Saturday, August 15, 2009

Prague mash up

I just finished three nights in Prague. What a great city. It was just about everything that I expected. Just not quite as cheap as people were saying. I think that has a bit to do with the economy and the touristy sections growing outward. It was harder to find the good deals (they were there, but few and far between. But none the less, still one of the cheapest cities I've been to (Granada and Naples were some others).

But oh, where to start, the architecture or the beer.

I'll start with the architecture. I spent most of my time in the city just walking around exploring the many side streets, and buildings spread throughout the various quarters (old city, new city, little city, and the Jewish quarter). Almost all the buildings were decorated lavishly in one style or another. Next to a baroque building you could have an Gothic exterior, and next to that one an art nouveau exterior. It truly was a mash up of epic proportions. This each building on the street was distinguished from another by the style and decoration in which it was adorned. In fact I spent most of my time walking around looking up at. And while Vienna had been a clean, white, spic and span, I like to say that Prague had a layer of dirt and dust on everything. Of course not a bad thing, and only a generalization, as it only added to the charm of the city.

A lot of the city is quite old, considering that most of it was untouched by the wars. One of the few evidences of the war was a park in the main square where a building stood previously, only it's bell tower and elaborate clock remained. There seems to be a trend going with large clocks that have animatronics, puppets that move and spin on the hour. Munich had one of these, and much like that city, people would gather on the hour when the "event" was to occur, watch a really cheesy performance (we are talking about wooden sculptures that just spin in a circle for the most part), and for some odd reason would applaud afterwards. The applause is the part that always got me. I almost wanted to get on a mid and thank them for coming, then letting them know that these tireless performers would be back to do just the same the next hour. If they wished for an encore they could come back then.

I do have to admit, I did do the touristy thing and watch these events. But I did not clap for the wooden puppets.

My visit to Prague was overwhelmed by concert fliers, as, it seems at any point in time at least a million where going on across the city in every church and space available. You choices included a limited we of options of Mozart's requiem, The four seasons, and other standard fare. I fought through the assault of fliers and emerged unscathed. As, while some of the concerts were tempting, they were overpriced for what they offered. I only the symphony orchestra was playing, then I could get the quality I wanted at a price that works. But alas, it seems that the orchestra and opera take breaks in July and August. Oh well.

I spent yesterday exploring Prague castle. Which was a bit of a disappointment, and a rip off. The ticket I bought, which I though offered more, gave me admission to a one room hall (which did have a really near ceiling), a one room renaissance church, an isle of buildings that just contained tourist shops, and a "vineyard" that was apparently already free to see. Yep, that ticket could have bought an amazing dinner. Oh well. It was all saved by the cathedral (which was free), St. Vitus. And what a cathedral it was, I think one of the most beautiful ones I've been in, in a long time. That might have had a lot to do with the first impression that I got of the interior. Re sun was shining directly through the rose window at the entrance of the church, washing the floor and columns in a glowing mass of color. It was perfect.

The cathedral also contained an art nouveau window by Mucha, whose museum I went to on the previous day. You may not know who he is, but if you run an image search on the Internet for his name, you should recognize his work. He is considered one of the fathers of that art movement. The museum was fun, although a bit small, only filling two rooms with prints and sketches. But it was great none the less.

One of the main attractions, and centerpieces of the Jewish district was their graveyard. A mess of built up uneven earth, and tombstones placed one in front of another. They had only a small plot of land to bury their dead, so everything was piled on top of another, and as it's all settled over time, the ground has grown uneven and the stones have shifted in all directions. It's quite a staggering scene to see. I have to admit that didn't buy a ticket to see it (yes they charge you for seeing a graveyard, by it does include a few other buildings and memorials). While walled off, there were enough viewpoints to get a good look at it all.

Other than that, I went on an excellent tour of the city. Probably one of the best tours I've been on so far. That and I found an awesome lunch deal during my break, with a 1lt soda and three open faced sandwiches for only 69ck (about $3.80). I found some other awesome deals as well, stumbling upon a little hold in the wall bar/restaurant that had a dinner menu consisting of soup, goulash with dumplings, and apple strudel dessert. When I added beer (only 29ck, $1.80 for a pint) and coffee, the whole thing came to less than $11. Pretty awesome for a full meal, with amazing beer. It's true, the beer in Prague is very good and more potent than others (10-12%). Whereas in Italy my goal was to have a different gelato everyday, a different chocolate bar in Switzerland, in Prague it was to try a different beer. And try I did. It's almost sad leaving that I won't find beer that good for that price anytime soon.

So hearty food, good beer, a relatively cheap budget, and amazing architecture pretty much sum up Prague for me. I'm thinking I will need to do an eastern Europe trip in the future, and Prague will have to be visited again.


Mucha in a cathedral, eh? hm. i'll have to look for an image of that one. i like his art nouveau ladies w/flowers and such. actually, i just love art nouveau.

oh man those meals sound superdelicious! (is it lunchtime yet?)

your improv re: the clock puppets sounds hilarious...!