Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pražský Hrad

I've been to Prague Castle about a hundred times since I've lived in Prague (Nearly six months! Woot!) because we don't have castles where I'm from and so every time I see it I'm like "EEK!". (Typical American reaction.) But I've never paid the cash to actually go inside stuff. I usually just walk about the general area and marvel at everything. There was the one time I went inside St. Vitus Cathedral, but it's free as long as you stay in the back portion of the church where you have to use your zoom for pictures.

Part of the reason I had been holding out on spending the dough is that I knew eventually I would have visitors and they would want to go. I don't want to pay for this 12 thousand times. It ain't cheap. At least not on my salary.

So I finally got a visitor and he was uber-excited about Prague Castle so we forked out the money to get to go inside and see stuff. I have to say, it was actually worth it.

There are different packages you can get to see different things and we decided to go with the second-most expensive which was 250kc (roughly $15 these days). This package includes: The Old Royal Palace, St. George's Basilica, the Golden Lane and the inner depths of St. Vitus Cathedral. 

**On a side note, I went to The Story of Prague Castle exhibit for free on Prague Museum Night and I would say that exhibit would be totally worth the 150kc you have to pay to get in it. It's really informative and kind of cool.

So here are the highlights:

Old Royal Palace

Vladislav Hall
This is the first thing you see when you walk into the Old Royal Palace exhibit. (I use this term loosely as it's less museum and more walking about the castle.) Apparently you're not supposed to take pictures of it (even without flash) but I swear I didn't know that. 

Vladislav Hall was typically used for banquets and celebrations though was occasionally used during bad weather for jousting tournaments. Yep, it's that big.

The view from Vladislav Hall
 I loved that we got to see a slightly different view from the palace. Kings and generally lesser royalty once enjoyed this view.

Sorry for the crap picture...
 Then you scoot into a room where they have these crown jewels. They're not real. The real coronation jewels are hidden under lock and key in what is arguably the least accessible part of the castle under St. Vitus Cathedral. 

Diet Hall with many coats of arms and family crests.
 The Diet Hall as I understand it is where legal proceedings among the Elite would take place. They had a library full of legal codes and the spines of the books were strategically color-coded and labeled so that an assistant might be able to run into the library and come back with the proper statute within minutes during proceedings.

How'd you like to have that job my law school friends?

St. George's Basilica

St. George's Basilica

St. George's Basilica is the second church built on Castle grounds and is connected to a convent named for the same saint. The church was founded in the early 10th century and has been reconstructed several times since though the foundation is actually still original. 

In it's reconstruction it has taken on a more romanesque look inside and a baroque facade. Why not mix architecture?

It's actually a rather small church and there's not a ton to see though it is quite beautiful. On the ceiling above the alter you'll find fading frescos and beneath the altar you'll find a crypt where two princes and the widow of another prince are entombed. 

Golden Lane

Not as tourist-packed as I had expected.

Golden Lane is a row of the tiniest homes you've ever seen in which castle servants, archers and goldsmiths once lived. It is believed that the lane got it's name because of the goldsmiths who inhabited many of the homes. 

The home of the local seamstress. 
The homes were built in the 16th century and inhabited until World War II. After the monarchy dissolved regular people lived in these homes including some very well known Czechs.

Franz Kafka rented this adorable home from his cousin.
Though it has become a bit of a tourist trap (go to Kafka's home to buy his books and pictures of him!) the government has gone to great lengths to preserve the original structures. 

St. Vitus Cathedral

Man that's a tall church.
One thing people rarely seem to realize is that the huge structures we see as castles are simply large building complexes which are built around one central theme: A Cathedral.

St. Vitus Cathedral, as I've said before, is an amazing structure and I'm excited to have been able to go into the back of the church and around the altar this time.

Panoramic shots are really difficult to do in a building with so many angles.
St. Vitus Cathedral is actually the third church dedicated to the same saint which has stood on this spot. Originally there was a St. Vitus Rotunda and then St. Vitus Basilica. Building of the cathedral commenced in the year 1344. This is part of why this church is so amazing to me. 

Construction of the cathedral was often abandoned over the years and it wasn't until the early 20th century that it was deemed "complete." Although according to models of the cathedral, the main tower is missing a few spires. The cathedral was officially consecrated in 1929.

The royal mausoleum
This is at the very front of the church and underneath it in the crypt is apparently the royal tomb. I find the whole idea of actually being buried in a church to be a little weird. Typically you can actually go into the crypt, but it was closed for renovations when we went. 

Inside there is also the Chapel of St. Wenceslas. Unfortunately, this was also off limits though I'm not sure that it's ever open to the public. Apparently the walls are covered in scenes from the good King Wenceslas' life and also houses his tomb.

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