Prague Castle

Day 36, Monday, September 30, 2019

Prague is filled with many beautiful buildings.  We pass this one on our way to the Prague Castle. We had a good laugh.  Bob thought that the two guards in the guard-boxes were wax mannequins.  They were so motionless!

St. Vitus Cathedral is the first place we visit inside the castle grounds.  Our eyes are immediately drawn to the beautiful stained glass windows, and then to the hordes of people!

This sculpture is about a third of the way down this very large cathedral. Everyone has entrance to the cathedral with their entrance ticket to the Castle but they are only allowed into about the entrance of the nave.  We bought the next level ticket so we could walk around the whole cathedral and see all the side chapels and the altar up close.

The stained glass windows, created by 20th century Czech artists, are some of the most beautiful we have seen.  Each window is unique and their intense colours flood the interior of this Gothic Cathedral. 

Here is a close up of some non-traditional stained glass windows. Perhaps my favourite is the window designed by Alphonse Mucha.  You may remember we saw his design drawing for this window at the Mucha Museum yesterday. The beautiful rose window on the entrance wall of the cathedral was completed in 1925 and took two years to complete.  The inscriptions on the stained glass tell the story of Creation as told in the Bible. This wooden panel from 1630 shows the St. Charles Bridge, built in 1403, that we visited on Saturday. The city doesn’t really look all that different, does it? St. Vitus is portrayed with a rooster by his side, because he was boiled to death in a pot with a rooster!  These saints all seem to have had horrible tortuous deaths.  St. Vitus never actually even visited this cathedral, but a relic, or pieces of his body, was brought here and the Cathedral was built to honour him. St John of Nepomuk’s tomb is an elaborate baroque silver tomb with angels supporting a draped canopy.  It is said to contain two tonnes of silver.  St. John is the patron saint of the Czechs.  In hte latter part of hte 14th century, King Wenseslas tortured John with fire and then gagged him, put him in a goatskin and had him thrown into the Vltava River! He later declared him a martyr.  So much for ‘Good’ King Wenceslas!  There are so many people visiting this cathedral that I had to take this photo looking back towards the tomb to get a decent shot. 

This interesting fellow perched up high lighting the way is on the corner of a balcony that leads to the King’s private chambers.  The King was able visit the church whenever he wants without being seen by others. This is the chapel dedicated to St. Wenceslas, the king and patron saint of all the Czech lands. The lower part of the walls are decorated with more than 1300 gems and the joints between them are covered with gold.  The walls are covered in frescoes and the relics of St. Wenceslas are kept in the red draped case.   As we are leaving, the sun comes out for a bit and shines through the stained glass windows casting coloured light into the cathedral.  Note the lady posing behind Bob.  We seem to see her everywhere we go today and she is always posing ‘just so’ for a photo.  I’m not sure her and her husband are even looking at the cathedral as anything but a backdrop for her photographs. As beautiful as this cathedral is, I still love some of the simpler details that are easy to overlook with all the grandeur surrounding us. A view of the Cathedral.  This front entrance isn’t used by tourists, we entered on the end of the cathedral behind the building with orange panels.since the 16th century, the Vladislav Hall in the Old Royal Place, was used for coronation festivities and banquets, knights’ tournaments and markets for luxurious goods.  The Vladislav Hall still is used for state functions.  It is an enormous room. The Old Palace contained the Land Rolls, where all matters regarding property rights and criminal law were recorded.  An interesting door handle. One room had chairs which are almost the same as the ones my Swiss  grandfather used to make, only he put more carving and decoration on his.The present day appearance of St. George’s Basilica dates to the reconstruction after a devastating fire in 1142.  Now it is used for short-term art exhibitions.

We visit St. Georges 12th century crypt and see this rather bizarre sculpture.  I did some research and discovered that it is “a Late Gothic Statue of Brigita, representing a dead and decaying girl´s body.  It is a symbol of impermanence.  A legend says that it was made by a sculptor, who killed his girlfriend and wanted to create her statue before he was executed.  However, he was only able to make it as a dead body, because of his despair.” ~.www.prague.cz On the way out we see this collection of relics, but have no idea who they are.  These relics seem a bit bizarre.   Not only was the poor person usually tortured and killed but then their bones were carted off, often to several different locations and  put on display.  Hmmm. This is the Golden Lane.  This lane of tiny houses was built against the northern wall of the castle. These tiny houses were occupied until World War II and have been preserved so that the character of this lane has not changed.  From 1916 to 1917 house No. 22 was inhabited by the writer Franz Kafka. The name of the Lane is derived from goldsmiths who used to live there.  I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who told me that he and his father were both goldsmiths and that the tools have not changed at all. He also said his father died young and that he quit because some of the processes involved are very toxic. The houses are tiny and have tiny doors. This was a fortune teller’s house whose predictions about the early fall of the Third Reich resulted in her being arrested and tortured to death by the Gestapo. An amateur historian who saved many copies of old films that were intended for disposal during the Second World War lived here.  We watch one film that showed scenes of Prague and this Golden Lane.  It looks much like it does today.We almost missed seeing a huge display of old armaments and armour.  It was quite interesting.  Some the swords have pistols built into them, or axes attached! And then there is the torture chamber.  These places give me the creeps.  It is just so hard ot think of people subjecting each other to such pain and terror.  Bob is standing beside an Iron Maiden, which has spikes inside just long enough to pierce the body and make sure that the person inside dies a slow painful death.  There are two spikes placed so that they will pierce the eyes of whoever is placed inside, and take a look at that chair!  It is enough to give me nightmares.After the torture chamber we see some great views of Prague… can you spot our TV Tower?  It is hard to miss.
As we leave the castle the changing of the guards marches past.  A couple of the guards have their hats blown off by the wind but they just keep marching, although they did smile!  It was crazy windy today and a bit cold so it was a good day to be inside.Walking past the Cathedral towards the exit I thought to look up, and yes, there were gargoyles!  I love gargoyles, in case you didn’t know. This shrub was near the exit.  I have no idea what it is and wonder if anyone else might know?

Dresden, Germany

Day 29, Monday,  September 23, 2019

We only have one day in Dresden so we walk outside and do not visit any museums.  On our way to the old town, this bus gives us a chuckle. We are pretty sure that its destination is not what we phonetically sound out! We walk through the Zwinger Palace grounds. There are a lot of beautiful buildings here, which is surprising because Dresden was heavily bombed during the Second World War. I don’t know what these buildings are but we enjoyed walking about and looking at their exteriors. We go inside the Dresden Cathedral, which was heavily damaged during war but was restored by 1962. Here are photos showing the damage caused by the bombing. We walk along the Elbe River, looking for a bathroom, or WC as they are called here.  They are few and far between!  We do find this lovely terrace where the trees form a canopy over the whole area.While we were still  looking for the elusive WC’s, that were marked on our map but didn’t seem to be anywhere to be found, we discover this beautiful big tree that begged us to take its photo. The Frauenkirche Dresden, or Church of Our Lady is a Luthern Church that was almost completely destroyed during the war.  Only parts of its crypts remained intact.  The interior is very beautiful with luminous pastel colours and lots of light.

“On 13 February 1945, Anglo-American allied forces began the bombing of Dresden in World War II. The church withstood two days and nights of the attacks and the eight interior sandstone pillars supporting the large dome held up long enough for the evacuation of 300 people who had sought shelter in the church crypt, before succumbing to the heat generated by some 650,000 incendiary bombs that were dropped on the city. The temperature surrounding and inside the church eventually reached 1,000 °C (1,830 °F). The dome finally collapsed at 10 a.m. on 15 February. The pillars glowed bright red and exploded; the outer walls shattered and nearly 6,000 tons of stone plunged to earth, penetrating the massive floor as it fell.”  ~Wikipedia

Check out this link for more really interesting information on the rebuilding of the church.
The crypt was huge, not what we were expecting at all.  There were modern sculptures displayed here. This one shows ‘Construction’  and ‘Destruction’ opposite each other. This burned and twisted cross is from the original church. Here is the church from our vantage point in the square outside.  The dark stones are the ones that were from the original church.

The Fürstenzug or Procession of Princes is the largest porcelain mural in the world.  It is 101.9 metres (334 ft) long and 10.5 metres (34 ft) high.  This very long mural depicts 35 Dresden rulers from the 12th to the 20th century. There are also 59 scientists, artisans, craftsmen, children and farmers in the mural.

This is an impressive sight, and the detail is amazing.  It is also amazing that this mural survived the bombing of Dresden with minimal damage. We notice a doorway…looks like Bob is ‘walking towards the light’! The doorway opens on this courtyard with a different horned animal on each pillar.  I think someone liked hunting? Back to the Zwinger Palace and Bob discovers that we can walk up to the elevated walkway for some great views of the palace and its grounds. Statues line the walkway and this dome is over the entrance to the grounds. There are some interesting sculptures on the interior walls of the palace and one of the walls has fountains all along its length. There is some work taking place on the outside wall of the palace and I really liked the graffiti on the  construction barricades.We end our day with a ride on the ferris wheel.  It has been many years since we were  last on a ferris wheel. Here are some views from the top of the ferris wheel. The people and cars below are very tiny!