23 April 2011
Our time in Berlin came to a close and we were off early on our train to the Czech Republic. We arrived in Prague in the late afternoon, got transport passes, exchanged currency (they’re not part of the EU, so they’re on the Czech Krona), and found our hostel. The Riverside Hostel, aptly named as it was right on the river, had the air of an abandoned building that had beds in some of the rooms, but was still a nice and secure place, though the beds were a little more than uncomfortable. Once we were settled, we walked around the city, checking out Old Town, taking pictures, and battling the hordes of tourists populating the Charles Bridge.
Once we made it across the river we found Our Lady Victorious, the Catholic Cathedral of Prague, and found they had an English service the following day at noon, then found a nearby restaurant for dinner. Ferdinand’s was a hole-in-the-wall (or possibly hole-in-the-floor) Czech restaurant located underground in a refurbished cellar of some retail buildings that had been built in the 1800s. They had awesome food like goulash with Czech dumplings, blue cheese encrusted pork tenderloin, and goat cheese and honey sirloin for amazing prices (none of our meals were over €8), proving once again that Europe isn’t all that expensive if you’re in the right places. We returned to the hostel to play cards and hang out, as well as make each other Easter baskets, which mainly consisted of candy, cereal bars, and beer purchased at the corner store.
24 April 2011
We were up early so we could get some sightseeing done before mass. We first walked to a church that houses the botanical garden of Prague, which was pretty, though after seeing the massively sprawling gardens of Berlin, it was a little bit of a let down. We then walked back into Old Town to see the Astronomical Clock.
The clock, which was first installed in 1410, measures the earth’s location in reference to the Equator, the Tropic of Cancer, and the Tropic of Capricorn, siderial time, the average revolutions of the moon, average solar ecliptic, planetary time, the zodiac, the location of the observer, estimates the times of sunrise, daybreak, daylight, sunset, twilight, and the astronomical night, and displays the time on a 24-hour clock that also reads in Ancient Czech. Granted, I have no idea how to read most of that information, but it makes your Timex seem pretty worthless, doesn’t it?
We went up into the tower and got an amazing panoramic view of the entire city, which boasts a better preserved original skyline that a lot of central Europe because it was largely spared from any air raids during the second World War.
After the stunning view, Kelsey, Libby, and I took a tram across the river to get seats for mass. We were treated to a lovely service inside the beautiful cathedral which in addition to being the only Catholic Cathedral in Prague, houses a famous statue of the baby Jesus ensuring dozens of tourists walking partially down the center aisle during mass to take pictures and leave. We met Anders back at Ferdinand’s for lunch, and spent the rest of the day exploring Old Town and a park overlooking the river.
25 April 2011
We were up early again, though this time faced with a gray drizzle rather than spectacular sunshine, and made our way to Prague Castle, home to Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors, and offices to presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic.
It’s also the largest ancient castle, and one of the largest castles in the world. We were able to tour St. Vitus’ Cathedral, the Basilica of St. George, and the royal apartments. We also saw the changing of the guards, and a suit of chain mail in the gift shop for about €2,000.
After the castle, we walked through a large park, had lunch, and took a tram to the top of a large hill where the mini-Eiffel Tower observation tower is located. We decided not to pay to go up into the tower since it was so cloudy and foggy, and instead went to a mirror-maze funhouse and witnessed several children running full speed into their reflections.
We spent the evening packing up again and playing even more cards. Tomorrow, Vienna!