Friday, April 19, 2013

Wandering


Each city I've visited is clearly European, a place you'd never expect to encounter in the U.S.  Each is also, however, distinctly different, with its own architecture, culture, and feel.  In both Vienna and Prague, places I've never been before, wandering the streets has helped me get a sense of the cities.  Doing so is particularly difficult here in Prague, where I cannot read anything not written in English; in Vienna, I could at least stumble through some bits of the German. 

Prague is a very new old city in that it is an ancient town that has been heavily rebuilt since the tremendous damage it sustained in World War II.  So, most buildings feel old, and in some ways they are, but they also frequently have many new aspects.

Certainly, lovely churches are everywhere (though I've gone inside only one of them; more on it below).

Click on any image to see a larger version.

I don't know the name of this one; I just liked it and took a photo as I walked by.

Prague is the historical capital of Bohemia, so I suppose this name is reasonable.  It still made me smile.


The main bridge across the Vltava river (aka the Moldau) is the Karluv, or Charles bridge.  Wide and jammed with tourists at seemingly all times, it is still an impressive span that features a great many interesting statues, such as this one. 


All of them are replicas, with the originals in the National Museum, but they were still intriguing and occasionally moving. 

A few boats full of tourists chugged along the otherwise pleasantly empty river.


A band was playing when I crossed into Old Town, working the crowd for a living from tips and the odd CD sale.


They were still playing hours later when I headed back to the hotel. 

Towers stand over each of the bridge's ends.  Here's the one on the Old Town side. 


The inside top of this tower's arch is lovely, if in need of restoration.



Why a straw chicken at the base of a church? 


It seems to have something to do with Easter, though I can't guarantee that.  The lack of words I can read here definitely leaves me sometimes without the data I'd like and frequently prompts bits of research. 

Though I know nothing as important as freedom is ever simple, I couldn't help but like these signs.


The Prague Astronomical Clock is a perfect example of my sense of the city:  lovely, esoteric, difficult to understand, and ancient (the initial installation was in the early 1400s).


The clock is also relatively new, necessarily rebuilt after German attacks in World War II basically destroyed it--but rebuilt to look old and to retain as much of its original sense as the builders could manage. 

From the top of its tower, the views of the city were excellent. 


On the hour, the clock puts on a show, with revolving figures and ringing bells.  The clock itself is better than the show, though the show is fun. 

Ah, street vendors roasting hams on an open fire.  I'm going to like any city square with that going on.


I found this Art Nouveau touch on this corner building quite lovely. 


The one church I visited today was the Staronova Synagogue, also known as the Old New Synagogue.  This gothic building, on which the original construction finished in 1270, is one of Europe's two oldest active synagogues. 


It's a relatively plain building, powerful inside in spite of, or maybe because of, the minimal decorations.  I complied with the rules and took no photographs, in part because of the feel of the place and in part, to be honest, because of the constant presence of old women patrolling it and watching all visitors for signs of bad behavior. 

Back on the streets, it was impossible to avoid noticing that, like the beach, Prague has the squeeze!


Yes, I treated myself to a small cup of red-streaked, kinda-sorta-cherry squeeze.


Prague is also obviously a very cosmopolitan city.  For example, if you feel like having fish eat the dead skin off your feet, you can do it here.


No, that's not for me.  Not ever.

It may rain here all day tomorrow, in which case I might just stay in and read and write and chill.  Or not.  That's one of the beautiful things about this trip; I don't have to decide right now what I'm going to do tomorrow.


2 comments:

David Drake said...

Dear Mark,

I'm much taken by this whole series. Perhaps in another life.

Were the buskers playing classical music or pop?

And while I'm not saying anything good about the Germans, who started WW II and carried it through with amazing brutality, they marched into Czechoslovakia unopposed. The damage to the interior of Prague came when Soviet forces were throwing the Germans out; which makes probable that it was Soviet guns which destroyed the original clock.

Again, I mean only what I mean: if I'd been tasked with recovering the city, my people would've gone in behind as much firepower as I could find.

As always,
Dave

Mark said...

The buskers were playing an odd mix of Cajun and klezmer, pretty zippy and, to my ears, occasionally silly--but doing it well.

I don't know the full story, of course, but all I've read so far is that German shells destroyed the clock tower. Perhaps more research is in order.

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