“Am I that easy to read?”
“No, you just look like the type, pretty and by yourself in an ancient city.”
How did the Uber driver simply know that I’d be into a strong, monk-brewed stout and a musty book sniff? I suppose, my fondness for wandering around in museums and stalking cemeteries is starting to show. It’s easy to let your inner wander-luster loose in Prague. The streets are safe with just enough edge to make you feel like a badass. My favorite element of Prague is how it echoes. The maze of lanky buildings meets at an acoustic sweet spot. Even when children are screaming it hums like a symphony. There is a vibration here that is both olden and present. A newborn down the hall from my flat screams out in the middle of the night until his mother hums a loud operatic tune. Sad and soothing, I don’t even mind.
I’ve made up my mind. An application for a work visa is on the horizon. Not too soon, maybe not even in the next five years but, I vow to come back to the medieval paradise.
Today, I visited the magnificent Prague Castle. I probably should have gone earlier. I know, I preach earliness still, there are tasks that are essential when you travel long term. Like refilling a saline solution stash or finishing laundry. It’s imperative that you can see and have clean undies, right? Anyway, there were school field trips and tour buses galore. My worst nightmare. But, like a shining savior in the distance, I wandered into the Prague National Gallery. The gallery has several buildings throughout Prague, three of them all located in the castle area. Here I waited out the un-amused teens and overly enthused elementary kids.
I can appreciate art. Majority of it anyway, possibly due to my own lack of artistic skills. My brother inherited all that fancy stuff. Art in the National Gallery are grouped into sections: Medieval Art of Bohemia and Central Europe 1200-1550, Rudolphine Era to Baroque Bohemia, 19th century art (Neoclassicism to Romanticism) and finally 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Other locations showcase rotating exhibits. Early art is where it is at. Fire and brimstone of Catholic art and sculpture is haunting and entrancing. The artists and sculptors of that time wanted to constantly remind the people that God was watching so, sin was not an option. If one did sin, it would be scared out of you. As you pray in front of the emaciated reminder that Jesus died for all sin – the Crucifixion. Visit Klaster sv. Agnes Ceske (Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia) to learn the full gist. Here resides the medieval art as I mentioned.
Another great movement to study is the Baroque era. The lighter form originated in Italy – again a Catholic artform. The movement focuses on angels, saints, biblical and Roman mythological images. The scenes are often vivid with several different facets that end up creating an entire story within one painting. Be sure to visit Schwarzenberg Palace for a full lesson on Baroque.
Salam Palace focuses on 19th century art. After all the darkness from the Catholics, you will probably welcome a serene nature scene. Much of the art in Salam Palace focuses on images of prominent aristocrats and nature scenes.
The time had come to approach Prague Castle. I bee-lined for the Cathedral of St. Vitus as the draw is so powerful it beckons you from Old Town. The grueling spires and monstrous arches draw you in. The ceilings and inner chapels are less remarkable than you would think but, the magic happens in the smaller surrounding chapels. Here you see examples of alters dedicated to various saints and individuals.
The places not to miss within Prague Castle are the Basilica of St. George and the South Tower of St. Vitus.
The Basilica of St. George is dedicated to the dragon slayer himself. The chapel has a personal and quaint feel to it. The oldest part of the building is the eldest of the entire castle built in 920.
The summit of the South Tower of St. Vitus rewards you with a 360-degree view of Prague in its entirety. It is not accessible for everyone. The way to the top consists of a steep, dizzying staircase. Be prepared to negotiate two-way traffic in tight quarters, but, just like hiking etiquette, remember stay single file and down yield to up.
Prague castle is a necessity. Layover in Prague? Go to the castle. Limited time? Go to the castle. There is plenty to explore, in fact, it may be impossible to see the entire property in one trip.
Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate