Sunday, March 26, 2006

Prague Castle et al

I can hardly believe it is only a week since I left home. Lasting memories of Singapore will be the mobile phones attached to so many ears, the food halls everywhere, the 'human' design around the apartment buildings and the good service provided especially when you ask someone's help to go somewhere.
And now I am on the other side of the world in Europe. Still a bit jetlagged if this doesn't all make sense - the exhausted at 8pm and wide awake at 1am feeling.
Flight from Singapore on Lufthansa was smooth but the service was a shock after Singapore Airlines. Maybe it was our crew, but there were a lot of raucous tones and authoritarian commands. (The travel agent did ask whether I wanted to go for service or price!) A pleasant surprise to get a lovely hostess on the flight to Prague.
Czech customs was efficient but some orders were barked. Our non-EU line got stuck behind a Vietnamese woman with her paperwork not quite in order. Someone had the temerity to see if they could be served at the EU line, long since empty. They got a very rude "EU only" for their trouble!
Feeling jetlagged, I decided to spend the first day wandering in a 'random' manner. (A child from last year's class used 'random' to give me the highest praise: I am sure he would have approved. It was a sunny but cold afternoon. I enjoyed following my nose and taking a look at whatever tower or building embellishment drew my eye next. So much to see. I soon bought a map though to make sure I never got irretrievably lost! It was quite nice to be exploring in places without many tourists for a start. I found my way to the famous Astronomical Clock just before 4pm (quite by accident) so watched it with the throngs. I can't imagine how crowded this place must get in summer because it sure is crowded now!
Hostel (Advantage - IYHF) is pleasant and I am in a roomy dorm with really white sheets. Not much privacy in the shower though. Quite an international crowd, with a few from South America.
Yesterday I did the Castle thing. Has to be done and everyone does it! I took a wandering route in the back way, up a hill some locals were using to walk their dogs and cycle. Got some wonderful views back down over the river and the city, looking through the bare branches of trees that have just endured a cold winter. Passed the royal gardens but they are closed for another week. The crowds in the Castle complex were something to behold. It was a lot less crowded after 2pm though once all the tour groups had passed on through.
St Vitus Cathedral is the main drawcard in the whole complex. Variety of stained glass and many interesting side chapels. Signs at the entrance ask for silence but with the hordes of tour groups that is unlikely to happen.
I loved the simplicity of St George's the best: always love the simple curves of a Romanesque Church.
Came home via the area at the bottom of the hill that suffered so badly in the flooding a few years ago. All restored now it seems, though one wall is still unpainted and shows where the water level reached. Finally got to walk over the famous Charles Bridge. Lots of people and stalls. Some Czech children doing folk dance and some music passed over the bridge - a huge procession of them.
Had sore feet after all the day's walking!
This morning it is raining more than drizzling. Was going to go and visit the Jewish sector but am hiding inside from the rain. Might head there tomorrow when it is supposed to be sunny and "hot". I went to Mass at a church I had passed the other day. Not many churches around that seem to be used as churches and they are mostly closed during the day. This one turned out to have very Baroque embellishment. Even though the congregation was quite small (about 25) there was still a pipe organ and cantor. No heating though!
OK enough for now! Heading out into the rain again in the name of world exploration!

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