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Prague Castle

Published Tue 02 October 2007 16:00 (+0200)
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Mary, Charles, and I spent most of our first day in Prague exploring the castle, Prague Castle. This castle, which is in Prague, as it stands today is more of a collection of buildings than a castle in the traditional sense or a palace as we English speakers think of them; the castle walls are still mostly in place, but they blend freely into the city.

Inside, there's a number of building clustered together, including a big cathedral, a medium sized basilica, a convent building, a newish palace, and an older palace with a Great Hall.

It took us a while to make it out there (due mainly to some confusions with tram stops, and some gardens we planned to walk through being closed), so by the time we got there and got some money changed (wrong order really – the commission in that area was terribly high), we were down to half a day.

So we were disappointed to see the signs saying that it all closed up at 16:30. This turned out to be bollocks, the buildings were/are open to about 6pm at this time of the year. Moral of the story, ask one of the staff and ignore the signs.

As for admission, you can choose between the short option which gives you access to about half of the buildings/areas, or the long option. We did the short option and I think it was enough.

We also paid for the audioguide, which was reasonably worthwhile, though a bit “blah blah blah” in places like the Cathedral; it'd take hours to listen to everything it had to say about every window in the building. Still, hard to know what you're looking at elsewhere without it.

St. Vitus Cathedral

Cathedral at Prague Castle
Cathedral at Prague Castle
Sculptures at Prague Castle
Sculptures at Prague Castle
Window ornamentation on the Prague Castle cathedral
Window ornamentation on the Prague Castle cathedral
Painted glass window & painting in the Prague Castle cathedral
Painted glass window & painting in the Prague Castle cathedral

The St. Vitus Cathedral, the big cathedral in the middle of the complex, is certainly impressive, both in magnitude and decoration; it's not only visually rich inside, but shows an unusual amount of effort on the outside of the building, with big mosaics, statues and elaborate gold-painted wrought windows.

Inside, the nave is every bit as large and full of stuff as you might expect. A couple of the windows of the chapels ringing the nave are stained glass but the remainder are all painted, often with considerable detail.

Together with the paintings hanging in each chapel, and the chapel altars and/or relics themselves – plus the other items in the Cathedral such as the organs and gleaming metal tombs, there's a lot to take in!

St George's Basilica

It's tough being the follow-up act to the Cathedral, so St George's Basilica is probably going to underwhelm. Still, it's worth at least a quick visit; the area opposite the entrance is interesting, particularly the crypt under the raised area that IIRC would be for the choir.

Old Royal Palace

The older of the two palaces is included in the short tour; it's not a particularly huge complex, but has a few points of interest. The big Great Hall has an unusual wooden beam floor, which is quite uneven – not surprising since they used to parade around on horses in there! Adjacent chambers contain the rooms for the body of government, and a churchy area.

Upstairs, you can visit the room made famous by one of the most significant examples of that proud Prague institution, thowing people out of windows.

The Golden Lane

Finally, there's one of the most photographed streets about, the Golden Lane (thought to be so named for the goldsmiths/jewellers that it housed). The tiny houses on this lane now contain a number of jewellery/musical instrument/soap/knick-knack shops, plus small museums for Franz Kafka (who used to live on the street – though he seems to have lived all over the place).

Upstairs in the battlements, there's some more historical material, plus displays of boy stuff (suits of armor and weapons and so on), and down the stairs from the far end of the lane, a nice little dungeon with the requisite torture implements.

So yeah

So there's lots to see! Quite touristy of course, but worth a visit nonetheless.

Photos from this day courtesy of Mary & Charles' camera – I was a real thickie and managed to bring my camera along but left the battery in the charger! Duh.