The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pretty Bridges and Creepy Churches

Days 263-266, August 17-20, 2011

With my flight to Istanbul coming up in September, I have started to plan my route down there. I can’t put keep pushing back that flight to Asia, and looking at my bank account just solidifies the reality that this trip can’t be completely open ended. So, with that in mind, I left Berlin by train to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic and the first stop on my Balkan Capital City Tour.

IMG_1523I met a lady in Dubrovnik, a radio personality from Ontario, who described Prague as a city that knows it’s pretty. A city that doesn’t feel like it really needs to try to impress. It just . . . is. And it is pretty. An absolutely gorgeous city. The architecture is top notch, and the people are indeed quite friendly. At least the ones I had the opportunity to meet.

I was staying quite a ways out of the old town, in a hostel completely filled with private rooms. So even now that I was completely on my own traveling again, I haven’t fully integrated back into the backpackers life. Sometimes having that privacy becomes a bit of an addiction. But even with the distance, the walk to the old town wasn’t actually that bad.

IMG_1567With the weather bearable, walking to the old town became a great way to see the gradual change of the building architecture. Prague can easily be called a City of Bridges. From my hostel to Charles Bridge, the most famous bridge in Prague, I passed by six bridges. And that’s not counting the bridges further south of Charles Bridge, and further north from where I was staying. While a couple were just your standard, run-of-the-mill bridges, others had this wonderfully beautiful architecture to it. These bridges usually didn’t start appearing until much closer to the old town.

Go figure.

It’s pretty easy to find Charles Bridge once in Prague. Besides the many arrow signs pointing IMG_1571the way, you can also just as easily follow the hoards of tourists as they make their way over the cobbled streets to the bridge. The bridge is beautiful though, no doubt about that. Hell, it’s even been used more than once as a spot for The Amazing Race(Asia, Australia, and American versions). Either side of the bridge has a tall tower which one can climb. From the top you get a wonderful nice view of the city and it’s red-orange clay shingles. And you also get the weird chance of meeting someone from your home province. Or at least I did. IMG_1609

There were a few other areas of the city that seem to draw tourists like moths to a flame. The Astronomical Clock is one such draw. Crowds gather by the hundreds around this ornately decorated clock as the hour draws near to watch the figures dance and move to chime the top of the hour. When the clock finishes its work, a man at the top of the tower blows a few bars of a song on a long trumpet to the applause of the people underneath.

Another area that I allowed myself to find while I rode the tourist wave was the Powder Gate, a IMG_1638large tower straddling one of the main pedestrian streets that lead to the Astronomical Clock and to Charles Bridge.

As with many cities, I partook in a bunch of geocaching while there. Prague turned out to be one of my most successful hunts as the walk along the river from my hostel to the Old Town was nice and evenly spaced with easy to find geocaches(I also ran into no less than 6 other geocachers on my trekking). Each bridge in the city had one on or around it. I allowed my route through the old town to be helped along by the geocaches which led me through the main squares, to a couple old churches, to the theatre, to the smallest house in the entire city, and finally through the old Jewish Quarter and the home of the most famous executioner of Prague.

IMG_1714Another day it took me on a hike of the east bank of the city, where I found this old wall that has been transformed as a makeshift memorial to John Lennon. Beatles song lyrics cover the wall, along with peoples messages to John and portraits of the former Beatle. From there I took a rather leisurely strenuous hike up the major hill of the city for another amazing glimpse of the city before walking casually down through and into Prague Castle which is said to be the largest castle in Europe, if not the world(I’m not entirely sure about that one).

IMG_1844I extended my stay in Prague by a night in order to take a day trip out to the small city of Kutna Hora for the sole purpose of visiting the famous Bone Church. I’m not sure of the entire story behind it, or why it was built(one story I heard was that everything in the church was built by blind monks. Not sure if that makes it any less creepy). The Church is filled with the bones of over 40,000 people, most casualties of war. The bones were stacked in different pyramid-like tombs, into wall decorations, Latin phrases, giant challises, crosses, and even a chandelier that contained at least one of every kind of bone in the human body. The most impressive though, besides the chandelier, was the large family shield made entirely out of human bones. As creepy as it was, it was really impressive IMG_1851the artistry that went into making it.

The town is not nearly as creepy though as the church, and definitely had the “sleepy little town” aspect down pat. Probably helps that I was there on a Friday when everything shut down early. I walked from one end of the town to the other before my feet told me I was down walking and made me catch the train back to Prague.

IMG_1672Prague is definitely a beautiful city, and I can see what my friend from Dubrovnik meant when she said that it knows it’s pretty. But, sadly, I’m weak. And I have done nothing to tear down Prague’s ego one bit. You’re pretty, Prague. Never change.

Now, can I be part of your clique? No? Aww . . . ok . . . I’ll just finish your math homework in silence and you can forget I even asked.

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