Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pretty Prague

Last week Kirk was a professor! Or maybe I should say an instructor? IN PRAGUE! Not bad. He was a teacher for the "Welcome to Senior Promotion Class" for the European Ernst and Young division. All Europeans who were advancing from a "staff" to a "senior" role came to the conference to learn the ins and outs of "senior-hood." It was amusing to see Kirk lugging around his curriculum notebook and preparing his teaching methods. He will be an instructor in Prague 2 weeks this summer. Last week was week #1. The other is in late summer. Definitely a great experience and as a bonus it helped Kirk meet colleagues from all around Europe.
While Kirk toiled away with his class, Connor and I arrived midweek and had a ball walking all over Prague together! I think I pushed the stroller up, down and around every street in Prague, talking, laughing and singing all the way with my little girl!!!I read that the thing to do is to get lost in the streets of Prague to take it all in; no other place in Europe has become so popular so quickly. Mission accomplished - we walked all day everyday - most of the time clueless as to where we were and what we would see next! It isn't too often that I have the luxury of empty time to wander and aimlessly discover. But Prague is one of those cities where every building has a story to tell and every street a mystery.
While Communism officially ended in 1989, the memories of it abound in details large and small. I saw this sign and found it perplexing. We didn't make it to the Museum of Communism, but this ad certainly caught my attention. Yikes!And while buildings certainly have the ostentatious Communist feel and the people still have a bit of a hard Communist attitude, you know Prague has come of age when there is a Hard Rock Cafe beneath a gorgeous building near the main town square. This monument to Communism is quite moving. The bottom man is whole and the ascending men slowly erode. Since I was 10 years old when the Velvet Revolution took place it is hard to remember much, but this memorial certainly drives home the hardship the Czechs and so many endured.Connor absolutely LOVED Prague's famous Astronomical Clock. We ended up joining the crowds on three different occasions to watch the clock chime the hour. The doors open, music plays and dolls spin around in celebration. Connor could not get enough of "the people coming out of the clock!"The revolving disks of the 500 year old clock are intricate - it is hard to believe they function. The masterpiece calculates time in Gothic and Roman numerals, sunrise and set, zodiac signs and a ring of saints' names - one for each day of the year, with a marker showing today's special saint.We just couldn't get enough of that clock!
A true highlight of any trip to Prague has to be traversing the Charles Bridge over the Vltava River. It is over 500 yards long and brims with ambiance and atmosphere. The misty, moody photos at dusk and sunrise are hypnotic and vibrant. We walked back and forth several times. While the bridge is certainly stuffed with tourist traps and tacky souvenirs, we did tap our feet with these musicians and Connor put some money in their hat!We crossed the Charles Bridge from Old Town to the "Little Quarter" and had lunch. I was feeling particularly energetic and the day was blossoming into a gorgeous one, so I decided we would climb up Petrin Hill. I couldn't find the funicular to take us up so I started walking UP under my own power, pushing my 30 lb baby in her 30 lb stroller. It looked doable - albeit steep - so even when I was drenched in sweat and my calves were burning, I kept on. Of course that is about the time the hidden funicular went speeding by me!!! But the views along the path up were breathtaking.
Connor wasn't as enamoured with the views from Petrin Hill. She just thought her mama was cuckoo for pushing her directly up when we could have ridden the funicular for 50 cents! She wasn't so happy! But luckily by the time we reached the top (and the snack bar!), Connor fell fast asleep.
At the top, there is a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower. You can climb it, but since I already felt the burn I was satisfied skipping the steps. We walked around and discovered a gorgeous rose garden. I am pretty proud of the picture I took of this red, red rose!We also weaved all over the winding paths and came across this tiny wooden St. Michael church. The church was built in the second half of the 17th century in the village of Velké Loučky near Mukačevo (today’s Zakarpatska Ukraine). The church was given to the Prague City and transferred in 1929. I bet that was a delicate trip!We walked back toward Old Town and I was taken with the buildings. This one was Tiffany Blue! I always wanted to paint a room in my house Tiffany Blue, but wow an entire house in the robin egg hue!We ventured to the Jewish Quarter. Rick Steves calls this "the most interesting collection of Jewish sights in Europe" and I tend to agree. The entry ticket was a little pricey since really all I wanted to see is the Old Jewish Cemetery and you have to buy a ticket to the whole collection of sites - 12 euros, ouch! - but I did learn more than I thought from the many synagogues. I had to wonder why/how all this incredible Jewish history survived Hitler's reign and then I read - as the Nazis decimated Jewish communities in the region, Prague's Jews were allowed to collect and archive their treasures because Hitler planned to make Prague the site of the "Museum of an Extinct Race." It sends chills up my spine just thinking about it.The cemetery was a unique spot. The tightly packed topsy turvy headstones seem surreal. I couldn't help but wonder if and how so many folks were crowded in here.Another clock - the old Jewish clock.There were shimmering Bohemian glass and crystal shops all over the Czech Republic. I loved this chandelier with the blue prisms.After our marathon day out and about in Prague we ate dinner at the mall food court attached to our hotel. Thankfully they had a children's play area. Connor was so sweet with her green dress against the green toys.
We were up and in Old Town again bright and early the next day. We explored Havelska Market and on to Wenceslas Square. The Czech toys and especially the puppets were captivating to us both!Prague's Castle Hill is hard to describe. It isn't one massive castle building but rather a collection of immaculate palace buildings in a large complex....kind of like a mini city.We walked UP, UP, UP and all over. You could lose yourself there for the better part of a day and never even go inside the buildings! There is so much to take in. What a grand street lamp!Views from Castle Hill.St. Vitus Cathedral.These photos are of Golden Lane. This street of old buildings on Castle Hill, which originally housed goldsmiths, is where Kafka lived briefly (No. 22). It is almost like it could be a Czech Smurf village with its tiny houses. A secret: if you don't want to buy a ticket to the castle complex the Golden Lane (and all of the "castle" grounds) are open for free after 5:00 PM in summer. The tourists were gone and we had the place to ourselves!Basilica of St. George.We took in Castle Hill during the evening of July 4th. It was bittersweet being in such a glamorous city but missing home and all the joys of the USA at the same time. We did feel the embrace of the USA though when we looked out on the Prague skyline and saw this American flag. It wasn't at the Embassy so we were baffled as to why and where and who was flying it. But we were grateful!Sorry for the long post. There is A LOT to see in Prague. Wanted to leave you with these photos of Connor and me at the Charles Bridge....Connor was a super travel buddy for me while Kirk worked. I do so hope she will retain at least a glimmer of this special time together!Click here for our full album of photos from our time in Prague!

1 comment:

Louise said...

Great photos of the two of you at the end of the post!