Travel: Old Prague

In the midst of Prague lies the old town. I ventured into this step back into time, to bear witness to sprawling medieval architecture that helps maintain the city’s archaic atmosphere. I used the word archaic not to emphasize viewing her as rough or uncultured, but to stress how well her ancient roots are preserved.

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An Astronomical Clock on the face of the city hall’s tower dominates the old square. It’s name is the Orloj; It is an ingenious contraption designed by clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Šindel in 1410. Jan Šindel was a professor of astronomy and mathematics at the Charles University. Over the decades and centuries, it has been subject to additional decorative features, maintenance, and repair. The clock itself was almost lost to the incendiary fire from German attacks on May 7-8, 1945 during the Prague Uprising.

 

There are two legends about this icon of Prague:

  1. The first is that the clockmaker was blinded by the city so that he could not repeat his magnificent work; they say that in revenge, he broke the clock and it was irreparable for the next hundred years. 
  2. The second is that if the clock is neglected, or it’s operation is in jeopardy, the city will suffer.

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I was fortunate enough to approach the clock a few minutes before it hit the hour. On each hour, a rotation of 12 figures can be seen within its windows. This is known as “The Walk of the Apostles.”; Glimpses were caught as each appeared for a brief moment before giving way to the next apostle.

Additionally, there are four figures that flank the clock, representative of 4 virtues that were despised in the 1400; they were vanity, greed, death, and pleasure or entertainment.

After this, I detoured to (you guessed it!) two of Prague’s most famous churches in the square:

St. Nicholas Church was built between 1704 and 1755, and is often described as “the most impressive example of Prague Baroque.” It lies on the remains of a 13th century gothic church. The interior decoration is particularly mesmerizing due to the detail of the frescos by Jan Lukas Kracker and Frantisek Xaver Palo. Furthermore ornamentation is provided with Frantisek Ignac Platzer’s sculptures. Mozartis known to have made an appearance here when he played the Baroque Organ, consisting of 4,000 pipes and up to 6 meters in length, in 1787.

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Our Lady before Tyn dominates the Prague Skyline as if it is the Watchdog of the city. This site originally housed a Romanesque Church in the 11th century, and was replaced by an earlier Gothic Church in 1256. The oldest pipe organ in Prague lies within it’s walls. Additionally, the Danish Astronomer Tycho Brahe is buried here. You may also consider it fascinating to know that this is the church that appears in the opening scenes of xXx.

I wrapped up my history  filled day by treating myself to a famous Czech Opera at the State Opera House. The interior was decorated extravagantly and I felt a little drab amongst my peers. (I am backpacking across Europe after all, how fancy did you think I could get?). Rusalka was filled with magic, beautiful soaring voices, and ethereal actors.

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