more alchemist than goldsmith!

In its early years Golden Lane consisted of even smaller dwellings. Eventually, as each fell into disrepair they were replaced by the tiny houses we see today. It is amazing to think that people lived in these confined spaces. The beds were probably only as wide as a skinny body.

After admiring the views over the town we headed back down the hill walking on the same side of the river as the castle. We stopped by the river, as we had spotted a whiteness of swans waddling ashore to be fed by delighted tourists.

We continued on our way looking for a non traditional lunch and were rewarded when we found a little bakery/bistro. This little restaurant even made fresh juice. We totally enjoyed some homemade pumpkin soup and a little spinach quiche made by the lady owner's husband. We learned that our friendly host came to Prague from Australia thirteen years before. She is  married to a Czech and now has two children. We got into a conversation about food and she told us that at her children's school they always try to have the students eat the soup since this is one of the only times they will eat vegetables. I suppose that is other than potatoes and cabbage.

We continued on our way eventually crossing the famous Charles Bridge, a truly entertaining promenade lined with stalls selling art, people drawing caricatures and small jazz bands. The Old Town bridge tower is often considered to be one of the most astonishing civil gothic-style buildings in the world. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas.

In keeping with the music that we would hear everywhere we went, we took a tram trip across the river to see a movie with a musical theme but a different type of music, Get On Up—The James Brown Story.

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