Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Prague: Day 2

On Day 2 in Prague, we decided to head up to Prague Castle early in the morning to hopefully miss the bus/tram load of other tourists. We decided to take the tram up to the Prague Castle via tram no. 23. That tram had a direct route from Malostranské náměstí direct up to the Prague Castle.

Prague Castle

Just abit of history about Prague Castle; Prague Castle (Pražský hrad) was founded around 880 by prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid dynasty. Prague Castle served as the seat of Czech princes and later kings, and the seat of the Prague bishop since the 10th century. The castle experienced one of its greatest periods during the reign of Charles IV (1346-1378) when it became the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor. The Royal Palace was rebuilt, the fortifications were strengthened, and the construction of St. Vitus Cathedral was initiated in 1344 and completed in the 20th century.

St. Vitus Cathedral

When we got to the Prague Castle we bought our tickets and queued up for the St. Vitus Cathedral (Katedrála sv Vita). By the way, the entrance to the St. Vitus Cathedral is FREE and probably the highlight of the area. Inside the massive cathedral you will find the Chapel of St. Wenceslas (Svatováclavská kaple). The chapel is decorated with semi-precious stones and also holds a 14th century tomb with the saint's holy relics.

Inside of St. Vitus Cathedral

Just before viewing St. Wenceslas Chapel though there is a door on the side that you can enter to climb to the top of the cathedral. Just a note that there is only a single staircase to lead you up and down the tower and they don’t have a specific time window for people to go up or down the tower. This was just crazy. I was lugging around a daypack holding a DSLR in hand and a tripod trying to manoeuvre myself down the tower which only had a 1.2 meter width steps with other tourist on the side of the wall. Talk about being careful you don’t fall down or drop the camera! Also note it is a 297 steps climb to the top. But the view up there is just remarkable. It gives you a complete 360 degree view of Prague city. Well worth the climb. Just try to time it to miss the hoard of tourists.

A view of Prague from the tower of St. Vitus Cathedral

The only other highlight of Prague Castle is the Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička). Golden Lane is a small street made up of 11 historic houses which exhibit medieval armoury and textiles as well as souvenirs for tourist to buy. It was originally called Goldsmith’s Lane (Zlatnicka Ulicka) because of the many goldsmiths’ that was residing there in the days. I thought this was a pretty cool area but you have to buy a ticket to get into this area. This is also where the famous writer Franz Kafka resided in house no. 22.

House no. 22

After visiting Prague Castle we walked down the old Castle Stairs (Zámecké schody) to Zámecká Street. This area is another picturesque area and a romantic location in the evenings just before the sun sets.

From there we walked through the streets of Malá Strana then to Kampa Island which is just off Charles Bridge. There is a park on Kampa Island where you enjoy views of the bridge and across the river and also relax.

Day 3 to follow…

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