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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Travel: Leiria

Once again, woke up late, this is becoming a pretty nasty habit since I, as a traveler, obviously want to jam-pack my days with the culture and heritage of the region. 😦 Nonetheless, it was relaxing to take a leisurely day to explore a nearby town, hike up to a castle, and just breathe in the atmosphere of Portugal as I reach my final days in this nation.

We didn’t really get a good head-start until around 3 PM this afternoon, despite the fact that I woke up earlier than I have any other day this week (excluding the day trip to Sintra since travel time was a much larger consideration). My friend has just as much affection for sleep as I do. Zzzzzzzzz!! However, my aunt would argue the following “You are on vacation. You aren’t allowed to wear a watch, you are just supposed to relax and care about nothing.” This statute would be much easier to follow if we tourists did not have to conform our schedules around attraction hours.

We started off by stopping at the “Funmarcia” an interesting twist on the classic Candy Store.You select your pill container  stock it with an assortment of candy, and are written a prescription for it!

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‘Medicines’ can range from being antidotes to lovesick woes, stimulators to improve your sense of humor, or Activators to increase your memory (all in jest of course). It was pretty comic to see all the prescription tag-lines the franchise had come up with; definitely not an innovation yet seen in the states. I almost want to open up a franchise myself! Of course, parents would hate how excited their children get over it. The company is trying to transition to include english prescriptions at this moment.

 

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All this candy provided energy for our short, but steep hike up from old Leira to the Leiria Castle.  It’s location atop the mountain was strategic since it provided military support to the region.

 

 

 

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The town itself was founded by D. Afonso Henriques circa 1135. It was a prosperous economical trade center which marketws major products such as olive oil, wheat, wine and timber, as well as ore, and handicrafts. It is believed that Leiria is the first known Portuguese town to produce paper (1411).

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Despite its origins, which included both Moorish and Jewish districts in the town around the year 1211, it was ultimately chosen by Pope Paul III as headquarters for the Bishop in 1547. The city itself holds a large medley of monuments from the 16th century, the landscape served as a backdrop to a large array of convents.

View from Top

View from Top

Medieval Early Gothic

Medieval Early Gothic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original plan was to drive to the gorgeous beach town of Nazare, but Portugal’s weather has been uncooperative as of late, and the gloomy sky ended up not boding well for us.