This post is a continuation of a series documenting our travels through a small patch of Central Europe. I have gone on and on for 6 posts about the beautiful Czech Capital of Prague. We spent almost 4 full days in Prague and could have easily spent 4 more without ever getting bored or repeating a place that we had visited. It is easily my favourite city in Europe and that’s the reason it gets even more posts. Forgive my indulgence!
We had already spent half a day just roaming around the streets of old town and little quarter, a full day visiting the 2 beautiful castles of Prague ( If you know just one then you should really check out Vysehrad!), half a day visiting the beautiful Petrin Hill park and half a day visiting the various churches & the town hall in the Old town ( For details on all these please check my previous posts on Prague, This is number 7 after all!). Still we had not visited the historic Wenceslas square where the Czechs ( Czechoslovakians to be accurate) agitated for their freedom and the area known as New Town or Nove Mesto around it.
We returned to the Hotel Hastal in Prague after a relaxing 1 night stay at the Castle town of Karlstejn for our last night in this beautiful region ( For now!). As our room was not ready, we just dumped our day pack with our remaining luggage that was already in the luggage storage at the Hastal and set off to visit the New Town.
We used our 3 day public transport pass to take the metro (From the Staromestska stop, a change at Mustek ) to the Museum stop which is right at one end of Wenceslas square. We then walked to the Square which has great significance in Czech History.
It is a huge square with a central pedestrian area which has gardens ,memorials to the martyrs who gave up their lives for independence & a huge statue of St Wenceslas on a horse. The far end is dominated by the national museum which was unfortunately boarded up for restoration. A market square in medieval days, it transformed to the epicentre of the Czech independence movement, the Velvet revolution when hundreds of thousands of Czechs gathered to demand their independence. Today it is a busy square where locals go about their day to day activity on the sides while the tourists walk around the centre. It was a beautiful sunny day and we walked the entire length of this long square.
The statue itself is a huge structure with the patron saint of the country riding his horse with other saints at the base. It’s a grand statue which fits its location perfectly.
We didn’t intend to visit the National Museum anyway as we intended this to be a museum free trip ( Castles & Palaces don’t count!). So we just took a photo of the boarded up structure with a huge ugly billboard on the front & moved on.
Apparently the location under the rear of the statue (under the horse’s a*&^!) is a famous meeting place for locals (as per Mr Rick Steves) so we also took a photo of this place before we moved back down the square.
When we passed the memorial to the 2 young people who had immolated themselves for independence it was surrounded by a tour group. So we stopped on a way back to take a photo reminding us that everything was not so hunky dory in Prague just a few decades ago!
Having seen the original Wenceslas statue we then moved off the square to a nearby shopping arcade called Lucerna Palace where a parody of this statue with St Wenceslas riding an upside down horse hangs from the ceiling! That the National Patron saint can be publicly mocked is a measure of the freedom enjoyed by the people in Prague. ( Can’t imagine what would happen if a similar statue was erected in India – it won’t be pleasant!)
We then had a delicious ice cream cone each at the busy Ovocny Svetozor shop. It was a perfect break after some time under the hot sun. After relishing our cone of frozen delight we walked out and into a small garden right in the centre of new town called the Franciscan Garden. Its nothing special, just a small little garden with trimmed hedges, small lawns & pretty white benches. But it was perfect for resting our legs! We sat on one of the numerous benches in the garden watching the locals read their papers, walking their dogs and watching kids play. A short break before starting our walk again.
We ended our new town walk at the Jungmann square. The small square has a statue of Josef Jungmann considered the person responsible for the revival of the Czech language. I took a photo of the person responsible for the language I had struggled to learn the basic of, and descended down to the Mustek metro station underneath.
We then took the metro back from Mustek to Staromestska, it was a day with blue skies and beautiful clouds in the sky. And although I had taken a load of photos of the old town square and the Charles bridge, missing the beautiful sky today would be sacrilegious!
The metro stations in Prague have the longest escalators I have ever seen! I shuddered at the thought of slipping on one of these and rolling down what would be equivalent to at least 10 flights of stairs!
We reached Staromestska & walked to the old town square and across the Charles bridge to the Little Quarter taking photos on this day with photogenic skies.
In the Little Quarter we had not yet seen the other tourist magnet called the Lennon Wall. It is just a Graffiti filled wall that has been painted with ever changing graffiti since 1980. Even today you are free to get a paint spray can and doodle over the wall. While we had no intention of doing that, the colourful wall was a perfect background for the better half wearing white.
The Malostranska square in Little Quarter is dominated by the huge dome of the St Nicholas Church. While we had passed the Church numerous times we had never gotten around to visiting it’s interiors. By now people who read my posts know that I enjoy taking photos of grand Church interiors. So we finally visited this elegant church on our last day in Prague.
As in most old churches over Europe, this church has it all. The symmetry in architecture, the floor to ceiling art, painted ceilings, gilded columns, huge bronze statues of saints and a shimmering altar. Enough to impress any person religious or not.
One look at the ceiling would make any art lovers jaw drop down to the floor. You really have to marvel at these artists painting suspended in these high domes in days without modern machinery.
The altar is surrounded by massive statues of saints that dwarf any person there to pray making him seem puny and irrelevant.
Every where you turn there is magnificence oozing out from the walls. Photos can never do such places full justice but I have to give it a shot!
Even the better half got into the act and clicked away to glory.
It is possible to climb to the balcony of St Nicholas to get a closer look at the ceiling art. In the balcony there are also large frames of what appear to be black canvases on first look. It’s only when sunlight shines on them at a particular angle can you see the painting. Something that can never be captured on camera and I didn’t even try!
Church art never ceases to amaze me. Especially the way they paint ceilings. The 3D depiction in a 2D painting to make a flat surface seem like a dome is one such amazing trick. St Nicholas has only one real dome over the Altar but the transept ceilings are painted to give the feel of 2 smaller domes at either end.
We then sat down in the pews for a few minutes as is our routine before walking back out into the sun. We were hungry now and out favourite haunt the Malostranska Beside was just across the road. So we went there again and had the same stuff (Why change a good thing!) Superb Goulash & dumplings with beer for me and Legumes with poached eggs for the better half.
Satiated we walked to the Manesuv Most which we preferred over the crowded Charles Bridge once we had our photos. Before crossing we took a photo of a memorial to WW II pilots who fought in the battle of Britain, the people of Prague supposedly hate it. I didn’t think it was that bad!
We were running out of time in this beautiful city but we would make the most of what we had left. We would visit the oldest Synagogue in Europe, have some more amazing beer and Czech food and take a leisurely walk along the Vltava in our last few hours in Prague. But that is topic for another post, some other day, some other time.