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I’m always a sucker for European castles and cathedrals. Prague Castle and St. Vitus cathedral didn’t disappoint. The heart of “old town” or “classic” Prague lies between the castle/cathedral complex and the Old Town Square, with the Charles Bridge spanning the river between the two of them. The castle, I suppose naturally, holds the high ground, overlooking the rest of Prague and the Old Town in the distance. Here is a little photo tour through the cathedral, the castle and its grounds, which are lovely to walk through and provide excellent overviews, plus a quirky little attraction rather at odds with the uber-classic nature of the rest of old town Prague’s architecture. Then we'll take a brief jaunt across the bridge.

From my temporary residence near Pohorelec, I could walk downhill to the castle, entering it through the main gate, and passing by this lovely lantern which I always wished I could have seen lit at night. At noon each day, a column of castle guards marched into work (I presume). Hi-ho hi-ho. There was a wonderful gypsy band that often played for tips in the large open courtyard in front of the castle, I spent probably a total of a couple hours listening to them and watching the crowds filter in and out of the castle, wondering what sorts of folks wandered in and out of the grounds in its heyday ... what the guards once looked like with lances and swords and horses to ride, what scenes of stench and horror surrounded the castle during times of plague and pestilence, what ragged bands of Renaissance musicians sounded like twittering their flutes and drums. 

Very large and pretty bronze lamp post near the castle. Prague.

Columns of soldiers marching into the castle each day at noon. Prague.

The inside of the castle was actually surprisingly spare ... not full of opulent furniture and wall/ceiling moldings. It seemed to exist in a very functional state ... an administrative center rather than a lavish palace. It was here that I rediscovered my love for the word "defenestration," when we learned of the history of this seemingly preferred method of deposition of unwanted court officials (that is to say, throwing them out a high window).

Beautiful yet simple ceiling design in Prague castle.

The faded paint gives one the often absent sense of authenticity to the ancient castle. Prague.

 My favorite part of the castle was actually walking the grounds and gardens along the side, where you can look over the city ... over the minions, if you will ... over the serfs and subjects of this architectural grandeur. Well OK, only in the imaginative past, those serfs. Nonetheless, very pleasant. First photo, notice the friendly guard hanging out amongst the greenery.

Castle guard strolls among the ivy-covered walls. Prague.

Daylilies were in profusion in the gardens. Prague castle.

Overlook of the city. Prague.

Looking out from the castle gardens. Prague.

Looking down into a narrow alleyway from the castle gardens. Prague.

At one point, as you descend toward level ground near the river, you find yourself looking down into this rather odd space with dripping, organic-like shapes that look as if formed out of limestone or cement. In fact, it's a man-made wall whose features are called dripstone. It covers a large area of the Wallenstein Palace Gardens, and makes for kind of a jarring but not unpleasant juxtaposition of modern artistic architecture with very classic gardens and an outdoor stage where I found an orchestra practicing one day. There were several families of peacocks in the gardens which I watched with fascination as they claimed territory and persecuted one another, the mother peahens coddling the strong chicks and abandoning the weak ones.

Looking down into the funky walls of modern sculpture. Prague.

A couple enjoying the sun on a bench with the trippy formations to ponder. Prague.

A fun secret door looks like it will lead into a magical world. Prague.

Peahen and chicks, little baby peering out from under her chin. Prague.

Eleborate sort of band shell for outdoor performances. Prague.

 And now for a study in feeling small and insignificant in the face of human accomplishment ... stand before St. Vitus Cathedral! You can see from the first photo, only a portion of the exterior can be captured in Erik's camera lens. I've stood before some tall cathedrals before, but this one seemed particularly immense, looming above me. Can't decide whether it's ethereal or sinister, reaching Heavenward to the wide sky or glaring down upon the punificent. Daunting, in either case .....

I am dwarfed beside the St. Vitus cathedral early in the morning with a nearly empty courtyard. Prague.

Walking by the gilded exterior of St. Vitus cathedral in the early morning. Prague.

St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague.

Detail of St. Vitus cathedral rooftop, some of the many, many spires. Prague.

The inside of the cathedral ....

Central corridor in the St. Vitus cathedral. Prague.

Ceiling and windows so very high above you in St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague.

Along the side of the central corridor, St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague.

Rose window in St. Vitus Cathedral. Prague.

Colorful side chamber in St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague.

I think it's a rather spectacular door but seems somehow almost out of place inside a cathedral. Where does it lead to? Prague.

Detail of the eagle head door knob. Prague.

 

 

 

Check out the set of organ pipes!

Beautifully arranged organ pipes ... imagine how they must sound. St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague.

 Walking down through the cathedral and castle grounds, down long stairways and narrow streets, eventually you come to the Charles Bridge, the most famous bridge in Prague. After crossing the river, you can then continue on to the Old Town Square where the town hall with its astronomical clock presides. The bridge was undergoing renovation while I was there, so it was closed down to "one lane" shall we say ... which is to say at only half its normal width, it could get exceedingly crowded, almost claustrophobic during the day and evening.

The Charles Bridge, Prague.

 The outside wall of the tower at the end of the bridge is very ornate and full of statues and coats of arms. All along the bridge are stone statues depicting sometimes kind of random scenes. Street performers line the bridge with their acts, and artisans with their crafts, but with the half-width bridge during renovation, this got to be a little too much. I'd like to return when it's fully re-opened. Just one more reason (excuse?) to come back to this lovely city.

The tower at one end of the Charles Bridge. Prague.

Statue along the Charles Bridge ... sultan with a prisoner. Prague.

Stone statues as you exit the Charles Bridge on the town hall side. Prague.

Kids raptly watching a puppeteer on the Charles Bridge. Prague.

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