Central Europe for Sexagenarians – Day 8

Posted by admin on July 8th, 2013 filed in batman, photography, travel

Thursday, July 4th, 2013
Čtvrtek 4. červenec, 2013 (approximate Google translation)

We went straight for the TV tower the next day, passing a neat church on the way (first photo of the gallery below). The second most obvious thing (other than the tower itself) is the herd of bronze babies crawling all over it. These are another of David Černý’s creations, and pretty entertaining. After wandering around for a bit to see the nearby Jewish cemetery, we caught the metro back toward downtown to connect with a tram up to the castle (before our 24hr transportation passes ran out) to view the rest of what our tickets would allow: the Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, and the Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower.

The Old Royal Palace had a beautiful hall, and at one point housed the land records. I’ll get the details mixed up, but the palace/castle complex caught fire several times over the centuries (a plot theme that is more common to palaces across Europe than I had expected) and during one of these fires, most of the land records were destroyed. They were the documents used to settle all of the land disputes in the region, so it must have been a chaotic era for quite awhile after the fire died. The palace also included the room with the window from which Prague’s second historical defenestration occurred.

The basilica was beautiful and had a neat underground section (probably previously the crypt, excavated and re-purposed), and the Daliborka Tower had an extensive exhibit of armor and weapons, mostly from the 14-1600s, with some dating back much further. The lighting was horrible in the exhibit – both for picture-taking and picture-viewing on a camera screen, so less than five of the tons of pictures that I took turned out ok. The armor collection was pretty neat though. They had probably 50 complete suits of armor and over 100 different helmets (one of which looks like a luchador mask) as well as tons of spears, maces, knives, swords and guns. It would be heaven for a certain high school friend of mine (you know who you are).

The Golden Lane of the castle complex was a makeshift neighborhood of apartments built into the arches of a castle wall. The arch homes were originally for the castle guards, I think, but several of them ended up selling the spaces. At one time, Kafka lived in #22, which belonged to his sister. Mom read that after WWII, people started squatting in the apartments, and eventually everyone was kicked out, the apartments were nationalized, and now they house exhibits or souvenir shops. They look tiny (Google “Prague Golden Lane images”, but several had cellars and/or attics, which makes the square footage bigger than the efficiency I recently moved out of…

We left the complex (passing the sunglassed guards again) through the east gate and took a path parallel to the staircase, leading through a tiny vineyard on the hillside. We passed a little pond (with a single waterlily), surrounded by lavender busy with bees and a TINY hummingbird. Look at the pictures of lavender in the gallery below and see if you can spot the hummingbird.

We also spotted a weird wall down in the town. We weren’t able to find it on our walk, but I found out later (online) that it’s the Dripstone Wall and it’s tucked into one of the gardens at the foot of the castle hill.  Continuing our descent, we saw a hot air balloon ride and Mom and Laura were very patient in waiting for me while I played around with the camera, taking pictures of the balloon and the view, in general.

We went in search of another church & square, found them, but then needed to pee, so we stopped at a McDonald’s. They had pay toilets, but would put the cost of using the toilet toward any purchase. We weren’t able to decode the menu above the cashiers, but were able to purchase some fries at the regular counter, then an espresso at the McCafe counter. After sitting down, we spotted the regular menu (posted around the corner of a pillar, facing a side wall, not at all visible to those walking in – only to those headed to the back porch & designated smoking area). From the regular menu, we learned that you can order an espresso from the main counter at about 2/3 the cost of the same espresso at the McCafe counter. This is true of the other coffees they offer. Just FYI.

We left McDonald’s but decided we were still hungry, so stopped at a restaurant alongside the church and eventually ordered from a bored, disgruntled waitress. But the food was good even if the service was bad, and we got to spend our lunch sitting near a gold Porsche (see gallery below). Watching people interact with a parked, unmonitored golden Porsche is pretty entertaining.

At our sister/daughter-in-law’s behest, we were to visit the church of the infant baby Jesus. Erin stated it was one of her “non-negotiables” for her trip to Prague with my brother. The whole thing is a bit of a joke to us, so those of you who may be offended may want to skip the next paragraph and instead read some history of the statue and about what it means to others.

We entered the church quietly, but Mom was the only one of us who could take a respectful picture with the infant Jesus (see gallery below). I tried to take closeups of him, but he wouldn’t hold still, so we continued on to the museum which holds about 10-12 of the statue’s outfits (and three sets of lace undergarments) on displayed. I was trying to be mindful of my settings, so didn’t take any pictures of the vestments, but suffice it to say they are very ornate and very expensive. Most of them have been donated over the centuries by wealthy, prominent families or by various countries or churches. There are multiple resources online for purchasing pre-made vestments, purchasing a vesment sewing pattern, or creating your own vestments for personal copies of the infant baby Jesus statue, and oward the bottom of the page of this “Prague Wiki” link they decoded the infant Jesus’ dress code. A postcard we purchased from the church gift shop for Erin stated that the infant Jesus wears green on weekdays and this Prague Wiki page seems to support that. We had trouble exiting the church – the interior is being renovated – so we ended up a hall with exhibits on the church’s current missions, so we donated to that in an attempt to balance our Karma, then left the church to cross the Charles Bridge. For Laura and I, this has been our second encounter with an internationally famous tiny Jesus.

[On a side note, if you know about Laura & Corey’s 3D Jesus game, you can imagine the jackpot posed by the souvenir shops around the infant Jesus church. Laura is much better at this game than I am (though she has a half-decade of practice on me), so after visiting that street she was ahead of me by several hundred points.]

We started across the Charles Bridge, then took the stairs down to the river to see where Laura stayed when they first arrived in Prague. She showed us a cute island park and a sample of the TV tower babies available to public interaction. We walked past the river cruise boats and saw the hot air balloon ride again, stopping to take some pictures with Batman.

Returning to the Charles bridge, we realized we all needed to pee again, and since the McDonald’s was only about a block back (we had done lots of meandering for sights, but hadn’t made much linear distance), we returned for a pee break and more coffee, enjoying our drinks on the back patio (see gallery picture of Laura playing with Mom’s hair).

Eventually we returned to the bridge (lined with kiosks of souvenir jewelry, photographs, paintings and caricature artists as well as some amazing sculptures original to the bridge) and happened upon a neat, very talented little band playing a Czech-accented version of A Wonderful World. The band included a banjo player, an upright bassist (well, at least a person playing an upright bass), a trumpet player, a clarinet player and a lead singer playing the washboard. The trumpet and clarinet players stationed on either end of the group had the second duty to hold up CDs for sale when they weren’t actively making music. They traded back and forth on this job seamlessly throughout the song, which became a bit comical. We listened, without dancing (where is my Will?!), then tipped them before moving on. But I wish we had bought a CD – they had a neat sound.

We wandered around a bit more – heading back to the Týn church, in hopes of taking a quick tour, but we had missed closing by about an hour. (oops) We also looked into going to a concert, but found them to be tourist-priced. So instead, we stopped at a grocery store near the train station and caught a tram back to the apartment where we took it easy the rest of the night (and spent several hours on blogging).

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