Monday, November 21, 2011

Seeing Prague

Saturday, we decided to concentrate on the Old Town area in the morning, and walked just about every street. Of the 160 photos we took, more than half of them are pictures of buildings or architectural details of buildings. The city is amazing! Statues hold up balconies, art deco railings abound, rooflines are spires or stepped or have cupolas, some exteriors have frescoes, some have intricate plasterwork. I couldn't get enough of it, and thankfully, Prague does not have dog poop covering the streets, meaning we could walk with our eyes up to our hearts' content. We walked to the edge of the pedestrian zone to a medieval tower, once an entrance to the city, and gazed in awe at the Municipal House next door, an Art Nouveau extravaganza. My favorite was the stained glass awning over the entrance into the lobby, which now houses two restaurants, while the building elsewhere holds exhibition halls, popular for concerts.

For our afternoon, we took a tram ride across the Vltava River to the district above the Castle, then walked down the street enjoying the views of church spires. Making our way to the castle entrance, we walked around the grounds (free), but elected not to tour the buildings, painting gallery, or church. Our feet were aching, and it was time for a break.

Sunday was our day to walk the Jewish Quarter. Prague's Jewish population were essentially walled into their ghetto and experienced a great deal of oppression up until the late 1700s, when some of the more flagrant discriminations were relaxed. Fun Fact: The word ghetto comes from the Italian verb, gettare, which means to throw or to cast. In Venice, Jewish people were forced to live in an area near the copper foundry (il ghetto). The entire Jewish neighborhood became known as a ghetto, and then the word spread in usage to refer to Jewish neighborhoods in other cities. And that's where the word ghetto started...all roads lead back to Italy. But let's head back to Prague - the Jewish Quarter has about six synagogues open for touring and, more interesting to us, the Jewish cemetery, in use from 1478 to 1787. We wanted to see this place in person because the pictures were so amazing. Due to scarcity of land, people were buried 12 deep, with headstones crowding around, but estimates are that over 100,000 are actually buried in this location. The ticket entrance was steep, but after we visited our once actual tourist site for the trip (Museum of Decorative Arts), I headed for a bathroom break and found that the ladies' room overlooks the cemetery. Sweet - I had a great view.

A late lunch in an Irish pub and some relaxing with our Kindles gave our feet time to rest before our next jaunt, back over to the Charles Bridge in search of some street art. I had a picture in my head that I wanted, and while we didn't find it, we got one I like even better. And lots of our own photos as well. We must have spent a good hour goofing around on the Bridge before the cold set in. While in search of a warm pub and some hot wine, we instead found an outdoor cafe using space heaters. Less than 30 degrees outside, and the outdoor cafe was open. After taking a look at their cozy chairs, we had to try it out. Hot Wine and Honey Cake (sooooooo delicious) for me, and for Nathan, a real Budweiser. Another Fun Fact: Two companies from Budweis, Bohemia (now part of Czech Republic) began exporting their Budweiser beer to the U.S. in 1871 and 1875, respectively. Anheuser Busch began selling a Budweiser beer in 1876 and put some sort of copyright or patent on the name. And thus, over a 100 years of legal disputes began. As of now, American Budweiser is sold as "Bud" in the EU, and only the Czech company can use Budweiser. I don't know what name the Czech beer gets in the U.S. But in the U.K., both companies are allowed to use Budweiser. All very complicated, and frankly, annoying. Well, not really for me since I don't care anything about beer, but I am extremely annoyed on behalf of the beer lovers in the world. For all you Budweiser/Bud/Budvar (yet another name used) lovers: Na Zdravi (to your health, which is just a fancy way of saying cheers):

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