Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Prague is Beautiful

It seems there is never a shortage of beautiful sites and interesting meanings wherever we find ourselves on this planet.
 After a pretty perfect week in Italy, we traveled to Prague, Czech Republic. We were picked up at the airport by the hotel car and the driver gave us a wonderful little mini tour on our way into the city.
Next morning was Sunday and we found church in a big embassyesque house not far from the Prague Castle.  Our individual phone maps and taxi driver were divergent in their agreement of where the church was located and we ended up walking as fast as my sandals would allow us to get there before the meeting was too far along. (Not only is my brain fairly well oriented to directions, but it seems like we should have listened to my particular phone as well.)
We were given headphones for an English interpretation of the Sacrament Meeting, and that was quite an interesting experience. Although I'm sure the Czech and English languages don't have the same number and length of words in a sentence, I'm pretty sure English has more than about 1 word for every 20 in Czech. However, I don't think the interpreter knew those other 19 words or how to express them.  Quite the lesson.
The Hubby and I walked back to the hotel the long way. It took us about 5 hours to make the 45 minute walk as we investigated the entire castle including Cathedral, Basilica, Palace for the royalty, village for the common workers, shops, and guard house changing. We also passed by famous bridges, vineyards, and beautiful views of the city.
 A little casual and formal all in one shot.
St. Vitas Cathedral is inside of the Castle walls, and took 1000 years to complete in its various stages.
Fabulous windows, sculptures in wood, metal and stone, beautiful organ and artwork everywhere.
For some reason on this day we were noticing and paying special attention to all the amazing doors that we came across. The hinges, inlays, and woodwork were really fun to compare.
When seeing a fire furnace like this big green ceramic one located in nearly every castle room, I always try to picture how it would be to never see your fire being stoked or created. The servants would do the dirty work behind the wall so as to never enter the room with the nobles. It would feel uncomfortable to never even be able to thank them, or do it yourself without having to call for help. Just so foreign to todays living.
This room had coat of arms and family trees uniting them all over the ceilings. Quite the artistry.
 Check out this hardware. Took a little while to create I'd say.
 Here's a small library cupboard. Such beautiful cool books.
Within the castle walls is also "Golden Lane" which housed many artisans and goldsmiths staring from the 15th Century clear up until the middle of the 20th Century. Now there is an extensive armory on display in the top floors with tourture chamber relics, and many different weapons. The tiny little houses were occupied with alchemist, seamstress, goldsmith, and other examples of life as it once was on the lane.

 Inside of the Cathedral.
After walking down the hill and past St Wenceslas Vinyard we found some interesting potato chips. The curly cut potato spread apart onto a skewer stick and deep-fried was quite yummy and novel. The Hubby wouldn't normally eat something like this, but I would (that is why he looks so slim and trim and I do not) so he got talked into this little snack.
 ALL the sidewalks in the entire city are made with little two inch square marble or stone pavers. Once in a while you'd see a piece missing or laying on the side, but for the most part the pavers were set fairly evenly and they made the city have a memorable look.
More fun food.
These are long strips of rolled out bread dough placed on round metal rollers that are spinning above a hot fire. Before cooking the girls roll the dough in a sugary mixture. Then after cooking they cool, take the sweet bread off from the rolling pin sized roller, and place them in bags for consumption. My style indeed.
Walking onto the Charles Bridge. So many tourists from so many places, buying so many artsy souvenirs, and taking so many pictures. The music from street musicians was almost always audible, and concert fliers for the churches and concert halls were being hawked all over town.
 From the middle of the bridge toward the castle.
Other side of the bridge. There are several other bridges that we crossed. This one was the only no vehicle bridge.
 Mostly Baroque architecture amongst the old Gothic and Roman buildings.
Apparently John Lennon was a big fan of Bohemia which Prague (Praha) is the center of. There is a John Lennon wall where a musician was playing Lennon's music and people were reading inscriptions of graffiti that were about him.
Electric rail cars go right along with traffic on many streets.
This is the astronomical clock and is the oldest working clock like this in the world. Erected in 1410, it has many mechanical expressions. It tells the time in several ways, i.e: 24 hour clock, Italian hours which indicate 24 hour time starting at sunset, Zodiac clock, Daily name clock on the lower face, etc. It shows the phases of the moon, and the sun, and shows the time of sunrise and sunset. All in all an amazing piece of machinery given that I don't understand most of it 600 years after it was made.
I found it quite fascinating.
A crowd gathers around it on each hour to watch an unimpressive display of 12 apostles spinning in a circle, a cock crowing, and "death" striking bells for the passage of time.
The main town square is just adjacent, and always had musicians, bubble artists, and street performers showing their talents.
Which steeple represents Eve and which is Adam?
Large statue in the center of the square is of Jan Hus, an early reformer, priest and leader of the people.
He believed that the bible should be read in the language of the people and that they should not be forgiven of their sins by paying the priest off.
The Hubby takes some cool pictures in this old city.
Huge chandelier in this old church, set off by painted murals on all the walls.
I joined this "free" tour in which you pay for what you feel you gained from it. JohnPaul was informative and entertaining, so he got a good tip from me after I followed him all over the east side of the city.
This Prague ham being cooked out on Wenceslas Square.
Narrow streets curving around with beautiful Baroque architecture.
The main Jewish synagogue in the Jewish quarter. Very Moorish in its design, because the Moors were more kind to the Jews than the Christians.

The Hubby had to work for several days while we were in Prague, so I took these city tours as well as a tour 40 km outside of the city to the summer home of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.

If you go to your history books you can find that this man along with his wife Sophie, was assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914 - 100 years ago and is one of the major events that launched World War I.

This castle, named Konopiste was pretty well preserved and housed a CRAZY collection of weapons, armory, and wild game antlers, plumage and other animal trophies from game Ferdinand had downed. In his dairies he kept track of an estimated 300,000 game kills, and this place appeared to display a good many of them.
There were extensive grounds and gardens that we walked around and enjoyed as well.
Beautiful country and city.
Thanks to Hubby for taking me to this new and historical place.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Florence by Foot


Next stop on our trip was Florence. The Hubby and I had collected our car following the train ride from Cinque Terre into LaSpezia and the best thing we did was to get the GPS NeverLost upgrade.
NeverLost does lose its connection to the satellite once in a while, but we were still able to find our way around Northern Italy without too many problems, and wondered how we could have managed before GPS.
We dropped the car off at the Florence airport and then got a cab into our next hotel. We would walk everywhere from there.
Little disclaimer here. Be ready for a picture explosion. Not that my travel posts are ever short on pictures, but I'm just sayin'.
We headed out immediately on a walk along the east side of the Arno River to get oriented to the cities layout, and check out the bridges. My easy travel/walking gear always included reading glasses, camera, and side shoulder clutch sized purse. When I go shopping, or need other items, I put these original things all into a larger shoulder purse. I would find out in about 2 hours that I should've brought the larger bag with a couple of umbrellas in it, for it rained in a complete bursting of clouds for about 45 minutes in the late afternoon.
Calm before the storm. Still very bright sunny colors abound in the buildings and homes, just like the rest of Tuscany that we have just experienced.
This unique bridge is called Ponte Vecchio and has shops all along the sides of the medieval arched bridge. Apparently it was once a common thing to have butcher shops, and markets occupying this space. Now it is full of jewelry and touristy souvenirs instead.
The Hubby noticing the door type coverings for the shops. Half come down to connect with the half that lift up. They are ornately carved wood and we noticed the beautiful old hinges and locks that held them together. He bought me some cool jewelry of Rose Gold. (Thanks Hun)
This guy just looks perturbed. I wouldn't want to have met him in a dark alley, (or at the dinner table either, I suppose.)
Then we went in search of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The marble exterior in greens, peaches, and whites is pretty amazing. The detail that went into this facade is incredible and we enjoyed seeing it both from the ground...


Pretty fancy Gothic Revival finished in the 1800's. The "Duomo" as it is called, was started in 1296 and we were able to go up to the dome (a few pictures down here.)
The David by Michelangelo was the most breathtaking piece of art I have ever seen. Its detail and the beauty of the human body, its capturing of the power, strength and innocence, the magnificence of the  Carrara marble, and the dome that was built to house it all add to its beauty. I was truly amazed that I was so moved by it as I was.
You see him holding onto a rock and sling which goes up his back and across his left shoulder where he is holding the end of it in his left hand. Apparently Michelangelo wanted him to look strong, yet have the strength manifest in his intellect. It worked. Completely.

End of story.

But there was more to see in this old art capital.
Lots of plaster pieces that were studied by various artists and marked in specific areas to measure distance when the sculpture was being carved. I guess they take calipers and angles to make sure they are as close as possible to perfection.
How about these streets?  Crazy European streets. I guess a horse and carriage never has to pass another horse and carriage.
This is after climbing up to the base of the Duomo. Heaven and hell are represented from the top to the bottom. Quite imaginative. 
 We made it to the top of the Duomo!!!!! Yeah!
Looking out toward the clock tower which is 6 meters shorter. Look at those sucka's over there.
 The builders carefully stored the measuring implements they made for all the stairs, domes, arches, etc. If anyone every needs to fix something, here's the place to begin.
 Should I touch him? He winked at me.
A model of David out in the elements. Still impressive, but not as spiritual for me.
 The Uffizi museum was FULL of cool stuff.  Here's Venus coming ashore.
 The Three Graces in Botticelli's Primavera. I didn't know about them. They are also referred to as the Charites and represent charm, beauty, and creativity in Greek Mythology. There are many famous artists and paintings that depicted them. Here they are with Mercury and Venus.
The whole museum is an art piece. It is formerly a castle where the Florentine Royals lived.
And if they needed to flee quickly from their enemies, they'd run across the Vecchio bridges top floor that is unoccupied to this day.
 Sculptures and paintings everywhere.
This wall looked like it had cameo's decorating the columns. Very cool paint job, I'd say.

One thing we didn't get a picture of was of us eating a Gelato.  Seriously almost daily we would go get a yummy cone or cup of various different flavors of the cold wonderful stuff.  Should really have a picture of that. It was how we spent 15% of our time. (Insert smile here)

We ate huge Florentine style steak which we shared, and pasta, fresh vegetables, and fish. We continued to walk our feet off, which made us sleep well so we could be ready for the next leg of our trip.

Here we come Prague.