Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Prague Blog!

Armed with backpacks, money belts securely fastened to our waists, and the Rick Steves guide in our hands, Colette and I took our first solo adventure, all the way to Eastern Europe. Prague, pronounced 'Praha' by locals, is considered to be the 'gateway to Eastern Europe,' and I must say that it's a beautiful gateway!

Cinderella's Castle (sorta!)
Fun Fact #1: Rick Steve's guidebook said that visitors called Prague's Old Town Square at twilight like, "Disneyworld, but better." I didn't quite understand until I was there. The Tyn Church's spires are lit up in blue and white, certainly reminiscent of Cinderella's castle. And equally breathtaking. Just like Disneyworld.

Fun Fact #2: I got some amazing original artwork on the St. Charles Bridge. There were tons of vendors, but I had never seen anything like his work before. It is whimsical and will always be a reminder of my magical time in Prague.

Presenting: Prague's Top 5 Highlights!
(Chronologically listed)
Jan Hus Memorial in Old Town Square
Astronomical Clock Tower at night
5. The Astronomical Clock in the middle of Old Town Square is a work of art. Built in the 12th century, it's similar to a complicated Cuckoo clock. On the hour, the Death skeleton rings the bell and summons the 12 apostles to consecutively stick their heads out of the windows. The rooster crows, and a guard (dressed in traditional garb) from the top of the tall tower plays the trumpet three times. It was fascinating to watch, and I think it shows how much tradition and classic architecture reign supreme in the heart of Prague.

4. Though it was hot, we ventured the long walk up to Prague's Castle quarters. It is one of the largest castle grounds in the world, and like Buckingham Palace, stoic guards protect its entrance. On the hour, a traditional ceremony occurs for the changing of the guards. In the courtyard, the guards assemble and march in formation to the tune of the bugle horn and drums being played out the window of the palace. Inside the castle, we explored the St. Vincent Chapel with its massive stained-glass windows, the Golden Lane of knight uniforms and swords, and the Royal Palace. The castle matches the charm of Prague's old town: cobbled streets, beautiful and pastel painted buildings, and gothic statues that reach out to you from the tops of the churches.
The Changing of the Guards
Taking a well-deserved bow after the performance

3. After an American meal- yes, we caved and had tuna melts on bagels at Bohemia Bagel- we got cheap tickets to one of the many classical concerts that play nightly in the city's many churches and halls. In the Moorish Spanish synogague in the Jewish quarter, we listened to an orchestral quintet and guest Opera singer perform a medley: including George Gershwin, Orff, Hava Negila, and my favorite, Carmina Burana. I was so blown away by the quality and beauty, I teared up. It was one of those moments when I remember exactly why I travel and why I love to do this. That experience was by far one of the best on my trips. The singer's notes were perfect, the violinists flawless. It was a small venue, with 8 rows of foldable chairs, was definitely not highly recommended or advertised, and yet it was still the most spectacular experience. 

2. Our second day, we traveled to Prague's Art Nouveau New Town. Home of the Bohemian Art Nouveau movement, New Town is a hodge podge of modern, communist era, and Nouveau architecture. We went to the Alfons Mucha museum: the most famous artist of Art Nouveau. His work is truly beautiful, and he is most well known for his posters advertising Sarah Bernhardt's plays. I was luckily able to purchase prints of my favorite set: the Four Arts. Colette and I both love his style, so we leisurely enjoyed a good hour and half in the small museum.
The Four Arts: Dance, Music, Painting, & Poetry
1. The rest of our day in Prague was spent back in the Old Town square in a restaurant's outdoor seating, where we enjoyed a free jazz concert. This leads to my favorite highlight of Prague: its overflowing love of music. Trumpets blared at the Changing of the Guards and clock tower, dozens of classical musicians loitered the streets with beautiful sounds, and jazz music poured out of the large concert in the middle of the square. We saw a quintet of 5 young students play in a street. We peeked in the National Theatre where opera and ballet performances are nightly. We were serenaded on the St. Charles Bridge by a small group classical musicians. We chuckled at the classic Czech music being played by a ridiculously mustached man in the castle quarters. Music is celebrated and appreciated. Prague is a magical, musical wonderland. 
Hanging with the Castle Guard

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