Hradcany Castle, Prague

Looking up towards the castle complex

Looking up towards the castle complex

According to Wikipedia, Prague Castle is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ancient castle in the world.  So one can hardly come to Prague and not see it.  We went there twice, using the hop-on hop-off bus.  Nevertheless, in the end we only wandered around the grounds, taking in some of the obvious sites.  And the gardens were a nice place to stop and eat our sandwiches 🙂

Approaching castle grounds - side view St Vitus cathedral

Approaching castle grounds – side view St Vitus cathedral

     Firstly though, an observation about the hop-on hop-off bus.  The bus covered a lot of the city, areas that would have become tiresome on foot.  Many photographs that feature the architectural detail of the top of city buildings were taken from the open-top bus.  However, by and large, the areas in which the average tourist would wish to linger are not accessible by the large buses.  Prague is a pedestrian city.  We did not realise that when we bought tickets that were valid for two days.  Guided walking tours would be the better option.
St Vitus Cathedral

St Vitus Cathedral

Gold mosaic, praying saints

Gold mosaic, praying saints, Charles IV and wife below

     Everyone goes to see St Vitus cathedral, a gothic structure that took forever to build (around 600 years off and on), looks something like the cathedral in Cologne, and ranks in importance along the lines of Westminster Cathedral in London. That is, it is the seat of the bishop, monarchy have their special occasions here, and ancient kings are buried here.  The southern entrance is called the Golden Gate.  It is decorated with a richly gilded allegorical mosaic.  Six praying figures represent Czech saints, and a husband and wife figure is Charles IV and his wife.  His crown is stored inside, secured by seven locks.  The keys are held by seven separate people.
Don't think you can slip past me

Don’t think you can slip past me

     There is a changing of the guard at the castle.  It happens every day on the hour, but it is only the midday version that is accompanied by the guard band, buglers, other brass instruments and drummers.  It is a low key affair, but a fun diversion.  The guards wear blue uniforms, with the shade changing according to the season.  Our guide tells us that during the communist era the colour was green, but that incoming president Havel wanted it changed to blue.  I can’t find anything that verifies this, but if you look at archival footage of street protests and note the predominantly green colour of various security forces, it is easy to imagine that the colour may have negative connotations.  Blue is ‘happier’.  Or maybe my imagination is running overtime.
Ready, set ........

Ready, set ……..

Go!

Go!

You are all going to stand here until you say who did not replace the toilet roll!

You are all going to stand here until you say who did not replace the toilet roll!

You're turn to stand in the naughty corner

Your turn to stand in the naughty corner

Thank goodness that's over - I hope lunch is hot

Thank goodness that’s over – I hope lunch is hot

     In the grounds of the gardens there is an attractive summer palace, Belvedere.

image

Our guide tells us a love story about Ferdinand 1 building it for his wife Queen Anne.  “But she died soon,” she says, “while giving birth to their fifteenth child.”

     Soon?  Fifteen children???  What she means is at a young age.  The poor queen was only around forty years when she died and never saw her summer palace.  Apparently the king was so heartbroken he never used it either.
     I checked this out some more. Anna of Bohemia and Hungary gave birth practically every year from 1526 until her death in 1547.  Do you not suppose it might have occurred to the man to give his wife a present a little earlier?  Maybe he was miffed that the majority of the children were female.  On the other hand, having too many sons in those days could be worse than having none at all.  Or maybe it cost so much to feed all those children that he had to wait for some to leave home before he could build their holiday retirement home.
      That’s probably more like it.  After all, it can’t have been cheap being a king. Not if you were trying to establish the largest ancient castle in the world at any rate.
Jay is exhausted just at the thought of fifteen children

Jay is exhausted just at the thought of fifteen children

Sunday/Monday 21/22 July 2013, Garrulous Gwendoline in Prague

6 thoughts on “Hradcany Castle, Prague

  1. Beautiful photos of Prague! When I went it was foggy for three days and I couldn’t even see across Charles Bridge. I hope you are not ripped off by Czech cab drivers — I found them to be atrocious con artists.

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    • We were very lucky. The first one we met at the bus station was a very fair and considerate woman with a GPS so we could keep track of what she was doing. Then the one who took us to the train station gave us an estimate first, and kept his meter in clear sight. We saw some dodgy looking ones touting for business though. We didn’t realise their reputation until we got to Prague and saw warnings. By the way, heat wave over here so definitely no rain or fog, but it did rain all the time I was there in 1978. GG

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    • Yes. At first we were happy with the fine weather and not bothered about the heat as we are used to it. But it is starting to sap our energy for sightseeing. The last time we saw any serious rain was in Italy in the first week of June. GG

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  2. Hi happy travellers Oh how wonderful! We have just caught up on the last emails!! They r fantastic we have had some gt chuckles and u have brought back some good memories for us.

    We r driving to Mudgee for a little holiday with friends -( not as xciting as Prague or Eagles Nest. ) but fun just the same. I have read out loud as John drives!!! Your blogs r like a fab novel and we r looking forward to next instalment !

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  3. Keep it up Gwen! We are so loving your stories and we’ve got them all printed for when you get back! Have a drinkg for rob on the 29th July – he’s 79!!!

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