Prague… “Praha” – II
The next day’s tour began at the Charles’ Bridge. It is one of the nine bridges and the oldest surviving bridge connecting the two banks of the river. It is made of stones with towers on both the ends. Along the bridge are several statues, each having its own story and historical importance. From the bridge, you can get a very nice view of both the banks and it is an ideal place to spend an evening. The charm of the bridge is not only because of its architecture and the view that you get, but also because of the life on it. You will see artists, musicians and vendors who make the place colorful, interesting and lively. You can get your sketches or caricatures done, or buy photographs, souvenirs, sketches, paintings, or listen to music or simply take a walk along the bridge, watch the river, the city and the sun setting.
Below the bridge, near the western bank, is the island of Kampa. We got down on this island and walked to another small bridge connecting the island to the main land. On the gates at this bridge, we saw the love locks. Some say that when you find your true love, you must crave his/her name on a padlock, lock it to the gate and throw the key in the stream. Some say that both the lovers must lock the padlock together to the gate and throw away the key. Irrespective of how you do it, the locks symbolize one’s desire to be with his/her lover forever. I had never heard about love locks until I saw them in Prague. The idea seemed quite amusing. In India, I knew about places where one can tie bells to a tree seeking for a wish or thanking for a granted wish. Later through internet, I found out that love locks exist in other parts of Europe also.
Moving further from the bridge, we came to a graffiti wall, called Lenon Wall. This wall had been used to express protest and grievances by students and activists against the authorities. The authorities painted the wall several times but each time the graffiti re-appeared.
Our next stop after the bridge was the church, called Church of Our Lady of Victory and the monastery of the Infant Jesus of Prague. Because of the statue of infant Jesus, this place attracts thousands of pilgrims each year from all over the world. The monastery houses a museum where the different dresses of infant Jesus and other sacred objects are displayed.
On the way to the church, we passed by a restaurant called U Maliru which was built in 1543. It is said to be one of the finest French restaurants in Prague with beautiful interiors and exquisite murals. The story goes that once a student of arts came to eat in the restaurant but didn’t have the money to pay the bill. He was offered to paint murals in the restaurant in lieu of the bill which he accepted. The other story goes that artists and painters used to visit the restaurants for its highly acclaimed wine and often paid in kind through their own work or by painting murals.
Once on the riverside in Prague, you cannot help noticing the magnificently huge castle on top of the hill on the west banks. We got very good view of the castle from the Charles’ bridge where we took lot of snaps also. From the church, we walked up to the castle, passing by American and other embassies on the way. It was a little long and uphill walk but rewarding.
The castle was built in 9th century and is probably the largest castle in the world. It is a huge complex having cathedrals, towers, museums, halls, etc. What I noticed was that the castle didn’t have a uniform architecture and style – different portions were built in different styles. A few hours are definitely not sufficient to explore the entire castle. Besides separate tickets have to be bought to visit the museums and halls. One of the attractions inside the castle was the “Golden Lane”. It was a very narrow street lined up with very small and colorful houses, now selling souvenirs and displaying ancient artifacts. The street was really beautiful and worth visiting. I do not know much about the details of the castle as I lost the group and guide after reaching there. The group got fragmented and each of us stuck to different things. A few of us seemed lost and didn’t know where others were. But it didn’t bother us as we were enjoying every moment of it. After some time, we saw the guide and rest of the group and joined them again. I wish to go back to castle and spend an entire day to explore it completely.
After the castle our next destination was a medieval tavern, called “U Krále Brabantského”. It was a 14th century and one of the oldest pubs in Prague. The first reaction which I had on entering the place was “ohh there is a power cut”. Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything. It took me a while before I could start seeing inside and when I did, I realized that it was not a power cut but I felt as if I have travelled a few hundred years back. The place was dark and lighted using candles only. The floor, the walls, the ceilings, and the furniture – everything looked as if nothing has changed in last several centuries. People serving the tables also wore dresses like worn in medieval times (as shown in movies :)). The tavern or now called pub was mostly situated underground. There were hundreds of skulls on the ceiling, execution crosses and iron chains hanging on the wall and cart wheels lying around. The walls and the ceilings were dark and covered with a thick layer of soothe. Our guide recommended us to try some sort of medieval beer, pickled cheese, grilled cheese, etc. After staying there for a while I left as I preferred returning back to contemporary times :). “U Krále Brabantského” was the last place in the guided tour itinerary.
Continued in Part III…