MORE SNAPSHOTS OF PRAGUE:
BASILICA OF ST. JAMES
Behind Old Town Square, hidden along the winding streets, sits the Basilica of St. James. Not only is the stunning architecture, both indoor and outdoor, reason to stop by, but there is also the mummified hand of a thief that hangs from the ceiling!
ST. CHARLES BRIDGE
Prague’s oldest bridge was built to replace the Judith Bridge that had been badly damaged by floods in 1342. Construction of the new bridge, originally called Stone Bridge or Prague Bridge, began in 1357 under the auspices of Charles IV and was finished in 1402. Since 1870 the bridge has been called Charles Bridge. It is built of sandstone blocks, flanked at each end by fortified towers (Lesser Town Bridge Tower, Old Town Bridge Tower). From 1683 to 1928, 30 statues of saints were carved to decorate the bridge, the most famous of which is the statue of St. John of Nepomuk.http://www.prague.eu/en/object/places/93/charles-bridge
This bridge was just completely full of history, architecture, and beauty. We made sure to rub the statue of St. John for good luck (don’t worry we kept our gloves on to avoid germs and the Rona, haha). It began snowing for the first time since being in Prague as we were crossing- the pictures can’t capture the magic. Our hands were frozen solid, but it wasn’t anything a hot glass of mulled wine couldn’t cure! I had so much fun trying to catch the snowflakes and enjoying the ominous feeling of the dark statues with the gray skies of the day.
The newly opened alchemical laboratories were discovered during the reconstruction of one of the oldest historical buildings in Prague on the street Hastalska number 1. This building is listed by UNESCO and by pure luck has been preserved after the demolition of the Jewish quarter at the end of the 19th century. We visited Speculum Alchemiae to step back into the late medieval and early modern times, when science and mysticism were closely linked, and researchers were looking for a “higher purpose” and “harmony of the spheres,” which could help them discover the secrets of nature. We had the opportunity to see places where alchemists produced elixir of external youth, and Philosopher’s Stone, and non-precious metals changed into gold. Hidden beneath (literally the entrance was through a bookcase!!), we walked around Rudolf II’s alchemical laboratory from the 16th century, absorbing the magical atmosphere. This was such a neat little discovery and something to explore outside the realms of touristy things. The spooky thing was, almost all my photos that I took underground didn’t turn out. I checked them while taking them, because being underground and in darker spaces can be tricky for photo ops, but a majority of them when downloaded came up as blurry swirls! Weird…
We took a walk over the St. Charles Bridge to reach the castle on the other side. It was very cold that day, which made the walk and stairs feel longer than they were. We didn’t want to bore/freeze our son walking around the castle grounds too long, so we picked a ticket that enabled us to see 4 of the biggest attractions there (and luckily, most of them led us inside for a bit!). The views just outside the entrance to the castle grounds were beautiful and definitely worth the walk! You can see the whole city stretched out below, covered in a fresh coat of snow!
One of the stops was the Basilica of St. George. It is the oldest church in the Prague Castle complex. This spectacular building was founded in the 10th century by Prince Vratislaus of the Premyslid dynasty, but the only original foundations of the church are preserved today beneath the church reconstructed in the Romanesque style in the 12th century. The tombs of the members of the ruling Premyslid dynasty are found in the Basilica of St. George.
After, we walked down to the Golden Lane. The basis of Golden Lane is an irregular strip of land varying in width from four to eight meters between the older, Romanesque walls from the 12th century, and the later walls that form the outer north fortification of Prague Castle on the edge of a natural ravine known as the Stag Moat. Work on the north fortification of Prague Castle was begun by the architect Benedikt Ried shortly after 1484, when King Vladislav Jagiellon decided to leave the Old Town and settle at the Castle. Attached to the castle wall (up to 320cm thick) were three defense towers: The Powder Tower (or Mihilka) on the west side, the Dalibor Tower (Daliborka) on the east, and between them the White Tower. Between Daliborka and the White Tower, the castle wall on the moat side was buttressed by an arcade with twelve identical vaults, each of which was about 120cm deep and 600-660cm wide. These half-built spaces were used as simple makeshift dwellings. The oldest written reports about them are from the 1560’s, when the lane was called, “Goldsmith’s Lane.” Its residents were probably lesser goldsmiths who had fled the guild laws which were being strictly enforced in all three towns of Prague at the time (Old Town, New Town, and Lesser Town). No substantial repairs were carried out on the northern castle wall until 1591-94, during the reign of Rudolf II. At that time, the upper arcade structure rose to the level of today’s Golden Lane. There were now 21 arches between the White Tower and Daliborka, each 400cm wide and 220cm deep on average. They were separated by pillars. Above them, a walled defense passage with a rafted ceiling was built. The earlier houses were undoubtedly torn down at that time, and their remnants vanished into the raised rampart of the moat. In 1597 the “artillerymen at the gates of the Prague Castle” asked Emperor Rudolf II for permission to build the little rooms within the newly repaired walls which would take up only the depth of the niches. Rudolf allowed them to be built. The “Red Artillerymen,” as they were nicknamed because of the color of their uniform, did not, however, receive the dwellings as gifts. They had them built at their own expense and also bought and sold them, first among themselves, and then with others who were not members of their corps. At first, these included various employees of the castle (such as gatekeepers, guards, and bell-ringers), and later, people who did not live in Golden Lane but rented the little houses to others.
The last stop, and most impressive I might add, was the St. Vitus Cathedral. St. Vitus Cathedral is the most beautiful building in the Prague Castle complex. The foundation stone was placed by King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV in 1344, but the church was not completed until 1929. The individual chapels hold the tombs of the noble men who financed them. Bishops, archbishops, kings, and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire are also buried in the cathedral. The stained glass windows that circled around the cathedral were absolutely breathtaking!
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!