Into the Castle: Hradčany

Rising in all its history and grandeur, the Prague Castle.

07/06/2012 7PM, fountain between “Chartis” and “King’s Court Hotel”, by Hybernia Theatre, Prague, Czech Republic.

I’m gonna be quick now coz I’m sitting at the fountain between “Chartis” building and King’s Court Hotel, waiting to watch Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Ballet performed by the Czech National Dance Company in an hour!

Inside St Vitus Cathedral: tomb of Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors, excellent representative of Gothic architecture, and an airy, astounding component of the Prague Castle complex.
The Gothic architecture of St Vitus Cathedral, founded in 1344, is a structural marriage of columns, domes, and immaculate mathematical composition
An architect’s dream: intricate ornamentation and Parler’s vaults are both striking characteristics of the late Gothic style.

This afternoon we strolled through various courtyards in the Prague Castle (Hradčany district), the biggest castle in the world whose foundation was laid in the 9th century. This is a good time ago- before the Middle Ages, before lions went extinct in Europe, before Erik the Red founded Greenland- you get me? We were offered scrumptious arrays of Gothic architecture that coated the basilicas and cathedrals with breathtakingly minute details; dozens and dozens of patterns that creep up the walls, trailing off in complex swirls and crests amid contours of metal gargoyles that growl silently from skyward edges of the structure.

Inside the St Vitus Cathedral, my eyes couldn’t stop looking. Once you get past the sheer immensity of this inner sanctum- trust me, it takes a while to adjust to the hollow sweep between the floor and ceiling- your eyes then struggle to decide whether they want to marvel at the 6 stained glass windows all at once, or pane by transcendent pane. One of the windows (the 3rd one from the left) is painted instead of being a legit mosaic because the artist got lazy/ was busy. The feast of colours also projects onto the floor, casting vibrant, glowing pools beneath our feet. In times less reliant on scientific understanding, I can now completely understand how such a magnificent environment captured the spiritual devotion of people.

Interestingly enough, the cathedral was only half completed in the centuries that followed due to cuts in funding (not unlike the situation with California’s public schools, although I hope this issue won’t take 6 centuries to fix). It wasn’t until 1929 that the entire structure was completed by Czech architects, sculptors and painters.

Inside St. Vitus Cathedral: Nina gives me a brief history of the cathedral as I marvel at the coloured lights that pour forth from the stained glass windows.

As for dinner tonight, we desperately wanted to sample some authentic Czech cuisine but no waiters were free enough to serve us in the first 2 cafés we dropped into! Hungry, grudging, and resigned, we lined up at a street-food kiosk and ordered the largest, densest cut of prosciutti ham I have ever carried on a paper plate. I was balancing 2 pounds of this stuff along with 2 hot traditional sausages AND a beer AND a Coke AND a potato-cabbage-bacon side-dish. Oh yeah, add 2 trfidel pastries to that shebang too. I was working it, I tell you.  As proficient as I am in devouring food, this was shared among yours truly and her family- and we enjoyed every bite, chew, and swallow of it.

Dude, I know you want this: Prosciutti ham hot and roasting.
Sweet trfidel pastry. Blurry shot coz I was too ready to eat it!

Eastern European charcuterie meats are DELICIOUS. The prosciutti was thick, with a pleasantly smoked flavour as you chew on your protein. The trfidels are uniquely Czech pastries, hollow in the middle like a toilet paper tube [not the most appetizing comparison I know, but it’s the closest shape I could think of off the top of my sleep-deprived head] and coated in sugar. It wasn’t as flaky as I thought but pleased my taste buds all the same. My stomach was obviously satisfied, past the point of overindulgence and therefore the point of no return (woohoo!).

I’m still sitting by the fountain, in case you forgot. The theatre does not open until 8:15PM and it’s starting to rain, but surprisingly Mom doesn’t even notice yet! Ooh, the cutest daschund/terrier mutt just passed by! I like how it actually gets darker. My body clock gets really confused with the extended hours of daylight in Oslo. Ideally we’ll rise early tomorrow so Norman and I will run through Old Town and chill on the Charles Bridge again before any tourists invade it. Then catch a 1 something train to Munich, Germany. I will be missing Praha already.

VIew of Malá Strana, “Lesser Town” or “Little Side”, a red-roofed region South of the Prague Castle complex.

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