Sept 7th in Prague

Friday, September 7th, 2012: We enjoy a wonderful breakfast in the hotel — hotel rate include breakfast — and caught up on email.

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We then met our guide in the lobby at at 9 AM, and talked about what we would like to see today. Our adventures for today will be the Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge — estimated to be about three to four hours. Prague has a very extensive transportation system — a subway system (Metro) that we did not use and a very interlaced system of electric trolly cars (trams) running on tracks in the cobblestone streets. We took two trolly cars for 24 Kc ($1.20) per person to get to the castle about 5 km away.

20120908-213444.jpgThe Prague Castle has been a seat of Czech rulers, kings, Holy Roman Emperors and later presidents since the 9 th century. It is the largest ancient castle in the world. There are many important historical buildings in the area of the Prague Castle – such as the monumental St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, the originally Romanesque St. George´s Basilica, aristocratic residences and many more. The Prague Castle has been rebuilt many times through the centuries, so it is a splendid mix of architectural styles. It is situated on a hill on the left bank of river Vltava and it makes the typical beautiful Prague panorama.

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Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) is a 14th century stone bridge linking the two sides of Prague. This magnificent structure is one of the city’s finest attractions, and is the main pedestrian route connecting the Old Town with the Lesser Town (Mala Strana) and Prague Castle.

From Charles Bridge visitors enjoy fairy-tale views of the Prague skyline. The wide expanse of the river flows beneath it, flanked on both sides by elegant buildings. Prague Castle towers above in its eminent position. Here you are truly in the centre of the city.

Charles Bridge throngs with people during the day. Street artists sketch and musicians play; look out for the jazz band, who are particularly entertaining. But for a truly romantic and less crowded stroll, try early morning or any time in the evening.

20120908-224104.jpgKing Charles IV commissioned the bridge. The foundation stone was laid in 1357. Charles IV’s favourite architect and builder, Peter Parler, oversaw the majority of the work. The initial idea was to build a functional construction for knight tournaments, and for many years the only decoration on the bridge was a simple crucifix. Later, the Catholic desire for ornamentation resulted in 30 statues being erected between 1600 and 1800.

There are now 75 statues on Charles Bridge, but most are copies, as floods and catastrophes over the centuries damaged the originals. Perhaps the most interesting, as well as the oldest, is that of John of Nepomuk (8th from the right as you cross towards Prague Castle).

20120908-224220.jpgNear the bridge is “Locks of Love” where lovers attach a padlock to a wrought iron fence and throw the key into the river below to signify that their love for each other will never be broken. We have seen similar “Locks of Love” on a staircase railing on the China Wall.

The tour concluded after we crossed the Charles Bridge and walked to the Bellevue restaurant to make reservations for Saturday evening dinner.

20120908-214938.jpgWe walked back through Old Town Square when we had a snack and beer, RESTED OUR FEET from 5.5 hours of walking, and walked to the Republic Square, where we decided to treat ourselves to a cab ride back to the hotel (otherwise another 20 minutes of walking). At the hotel we soaked in the hot tub, then crashed from 4-7 PM.

Hotel meal prices (other than the free breakfast) are pricy. We walked to a nearby McDonalds to check it out, then onto KFC another half block away. We found it interesting that KFC charges for ketchup (7 Kc or $0.33 for each small pouch to go with the fries)! Our two KFC meals was still cheaper than only one bowl of soup at the hotel.

Melitta hit the sack around 11 PM and I was prepping info for the Blog until 1 AM.

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