Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Prague pt. 3: History and architecture

Prague is a very old city founded in the 9th century. It's full of amazing architecture with some of the original structures still remaining. Our trip was a good mixture of history, architecture and culture. We did a lot of sight seeing by just wandering around the city, but also some of the "must see" sights. A lot still remains to be see.

The astronomical clock at the old city hall at the old town square
The oldest part of the Orloj, the mechanical clock and astronomical dial, dates back to 1410 when it was made by clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Šindel.
The clock mechanism itself is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon, moving sculptures striking the time and a calendar dial representing the months.

the astronomical clock in prague

You can also climb up to the clock tower to take a look at the old town of Prague. But if you're on a budget and want the best view, why don't you check out the St. Vitus Cathedral.

Old city hall of prague

Prague castle ad St. Vitus cathedral in Malá Strana
We especially wanted to see the Gothic style cathedral that was originally founded in 930 and reached it's current state in 1344. That's more than 400 years of constructing.
The interior of the cathedral is very lavish. It's amazing how much money was put in to it, which only goes to show what a huge influence the church was back then.

st. vitus cathedral in prague

Just the walk up to the castle quarter through Malá Strana was very beautiful. One of my favourite things inside was the art nouveau style glass painting designed by Alfons Mucha, added to the church in the 1920's as it underwent a series of renovations.

Glass painting design by alfons mucha in st. vitus cathedral in prague

We also climbed up to the south tower which is 96 meters tall and you have to climb 287 steps in a claustrophobically narrow corridor. But it's all worth it once you get to the top and get to enjoy the view. 

view of prague from st. vitus cathedral south tower

Old Jewish cemetery in Josefov
In the morning we got a bit of a snow fall which gave the cemetery quite the eerie feeling. The cemetery was in use from the 15th century and and the number of grave stones and people buried there is uncertain. it has been estimated that there are approximately 12,000 tombstones presently visible, and there may be as many as 100,000 burials.

Old jewish cemetery in prague

Right next to the cemetery lies the Pinkas Synagogue. On it's walls are encrypted the names of the 77 297 Czechoslovak Jews who died in the German occupation. You weren't allowed to take pictures in the synagogue, but it was a pretty powerful sight.

After visiting the Jewish quarter, we headed over to the Veletržní Palace in Holešovice, where the Slav Epic is presented. It's consists of 20 large canvases painted by Alfons Mucha between 1910 and 1928. The paintings depict the mythology and history of Czechs and other Slavic people. 

The Slavs in their original homeland, 1912 by alfons mucha
1. The Slavs in their original homeland, 1912.

The exhibition was a good history lesson and the paintings themselves are very impressing, some of them standing over 6 meters tall. It is said that Mucha rented a castle to work on these giant painting, because that was the only place where he could fit them.

The defence of Szigetvár by Nikola Zribski, 1914 by alfons mucha
14. The defence of Szigetvár by Nikola Zribski, 1914
We also visited the Mucha Museum at Kaunický palác, Panská 7, 110 00 Prague 1
At the museum are presented some of Mucha's original works, photographs and personal posessions. While the exhibiton was interesting, it was quite small. If you're on a limited schedule, I would recommend seeing the Slav Epic instead.

On our last day we decided to go on a tour to Kutná Hora to see the Bone church, Ossuary. We saw it on a tour brochure and thought it looked cool. The tour included transportation from Prague to Kutná Hora, which is about 70km, lunch and entrance to the Ossuary and St. Barbara's Cathedral.

st. barbara's cathedral in kutná hora

While the ossuary was interesting, in a macabre way, this isn't necessarily something I would say is a must see. But if you have an extra day to spend, then go for it. Kutná Hora was a lovely little town and you'll get to see some Czech Republic outside of Prague.

The ossuary in kutná hora

The tour wasn't expensive, less than 50 Euros per person, but it felt a bit hurried with only 20-25 minutes in each location. I feel like we might have gotten more out of it had we taken the time to get there on our own, or if we had the chance to wander around the town without hurry.

Also check out
Prague pt.1 : Getting to and around
Prague pt. 2: Music and theatre

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