Thursday, January 1, 2015

St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle (Prague, Czech Republic)

St. Vitus Cathedral

Our walk around Hradčany included seeing Bílek Villa (an art nouveau villa designed by Czech sculptor and artist, František Bílek; we just saw the outside, as it was closing when we got there), the Pisek Gate (a baroque gateway that was part of the new fortifications built in the 18th century -- alas, it was under construction) and two cubist houses designed by Josef Gočár. By that time, it was getting dark, so we walked over to Prague Castle to see St. Vitus Cathedral by night.

The building of St. Vitus Cathedral took over 600 years (beginning in 1344 and not completed until 1929). It is an amazing Gothic cathedral -- Q was particularly struck by the elaborate flying buttresses (not visible in this photo). The cathedral itself was closed at night, so we decided to come back the next day to see the interior.

 The stairs up to Prague Castle

 The castle is on a hill, so it is quite a hike up hilly streets or a steep staircase to get up to Prague Castle. But there are interesting shops on the way up, so we browsed some art (but resisted getting another trdelnick) on our way.

The view from the top of the stairs at Prague Castle

There was a good view of the city from the top of the hill. Take a look at the patterned cobblestones of the steps, too. The sidewalks and streets all over Prague were made of cobblestones, often in intricate patterns of small square blocks. Q really liked the cobblestone patterns. (I liked them in theory, but they did make walking a bit harder, so my feet didn't like them so much.) We didn't take photos of the cobblestones, but you can see good photos of some of the cobblestone streets of Prague here.

Detail of the stained glass window designed by Alfons Mucha

St. Vitus Cathedral has gorgeous stained glass windows that were designed by eminent Czech artists from the early 20th century. The window designed by Alfons Mucha was especially lovely. It is mostly painted, rather than pieced glass, and depicts the lives of St. Cyril and St. Methodius.

St. Vitus Cathedral

Q and I spent more than a few moments admiring the neo-Gothic design of the arches and crossing ribs in the ceiling.  (You can see more of the interior of St. Vitus Cathedral on their website, as they provide a virtual tour.)

Stained glass window in St. Vitus Cathedral

I love the small pieces of glass and how they create a sense of movement and color variation in this window. (I don't know the name of the artist who designed the window.)

St. Vitus Cathedral

We lit a candle in memory of Q's grandmother, as we do whenever we can as we visit cathedrals in our travels.

Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička)

Along the northern wall of Prague Castle, there is a row of little cottages known as Golden Lane. There were originally built in the 16th century and were later occupied by artists, including Franz Kafka (see how he gets around? In 1916-17, Kafka lived at number 22, which is now a bookstore featuring his works). The homes are really tiny, as they are basically just built into the castle fortification wall. The cottages have now been converted to various museum displays revealing various former uses.

(Note the construction on the right side of the photo -- we encountered construction and renovation efforts all throughout our trip. Although these renovation projects sometimes prevented us from seeing a particular sight, I was glad that there were continued efforts at maintenance and upkeep of their historical sites.)

Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička)

One of the cottages features museum displays of medieval armor and weaponry, as well as a small display of torture implements. If I recall correctly, there was a jail in the basement at one point; hence, the torture implements. The gift shop had beautiful replicas of medieval armor and weaponry.

Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička)

Several of the cottages were set up to show how people would have lived. There was a fortune-teller's (the home of Matylda Průšová, who was killed by the Gestapo), a goldsmith's workshop, and a herbalist's, among others. This photo is of the seamstress' residence -- see the beautiful antique sewing machine? But you also get a sense of how tiny the homes were -- a single, small room (later, some built up to a second floor or loft). So where did she store all the fabric and notions?

Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička)

This is the former home of an amateur film historian, Mr. Kazda, an avid collector of film who hid copies of Czech films from the Nazis. There were film canisters everywhere -- on the stairs, on the porch, in the foyer. Clips of Czech films from the collection were shown in the main living space, as well.

Building detail in Staré Město

After exploring Prague Castle, we trekked back across Charles Bridge to the Old Town area for dinner.  As we walked around Staré Město, I saw another beautiful building -- honestly, Prague is one of those places where gorgeous architectural details are found everywhere.  This reminded me of the swirly designs in some of Klimt's paintings. I could really see this translated into textile surface design . . . so beautiful.

Building detail in Staré Město

I caught sight of this bas-relief on the upper part of a building as we were wending on our way to dinner at Cafe Mistral, our last dinner in Prague -- delicious food for two hungry and tired travelers.

Aerial view from the plane back to DC

I didn't have a window seat on the flight to Europe, so I wanted to take a few photos from my window seat on the way back. I love the patchwork designs of the fields and the little cluster of houses.

And thus we came to the end of our trip. Of course, we came back to a rainy night at Dulles and a car with a seemingly dead battery, but even that could not dampen the quality of our journey. Well, not much, anyway. And the truck with jumper cables came very quickly and didn't even charge us for the service, so it all came out ok in the end. We were very happy to get home and collapse into jet-lagged slumber, though.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about our travels -- thanks for reading!

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