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
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
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
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 ……..
You are all going to stand here until you say who did not replace the toilet roll!
Your turn to stand in the naughty corner
Thank goodness that’s over – I hope lunch is hot
In the grounds of the gardens there is an attractive summer palace, Belvedere.
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
Sunday/Monday 21/22 July 2013, Garrulous Gwendoline in Prague