Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dobrý Den from Prague! Part 1

En route to Prague, I stopped off in Bamberg, Germany to meet up with Theresa. She finished her work in Spain and moved back to Germany before Christmas, but I wasn't so sad she left because I knew we had this fabulous trip planned! Sadly, my train was delayed about an hour (very un-German) and when I arrived in Bamberg it was already dark. Theresa had been so excited to show me about her city - which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site! I don't really think driving out and running around in the snow really counts as appreciating this cute little city. We did manage to see the big ticket building in Bamberg - Altes Rathaus (Old City Hall), which was built in 1386 on a bridge! We also trekked up a hill to see the big ticket site for Bamberg - thier cathedral. The east side of the church is dedicated to St. George, while the west is for St. Peter. Not to be greedy, but I would be a bit sad if I had to share the title of a church with some other Saint hahah. Also built in the 1300s, it is one of the best-known architectural feats in Germany and is quite a contradiction. During the time between when construction started and when the church was finished, styles changed drastically, so two of the imposing columns are done in Romanesque style and the other are decorated in Gothic style. This photo is of the Romanesque side of the building, and quirky as it is, I really like the clock on the right tower - although the fact that it's asymmetrical drives me insane! Stunning, even in the dark, I thought it was funny that Dave, my American Army friend who lives in Amberg, lives so close to this cute town and I had never seen it! Theresa's family owns a restaurant in the country and the wine area of Germany is quite near, so who knows, maybe I will plan another Bamberg trip in the future...
After maybe 5 hours of sleep, my annoying alarm sounded and we were off to the train station headed towards Prague. We arrived, quite tired and commited ourselves to resting most of the day so we could be power-tourists the next day. We picked a hostel right in the middle of the old town, next to the Church of our Lady before Týn, the main church in the Staré Mesto (Old Part in Czech) since the 14th century. After getting out of the metro, we tried to orient ourselves, but without a map it was rather tough, and had to ask a handful of people which way our place was. The first thing I noticed about Prague was the sidewalks: very romantic and picturesque, the cobblestone sidewalks in various geometric designs, were not easy to roll my suitcase over! After about 10 minutes of my clickity-clacking suitcase, we found our hostel! With our own room, we laid our suitcases down, paused for a recharge and then headed back out to see what we could in the daylight that was left. Without a map or any idea of the layout, we just started walking, which I think is sometimes the most fun way to see a city. The main square where the church is was loaded with the Prague Christmas Market. From Christmas ornaments and holiday treats to babushkas (those little never-ending Russian dolls) and jewelry, the red-topped roofs of the stalls and the huge tree in the middle made me feel Christmasy all over again! The square was packed with people and also beautiful buildings. The photo is of me with St. Nicholas' church behind me. Besides the two churches, each of the edifices of the buildings were painted a different pastel color, some even boasted murals on their walls. Statues were perched on the roof and gold plated decorations shone for all to see.

The streets that ran off from the square were full of jewelry and glass shops. Bohemian glass, famous for being high-quality crystal and for being hand-cut stores displayed everything you could think of made of glass. Would you like a pair of champagne flutes? How about an ashtray? Maybe you were looking for water jug with butterflies painted on the side? Well, you could have found all of that! I eventually bought a little crystal bell to hang on my tree. I chose a red one because the other famous thing from Prague is garnets. Since I wasn't going to buy myself a huge stone, I figured that red would suffice and would at least remind me of the gorgeous gems that seemed to be all over town. The most important part of our shopping was our vocabulary learning. Dobrý den (blog namesake) means 'hello' in Czech. We also learned 'bye' and 'thank you' but about 5 seconds after learning them, they flew out of our heads. Please tell me if you have any luck remembering Na shledanou (bye) and Děkuji (thank you) because we never seemed to manage it!

Poking in and out of shops we eventually made our way to the river - which divides the oldest part of Prague (the Castle District - Hradcany in Czech if you were wondering) from the part we were staying in. Walking across the bridge afforded us an good view of the castle. Because it was cloudy and getting dark, the snow-topped roofs sort of blended into the sky but you still got the impressive that it was going to be a beautiful part of town. With temperatures below freezing we quickly crossed the bridge and at the end had a good look at our side of town, lights shining into the sky. While gazing at our side of the river, we eventually meandered to the Mala Strana (Lesser Town area) and to the Charles Bridge - the oldest bridge in Prague. Built in 1357 and named after who other than Charles IV, this bridge is dotted with 30 statues, that were difficult to see because of the dark, but I will tell you about in a later blog when I could see them better!

When it started to snow, we decided to head home and catch up on our rest. Although short, our first day in Prague was impressive and as I went to sleep, trying desperately to remember any Czech phrases, I knew that the city was going to be my favorite of the trip!

Pusy (kisses in Czech - another word I would have never remembered!)

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