Saturday, November 22, 2008

Prague - Overview

This is part of a 2 week trip that Saru and I took on our way from the US to India. Our trip routing was

Brugge -- Amsterdam -- Prague -- Cesky Krumlov -- Hallstatt -- Vienna

Halfway through our first day in Prague, Saru commented - ‘What’s wrong? You look a little disappointed”. I immediately replied back that I was not and he was mad to even suggest that. I went on to make fun of how he was so hopeless at reading my mind. Me and disappointed in Europe – what a ridiculous notion!! I would never get tired of Europe….I love Europe…Europe is awesome! How could he even think that I was not happy here?

Well….It took me until the next day to accept the fact. What my subconscious knew in the first hour, the logical side didn’t accept until the next day. I wanted to love Prague. I wanted to come back from the trip and say “Prague is the new Paris”, “Check out the Czech”, so I don’t understand this disappointment at all. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you should not go to Prague, heck I want to go back and see what I missed. Prague has everything I love - beautiful churches, monasteries, castles, cobble-stone streets, old red roof buildings, superb architecture, beautiful views, tons of coffee shops, and nice local people. If you scroll down and look at the pictures, you will see how beautiful the city it, so it really does not make any sense why I felt the way I did. I can rationalize and come up with reasons like

  • Amsterdam set the bar too high.
  • Nothing really distinguished Eastern from Western Europe
  • I didn’t take time to go to museums and understand the history
  • Food was insipid and I don’t drink beer.

I thought about this long and hard and never came up with an explanation, so let’s leave the topic and move on. We spent 3 days and had a great time. I know it does not make any sense that I had a great time in a city that disappointed me. You see, a vacation is not a place but a state of mind. Don’t roll your eyes, it is true. We go on vacations to get away from the stress of life. The minute we leave home, we leave behind all our worries and the little problems that we love to obsess about. There is no more of the “Why do I have to fold clothes all the time” or “Why is there water on the toilet seat” or “My boss is an asshole” and even if those issues come up, it is more in a “let’s solve that problem or make peace with it” kind of attitude. So yes, we had a great time in Prague.

What did we do to have a great time? We walked. Where? Everywhere! All over the place! Prague is a very beautiful city with beautiful architecture and hundreds of outdoor cafes filled with tourists. On our first day, we went to meet Saru’s friend from graduate school. Magdalena is from the neighboring Slovakia, but she has been living in Prague for a few years. She was a very sweet person. She was leaving town the next day, so gave us a quick half a day tour of the major attractions. We took the train to Prague’s Castle district and hiked up to St.Vitus Cathedral. The Cathedral had very beautiful stained glass windows by Alfons Mucha. There is a chapel with the tomb of St.Wenceslas, the patron saint. Magdalena explained to us that it takes years and sometimes centuries to attain sainthood. An application can be made 5 years after the death of the person, a rule that was set aside for Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. Paperwork should include at least two miracles and one preferably after the death of the person to show a continuation of relationship with god after death!!

The cathedral was commissioned in the thirteenth century, but was completed only in the nineteenth century, so it includes art and architectural styles from many periods. Magdalena told us that Prague was an architect’s textbook, for there is architecture of every kind – Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Art Nuevo and modern Art. I nodded my head pretending to understand what that means, but the humble husband asked the most obvious question “How do you recognize these types of architectures”. Thanks to Magda’s explanation, we learnt the history of architecture and for the rest of the trip we were both like “That’s a gothic church”, “This is totally baroque” and “That renaissance building is cool”. Don’t worry, I am not going to give a Architecture History 101, but I am most certainly going to show off our newly acquired knowledge.

Gothic Architecture is very distinct and can be easily recognized for it pointed arches. Other features include vaulted ceilings as shown in the picture of St.Vitus Cathedral above. Examples of Gothic architecture are the Notre Dame in Paris and the Milan Cathedral. Here is a picture of Prague's Tyn Church in gothic style architecture.

Renaissance is characterized by classical columns, arches, domes and a triangular section in the fa├žade of the building. Examples of this are The Louvre in France, St. Peters Basilica in Rome and Santa Maria del Fiore of Florence. Here is the national museum in neo-renaissance style.

Tired of the symmetry in Renaissance buildings, baroque architects experimented with shapes. They built Churches with oval domes and those that were more grand and opulent and decorated. Marble and bronze were used in these structures. The most famous example of baroque architecture is the Piazza of St Peters in Vatican City and its trapezoid shape.

Church of St.Nicholas - Old Town Square.

Before she left for the day, she took us to a Czech sweet shop called Cukrana and had some local sweets -Makovy Zavin (poppy seed pastry) and Medovnik. The locals in the shop were very amused and kept staring and pointing at us and finally mustered the courage to ask us how it was. They were very happy when we told them that the sweets were delicious.

We walked some more along the Vltava river appreciating the beautiful architecture and went back to the old town quarter to have dinner.


  1. Nice post. Yes, the pictures are indeed beautiful!

  2. Indicaspecies,
    Thanks for stopping by again. I have more of Czech Republic coming.

  3. Thanks for this trip where you took me to Prague on your words. I wish someday I find myself financially sound enough to visit such wonderful place. And I absolutely LOVE cathedrals. And this one is magnificent. And thanks a lot for dropping by my blog.

  4. Thanks Subhanjan,
    You had great photos and sketches in your blog

  5. Maybe travel fatigue? It happens to me when I do to much and don’t have enough time to really truly digest everything. Kind like my soul couldn’t follow because I was running high speed from place to place. I love reading your blog – you provide so much insight. Thank you.

  6. Hey Fida,
    You are right!.As much as I like to think that I love traveling and would never get tired of it, it is not true. You are always looking for new things, new perspectives and new experiences, so you do get tired when you see similar things again and again. I think I was looking for that one key thing that would set Prague apart from other big European cities and was disappointed not to find it.

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  8. Hi Vamsee! Hope neither you nor yours have been affected with the events in your city...
    Loved to discover your blog. Wonderful pictures, great posts!
    Much better Prague than my lousy 1997 pictures... ;))
    Thanks for your comments at Blogtrotter!
    Have a great weekend!

  9. Great pictures of the rooftops! Thanks for stopping over at my blog. You have some interesting travel stories here - I'll be back to check often.

  10. GMG,
    I think the difference is in the city itself, not just the pictures. To promote tourism, Prague seems to have cleaned up the soot and given the city a facelift.

    Thanks for visiting. I have lots of travel stories from the US and Europe. Once I start traveling in India, I will have those too.

  11. These are great shots Vamsee. I don't know whether I will be lucky enough to visit these places. The shot of the stained glasses was terrific. I have seen something like this though not in such a large scale in St. Philomina's church in Mysore.

    Happy and safe travelling in India.

  12. You literally took me to Prague, a country I have missed visiting.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and I am glad to have discovered your blog, have added you on my list.

    Pictures are superb.

  13. Indrani,
    Thanks.I loved that shot too.

    Thanks. I am going to participate in your photo of the month competition. I isolated three 'pink' pictures.

  14. Aha !! That's called planning. :P

  15. come and see Prague my, you dont have to devour sausages for that but yes, if you have a taste for beer, it'll help :-)

  16. Awesome one.. This is the first time someone has explained the different architecture types found in Europe so well i know about the forms but never could map the image of a building with them.