|The plan today is to get to Prague Castle, specifically St. Vitus Cathedral, by 9:00 am when it opens in an attempt to beat the hordes of tours descending on the site. So we are out the door and on the tram (not walking as it is mostly all uphill!) by 8:40am only to discover we are going the wrong direction. Easy fix - next stop jump off this one and board the one next door going the opposite direction. We arrive at the ticket window at 8:55 and head directly to St. Vitus Cathedral. This Catholic Cathedral symbolizes the Czech spirit - it contains the tombs and relics of the most important saints and kings, including the first three Hapsburg kings. Started in 1344, construction was stalled by wars and plagues, but finished in 1929 for the 1000th anniversary of the death of St. Wenceslas. For 400 years a temporary wall sealed off the unfinished cathedral. There is a beautiful 1931 Art Nouveau stained glass window by Czech artist Alfons Mucha. There is a rather large elaborate tomb of St. John of Nepomuk, a saint of Bohemia who was thrown off of the Charles Bridge at the behest of The King because he would not tell the king the secrets of the queens confession! In the right transept is a roped-off chapel of the tomb of St. Wenceslas. Inside the chapel showing scenes of his life is a locked door leading to the Crown Jewels. The Crown Jewels are put on display only on special occasions - in the 20th century there were only nine such occasions.
Other sites in Castle Quarter we visited were the the Old Royal Palace, seat of the Bohemian princes and the very large hall in the castle was used until the late 1990’s to elect the Czechoslovak president. Basilica of St. George, Prague’s best-preserved Romanesque Church, is the burial place of St. Wenceslas’ mother, St. Ludmila. The Golden Lane, a street of old buildings, originally housed goldsmiths and shops and homes of other tradesmen, today the street is packed with tourists and overpriced shops.
Having entered the castle grounds from the gardens side, we exit through the Castle Gate, where the changing of the guards occur every hour. Prague Castle site is the official site of the Czech Republic government and the official residence of the President - however, due to the rather small accommodations the most recent presidents have chosen to live elsewhere. As it is the government headquarters for the country there is a large military and police presence.
Now we are hungry and look for a bite to eat - the first place we try only takes cash and we did not have enough to buy our lunch. So the next door restaurant would take credit cards and had pizza (not the best) but we settled for the pizza, a beer and a coke and tap water. This was our first restaurant in Prague to be charged for tap water!
Walking down many steps to Nerudova Street we head back to Little Quarter Square to find our way home. Nerudova Street is lined with old buildings still sporting the characteristic doorway signs (the lion, 3 violinists, the lobster) that once served as street addresses. This neighborhood is filled with old noble palaces, now generally used as foreign embassies and parliament buildings - we did find the U.S. Embassy.
Reaching Little Quarter Square we tour the huge Church of St. Nicholas (built 1703-1760) is the best example of High Baroque in the city. From here we walked to Church of St. Mary the Victorious, which displays the Infant of Prague statue. From here it is a one-stop tram ride to our apartment. After a rest and happy hour in the apartment, we decide to head back to the Charles Bridge for dinner and a night view of the bridge. Another great day and fun adventures.
Thanks to Judi B for taking additional pictures as both of my cameras SD cards were at maximum capacity the same day with additional SD cards in the apartment! - jc