Our first day in Prague

Well, Prague did live up to its legacy of being absolutely beautiful and very interesting.

We really enjoyed wandering around at our own pace and seeing so many different sites and people. We have 2 preferred ways of discovering a city or town: 1. Use the Hop on Hop off bus or 2. Wander on our own and really get the feel and pace of a place.

Once we had our tram tickets we caught the No. 22 tram to go to Petřín Hill which was the first place suggested in the itinerary in the booklet. We had been told by our guide that this tram would take us right to the Castle which is in the same area. Once we boarded the bus Trevor asked a young man if the tram goes to the Castle. No says the young man, you have to change trams. He said that he was alighting at the stop where we had to make the change. Very frustrating.

He showed us where to catch a bus or a tram and went on his merry way. We had no idea from which direction it would come but after a 15 minute wait a bus came and, fortunately, took us to the foot of the hill of the Castle. Halfway up the hill we met a couple who told us that we were going the wrong way and must use the lower road. Actually, it later turned out that a) the No. 22 tram went much closer to the Castle than our new ‘guide’ said and b) we could have used the road that we were on originally. (A lesson we have finally learned – do not ask more than one person for directions!)

On our way along the lower road we came to the entrance to the Strahov Monastery dating from 1120. It was started by the Premonstratensians, a religious order of canons founded in 1120 by St Norbert as an independent part of the Catholic Church. It has a long history of fires, takeovers and even attacks but has survived. It was claimed by the Communist government but returned to the Premonstratensians after 1990.Prague gate to the MonastryGate to the MonasteryPrague entrance to basilica at the monasteryEntrance to basilica at the monastery

The grounds of the monastery are fairly steep and vast but most interesting to wander around and discover the treasures of the Basilica, the Museum, the Theological and Philosophical Halls and, most fascinating, the Cabinet of Curiosities which includes the skeleton of a Dodo. We spent much more time at the Monastery than we expected to but it was well worth it.

As we left we were treated to some beautiful views over Prague. In the foreground were the orchards of the Monastery going down the hill to a green area with paved paths, down to the suburbs and centre of the city. From there we turned right and followed a path alongside the orchards and vineyard until we came to some steps. There was a sign pointing upwards which read ‘Petřín Tower’. This tower is a replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It was built in 1891 as both a Radio and Lookout tower but is now only a Lookout Tower for tourists.View of Prague from monasteryView of Prague from monastery

We took a deep breath and began to climb the stairs with me taking a rest after almost every flight. At the top we found that we had counted 229 stairs but what a view and so much to see. While Trevor bought cool drinks and hot dogs for our lunch I walked around the area and found that there was a path along which were the 14 Stations of the Cross which led to the Church of St Lawrence, a beautiful red brick building originally built in Romanesq style and later given a number of changes to make it more Baroque. During Lent this path is still followed by hundreds of pilgrims today.11th Station of the Cross11th Station of the Cross

The attraction on the hill for most tourists is the tower which is 63.5m high and one can either climb 299 stairs or take the lift to the top platform for more wonderful views over the city. I was NOT climbing any more stairs no matter how beautiful the view. The price list made no mention of special prices for Senior Citizens so my ever determined husband went to check at the ticket office. Yes, you get the same price as children for both your ticket and the lift; second childhood but that’s fine.Prague Petrin Tower Petrin Tower & part of Hunger Wall

On the hill is also a Mirror Maze and an Observatory but, as we wanted to visit the Castle, time was of the essence. We had learnt that there is a funicular which goes down the hill which we hoped to use for 2 reasons. We thought it would be quicker and more comfortable than climbing down the stairs. Unfortunately the funicular did not go near the Castle so we had no option but to climb down 229 steps, slowly. Regular stops for photos and admiration of the view made it much easier.

On our way to investigate the possibilities of the funicular we walked through an arch which is part of the Hunger Wall. This was built in the 14th Century on order of King Charles IV. It is referred to as the Hunger Wall as he said that homeless and unemployed people were to build it so that some of their hunger would be relieved. It served as the fortification of the city for over 500 years and is still visible from many parts of Prague. On the other side of the wall we were treated to some truly beautiful gardens filled with Spring flowers.

We made our way down the hill to the Castle which is also visible from every corner of Prague. It was now after 4pm and the crowds at the Castle were huge. At least 3 times as many as we had seen anywhere else this morning. We made our way up to the square where the front entrance was and saw a queue which snaked for almost 100m. There was no way we could find out costs or how quickly people were let into the grounds as it was all happening inside a side gate where there was lots of security. We later learnt that everyone was being thoroughly searched which was time consuming. This was due to the attack on police in Paris the previous day. All flags were at half-mast too.Prague Castle entrancePrague Castle entrance. Note flags at half-mast

 

We decided not to stand in the queue for at least an hour so walked around the square admiring the beautiful lamp posts and the Mariansky Fountain in the centre while the sides of the Square included the Castle itself, the Bishop’s Palace and the Schwarzenberg Palace. Such magnificent buildings built at times when all the technology and machinery available today was unknown.Entranc to schwazenberg palaceEntranc to Schwazenberg Palace; beautiful wall decorating

 

 

 

Returning to the hotel produced a very interesting time which I shall write more of in my next blog.

 

 

{module Subscribe to my blog}

About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

Featured Posts