Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Check Out Czech III: Prague Castle

This must see attraction in Prague has been a seat of power and home to rulers of Bohemia since it was built in late 9th CE. This castle has seen many additions and renovations, what you see today is as it was done my Maria Theresa in 18th CE. By dimensions it is supposedly the largest castle in the world, but that is a matter of fact that does not stand out when you are standing on the hill housing this castle. What stands out is the view from this hill of the Prague on both sides of Vltava with red roofed buildings and green domes of churches.

Most parts of the castle are open to the public and you would se people moving around without any monitoring or security checks and that was kind of a feel good factor for me as we are not even allowed in the vicinity of buildings that house our politicians and even if we are allowed the number of security drills we have to cross takes away the whole fun of it. At the entrance gate there are guards on duty in their pale grey and white uniforms with a matching box behind them. I cannot say what the purpose of these guards here is besides a ceremonial duty, but they were a delight for the visitors as the tourists posed to be clicked with them and they kept obliging by standing like a statue.

As you enter the ornate gate of the castle with two massive statues depicting the fighting giants you see the first courtyard. Here you see Mathias Gate in Baroque style and enter the next courtyard with a fountain in the middle and different structures that are clearly from different periods in history. There is an elongated circular building white, with beautiful niches in the walls to hold the statues of revered saints. There are tall and thick walls with giant shapes and decorations. Move to the next courtyard to see the most beautiful part of the castle, a tall and narrow Gothic style St Vitus Cathedral in black brown stone. The structure stands tall, almost out of reach of most cameras. Inside the a vaulted roof covering the narrow length of the hall that would create a haunting environment but for the crowd and the colorful stained glass painting across the long walls on both sides. Go around the cathedral and you would see another ornate but this time colorfully painted entrance that is no longer used.

Scattered around the palace complex are various statues and if one can find someone to explain these, you could spend a couple of days in this complex. Turn around from the cathedral and you see buildings in cheerful colors against the bright blue sky. A passage from here leads to Golden street, a very narrow and small street that was built sometime in 16th CE and at first glance looks like it was built for the dwarfs and would make you feel taller suddenly. Initially this was built to house the marksmen or the guards of the castle but later they moved on and other people came to live here. One of the famous inhabitants of this street was author Franz Kafka at No 22. The legend of how this street got its name is interesting – In mid 19th CE, an alchemist living in this street was experimenting on converting any metal into gold. One day there was a loud noise and fire in his house and when fire brigade entered his house, he was found dead with a solid piece of gold in his hand. If he smuggled that gold into the house or actually discovered alchemy will always remain a mystery but giving the small street its name immortalizes the story.

Outside the castle in the cobbled streets besides tourists you see entertainers like musicians, acrobats and even a witch. As you walk down the stairs to climb down the hill, on one side is the castle wall and on other side the top view of the city and on the wide stairs are various performing artists displaying their talents.

To the visitors of Prague, I do not think I even have to recommend this castle; it has to be on any itinerary.

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