Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Malá Strana and Hradčany (Prague, Czech Republic)

John Lennon Wall

After our lengthy perusal of the Musaion, we walked through Malá Strana (the Little Quarter or Lesser Town). We saw more beautiful buildings, including the Czech Museum of Music, among others, before we found our way to the John Lennon Wall.

After John Lennon was murdered in 1980, an image of him was painted on this wall (across from the French embassy), along with political graffiti and Beatles lyrics. The secret police kept whitewashing the wall, but the graffiti was always replenished. (Not only was John Lennon a pacifist hero for many young people, but most Western pop music was banned by the communists -- some Czech musicians were arrested for playing Western pop music.)

After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, much of the original graffiti was lost to weathering and additional graffiti, but now visiting tourists have contributed their own political messages and other graffiti.

Yes, the guitarist was playing a Beatles tune. And yes, we gave him some coin. :-)

Q and I in front of the John Lennon Wall

It was hard to find a good spot for a selfie at the John Lennon Wall -- there were lots of people there trying to get photos. But we scored a spot right in front of a detailed painting of John Lennon (you can see part of his face between us).

The love locks

Just around the corner from the John Lennon Wall is the Čertovka mill race, a stream with a working water mill (including a sitting goblin). The bars on the small bridge are now the site of the love locks -- couples put a padlock here to commemorate their eternal love. The locks have the name of the couple and the date painted or scratched on them. The bars of the bridge were completely covered in locks, making us wonder if they have to be removed at some point to make space for new locks. We did find some dating back at least a decade or two, though, as well as more recent ones, so perhaps they are left there and new lovers have to be creative to find space for their locks. I bet there is a lock-seller nearby who does a good business, too.

After all this walking, we were pretty tired and hungry, so we found a cafe for some sandwiches and decadent hot chocolate and coffee. It turns out that I prefer more milk than chocolate in my hot chocolate; luckily, Q was there to help out.

Peacock in the Vojan Gardens (Vojanovy Sady)

After our late lunch, we wanted to explore Hradčany, the neighborhood around Prague Castle. As we were walking on a narrow street from Mala Strana up toward Hradčany, we encountered a large tourist group going in the opposite direction. To avoid being crushed by the mob, we ducked into a walled park. This turned out to be Vojanovy Sady, the oldest garden in Prague (founded in the 13th century), which apparently has beautiful beds of tulips (we were out of season for most flowers, unfortunately).

While we strolled the park, we saw several peacocks and peahens wandering about, hunting for food. We were able to get pretty close to the birds, but they refused to stay still for a photo. I kept walking after them, but they just kept walking away. Finally, Q took some video of one on his tablet, and that seemed to intrigue the peacock enough that he posed for us and I got some decent photos.

I love these serendipitous moments while traveling -- if the tourist group hadn't come by at that moment, we would not have gone into the park and seen these lovely birds. It was the first time Q got to see free range peacocks and peahens and get up close to them.

I, on the other hand, had a close encounter years ago with a peacock at the Philadelphia Zoo, where they wander free. I was there with a friend, having a snack at one of the cafe tables, when a peacock came right up to us and jumped up on our table. It was at that moment that I realized how very large a full-grown peacock can be, and how unnerving it is to have a beak so close to my face. My friend and I both got up from the table and edged away, whereupon the peacock dunked its head into my friend's soda cup and gulped up his Coke. I guess they had learned to associate the beverage cups with food, and so we were mugged by a peacock . . . for a Coke. That incident gave me greater respect (and a little fear) for large fowl, even those that seem tame. 

At least the Prague peacocks didn't mug us.

Next up:  St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle

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