European travel diaries

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European travel diaries

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Granada: a walk through the Albaicín

The Albaicín or Albayzín, situated on the hill of San Cristóbal and facing the hill of the Sabika. On this hill is where the Alhambra is located. It is the oldest quarter of Granada. It is during the Nasrid period (1238-1492) that it acquired its greatest importance.

Today it still maintains the urban layout of that important period. It has an intricate network of narrow alleyways that make you get lost in them, giving you a wonderful experience for your senses.

We begin our visit in the central Plaza Nueva. Despite its name, it is the oldest square in the city. This is where the Al-Hattabin bridge over the Darro River was located during the Muslim occupation.

Attached to it is the Plaza de San Ana. It was built in 1878. Due to the continuous flooding caused by the overflowing of the Darro River, it was decided to vault it, resulting in both squares.

The most notable building in the square is the Palacio de la Chancillería. It was built by order of Charles I between 1531 and 1587 to house the Royal Chancery of Granada. The building was designed by the architects Francisco del Castillo el Mozo and Diego de Siloé.

Palacio de la Chancillería

The building is today the High Court of Justice of Andalusia, Ceuta and Melilla.

Almost at the far end is the Pilar del Toro (Bull’s Pillar). Its name comes from the bull’s head that occupies the central place of the fountain, from whose nose two water spouts emerge. It is the last work of the architect Diego de Siloé and dates from 1559.

Pilar del Toro

At the end of the square, parallel to the river Darro, is the church of San Gil and Santa Ana. It was built in the Mudejar style in 1537 by the architect Diego de Siloé. It stands on the site of the former Almanzora mosque. The tower was built between 1561 and 1563 by the architect Juan Castellar.

Iglesia de San Gil y Santa Ana

From here we take the Carrera del Darro, one of the most beautiful walks in Granada. Although it is somewhat uncomfortable due to the large number of people and the traffic of taxis and buses.

The Carrera del Darro dates back to the 17th century. It was built after the destruction of part of the wall that was located here, due to the explosion of a powder magazine next to the church of San Pedro and San Pablo in 1590.

About 100 metres from the start of the walk, you’ll find a perfect spot for instagramers. There you’ll see the kids taking turns to take the perfect photo. This is the Cabrera Bridge. It was built in the 17th century during the remodelling of the area. It is named after Don Pedro Cabrera y Jaques de Mansilla, commander of Ocaña, who was lieutenant of the Generalife.

Carrera del Darro Granada

A little further on we find the Espinosa Bridge, also from the 17th century. It owes its name to the Espinosa family, who had properties in the area since the beginning of the 16th century.

Granada

If we continue on, we soon come across El Bañuelo. These are Arab baths of uncertain origin. On the one hand, it is believed that they date from the 11th century. During the second stage of Zirid construction corresponding to the reigns of Badis and Abd Allah (1038-1090).

El Bañuelo

Others date it to the 12th century. It was built during the reign of the Zirid King Badis and was integrated into the eastern boundary of the district of the Qawraya castrense (military qawraya). It was within the walls of the al-Qasaba al-Qadima or Old Citadel.

El Bañuelo Granada

The Hammam al-Jawza or Walnut Bath has been known since the end of the 19th century. It is known by the diminutive name of Bañuelo because it is smaller than the royal baths of the Alhambra.

El Bañuelo

Nowadays it can be visited. Price: 5€ with the ticket “Monumentos Andalusíes”. This also includes the Dar Al-Horra Palace, El Corral del Carbón and the Moorish House.

what to do in Granada

Opposite the Bañuelo, we find the remains of the Puerta de los Tableros. It is also known as the Gate of the Gates. It was built in the 11th century under the rule of the Zirid dynasty. Over it was a bridge that connected the Alcazabas Cadima and Gidida with the fortress of the Alhambra. This was the eastern boundary of Zirid Granada.

Puerta de los Tableros

A little further on is the Convent of Santa Catalina. It was founded in 1520. Although its construction was completed in 1540 thanks to the support of the widow of Don Hernando de Zafra. The church, in Mudejar style, was rebuilt in 1678 after being destroyed by a raging fire.

The convent can be visited for a €1 entrance fee.

On one side of the convent, in Calle Concepción de Zafra, is the Casa de Zafra (House of Zafra). It is a 14th century Nasrid house. It belonged to a family of Andalusian aristocrats and has maintained its Moorish essence, present in the original structure and the pool in the courtyard.

The Casa de Zafra houses the Albaicín Interpretation Centre. It also houses a series of exhibitions and interactive panels that invite visitors to delve into the origins of the Albayzín neighbourhood.

The entrance fee is 3€. On Sundays it is free.

Casa de Zafra

We return to the Carrera del Darro. On the other side of the convent is the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum of Granada.

The museum is housed in the Casa de Castril, a Renaissance-style palace built in 1539 for the family of Hernando de Zafra, secretary to the Catholic Monarchs who played an active role in the reconquest of the city from the Muslims and in their Capitulations. It was the work of the architect Sebastián de Alcántara, one of Diego de Siloé’s most outstanding disciples.

Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum of Granada

The palace is the subject of a legend from the Arab period that refers to a mysterious lady in white who appears from time to time, the result of a misunderstanding between the father of a beautiful girl who lived in the building and her supposed lover, which led to the father’s fury and subsequently to her hanging and walling herself up on the side balcony of the building. On this blind balcony, one can read a slogan that reads: ‘Waiting for heaven’s justice’, which could refer to ‘waiting for heaven’s justice’, probably related to the words that the supposed lover uttered before he was hanged.

Opposite the museum is the church of San Pedro and San Pablo, built in Mudejar and Renaissance style between 1559 and 1567, by the architect Juan Maeda.

church of San Pedro and San Pablo Granada

We continue onwards and arrive at the Paseo del Padre Manjón (Father Manjon walk), better known as the Paseo de los Tristes (walk of the sad), due to the fact that, in the past, funeral processions used to pass through here on their way to the cemetery. It was built in 1609 and by then it was called Paseo de Guadix and was the busiest area of the city until the 19th century.

At the beginning of the walk, we come across the Casa de las Chirimías. Built at the beginning of the 17th century in the Baroque style as a lookout tower, from which the authorities presided over the festivities and public events held on the esplanade of the Paseo de los Guadix.

Casa de las Chirimias

The house is located next to the bridge of the Chirimías, built between the 17th and 18th centuries, replacing the previous one from the Muslim period. The bridge crosses over to a building with a rather peculiar history: the “Hotel Reuma”.

It is actually called Hotel Bosques de la Alhambra and dates from the early 20th century. It is located in the middle of the Sabika hill, at the foot of the spectacular Comares Tower. It was built in 1908 by the architect Manuel Antonio Reyes Clavero on the grounds of the Carmen de Santa Engracia, which was owned by his wife…

It opened in 1910 and was only open for two years, as it was located in a shady area, with no sunlight at any time of the day and the humidity of the river, which made it damp and cold for the clients, uncomfortable as balls. Hence the unofficial name of Hotel Reuma.

The truth is that it is a somewhat phantasmagoric vision that I love.

Hotel reuma

In the centre of the promenade we find the Fountain of the Paseo de los Tristes, built in the Baroque style in 1609.

We turn off a little and walk up Calle Horno del Oro. Here we come across the Casa Horno de Oro (Gold Furnace House). It is a small Nasrid house.

The whole building revolves around a quadrilateral courtyard centred by a small pool and framed on its north and south sides by two porticoes with Nasrid columns behind which the main rooms open.

The house originally consisted of a single storey. A first floor was added in the 16th century. This became the main family area where the women’s and children’s rooms were located.

Casa del horno de oro

After the expulsion of the Moors, the house was a corral of neighbours until the 20th century, when it was acquired by the state and restored.

We now head towards the end of the walk. There we have two options: the first is to cross the Aljibillo bridge or Qantarat Ibn Rasiq in Arabic. Originally built in the 11th century by order of Zawi Ibn Ziri, it was completely destroyed in the floods of 1861 and was rebuilt on the spot.

From the end of the bridge, before crossing it, we have spectacular views of the Alhambra.

Alhambra

Cross the bridge and turn right at the end of the path, taking the path to the Fuente del Avellano (Hazelnut Tree Fountain). It is a peaceful path through the hills, which runs through the valley of Valparaiso, between monoliths with classical legends, for about 1 km, ending at the Fuente del Avellano.

According to researchers, the fountain was the famous Fountain of Tears of the Arab poets, whose source springs on the slope of the Silla del Moro (Moor’s chair).

The Fuente del Avellano has a simple pillar, made of Sierra Elvira marble, which is attached to the cistern, made of masonry and half-buried in the hillside.

Its façade is inscribed with a legend, engraved on 17th century stone, which reads, with difficulty:

“Dn. Fernando septimo Q.D.G. being Captain General of this Province the Exmo. Mr. Dn. José Ygnacio Albarez Campana and Corregidor of this Cap. Mr. Marques de Altamira, the City of Granada made this Work commissioning for it to the twenty four of its Town Hall D. José Marin. Year of 1827”.

We retrace our steps and cross the Aljibillo Bridge again and continue straight on up the steep Cuesta del Chapiz.

Just at the beginning of the slope, on the right hand side, you will see the Palacio de los Córdova. It was built between 1530 and 1592 in the Placeta de las Descalzas, for Luis Fernández de Córdova, Alférez Mayor of Granada and Commander of Villanueva de la Fuente.

what to do in Granada

In 1919, after passing into the hands of Ricardo Martín Flores, it was demolished to build the Gran Capitán Theatre on its site; the remains of historical-artistic value were preserved on the “Villa María” estate, on the road to Pulianas.

In the 1960s, and faced with the possibility of the remains being moved to Cordoba, Mayor Manuel Sola convinced the Duke of Montellano, married to Hilda Fernández de Córdova, to rebuild the palace on its current site.

In 1983 the Granada City Council acquired the Palacio de los Córdova to house the Municipal Archives, which opened its doors to the public at the beginning of August 1984.

We continue going up and up until we reach the Plaza del Salvador. There we find the Aljibe del Salvador, dating from the Nasrid period, which collects the water from one of the branches of the Aynadamar irrigation channel, whose source is located in Fuente Grande, in Alfacar.

We also find the Church of El Salvador, built in Mudejar style between 1565 and 1605 by the architect Juan de Maeda, and built on the site of the old Great Mosque of Granada.

Church of El Salvador

If we continue walking, on the right side of the parish church we find the Callejón de la Botica, which leads to Plaza Larga, the nerve centre of the Albayzín, with numerous terraces where you can have a drink.

Next to the square is the Arco de las Pesas or New Gate, one of the first access points of the Zirid wall, which was then called Bab Al Ziyada (Gate of the Widening). The name Arco de las Pesas (Arch of Weights) comes from the fact that, in the 16th century, tricked weights confiscated from swindling merchants in the area were displayed here.

The name Puerta Nueva (New Gate) is believed to come from a Muslim superstition, which said that this gate would be the place through which the Christians would enter to take the city of Granada and the kingdom would be lost forever. For this reason, the gate was closed until 1573, in the Christian era.

Arco de las Pesas

Cross the gate and turn left. We take the alley of San Cecilio, which leads directly to the viewpoint of San Nicolás.

The first thing we come across is the rear façade of the Church of San Nicolás, built in 1525 in the Mudejar style, on the ruins of the Azitini mosque.

To one side we find the Aljibe de San Nicolás, from the Christian period, although it is believed to have been built on the ruins of a Muslim cistern from the 11th century, attached to the Azitini mosque.

Aljibe de San Nicolas / Albaicín

And now we come to the jewel in the crown of the city, with the permission of the Alhambra, the viewpoint of San Nicolás (Mirador de San Nicolás).

Located in the highest part of the Alcazaba Qadima of the Zirid dynasty, next to the old mosque, of which only the cistern remains, it was at that time the parade ground. It was actually surrounded by buildings that were gradually cleared until it acquired its present dimensions around the middle of the 19th century.

From here we have the most classic image of tourism in Granada: the imposing Alhambra and the Generalife with the Sierra Nevada in the background. The sunset on a clear day can be magical.

US President Bill Clinton said during his visit to Granada in 1997 that it was the most beautiful sunset he had ever seen. And Grenada made good use of those words to project its tourism abroad.

Alhambra
Alhambra and the Generalife from the viewpoint
Alhambra
Alhambra and Generalife dressed in white
Snow in Granada

Next to the viewpoint of San Nicolás is the current Great Mosque of Granada. It was inaugurated in 2003, being the first mosque in Granada since 1492, after more than 500 years.

From the mosque we can contemplate views similar to those of the San Nicolás viewpoint, from its beautiful gardens.

Great Mosque of Granada
Great Mosque of Granada

We retrace our steps back to the Arco de las Pesas but, instead of crossing it, we take Aljibe de la Gitana street, which leads to the Aljibe del Rey, the largest of Granada’s Muslim cisterns, dating from the 11th century and with a capacity of 300 m3. Today it is integrated into the Carmen del Rey, the headquarters of the AguaGranada Foundation.

Aljibe del Rey
Aljibe del Rey

To Be Continued…

Lithuania 2012 (III): we visit Kaunas and return to Vilnius

Today we travel to Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city but with a lot of charm.

August 3rd

At 13.50 we left by bus for Kaunas. Three hours later we would arrive at Kaunas station. The ticket cost us 42.30 Litas (12.25€).

Kaunas

Kaunas is located at the confluence of the Niemen and Neris rivers; it is the second most populous city in the country after Vilnius and was the capital during the first Republic of Lithuania between 1920 and 1939.

The city was founded in 1361 and became the most populous city of the Trakai Voivodeship during the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1795 the Russians occupied the city and shortly afterwards it was attacked by Napoleon’s troops.

The 1918 declaration of independence made Kaunas the provisional capital of the Republic of Lithuania, as Vilnius was under Russian and later Polish control.

Kaunas
Views from the accommodation

By the late 1930s it had become Lithuania’s most populous city, but during World War II it suffered first the Soviet invasion (1940-1941) and, after a brief civil uprising, the German occupation (1941-1944).

The Nazi army carried out a holocaust of the Jewish population with the establishment of the Kovno Ghetto, leaving more than 30,000 dead. The Soviets recaptured the city in 1944 to establish the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. At the end of the war the capital was moved to Vilnius, now under Lithuanian sovereignty.

From the bus station we walked to the flat, about 2km away. This time we chose a tourist rental, a rather elegant flat that cost 49€ per night.

As I had arrived a bit sick, we decided to rest a bit. We went out for dinner at a nearby supermarket and went to bed early.

August 4th

We get up early and head out onto the streets. After breakfast we go to Laisvės Alėja (Freedom Avenue), a well-known pedestrian boulevard with many shops and restaurants. We stroll until we reach Šv. Arkangelo Mykolo bažnyčia (Church of St. Michael the Archangel).

The church of St. Michael the Archangel is a Roman Catholic church built between 1891 and 1895 in Neo-Byzantine style when Kaunas was part of the Russian Empire. It was originally an Orthodox church serving Russian troops stationed in the city, although it was planned to be a Roman Catholic church before the January 1831 uprising.

The church was integrated into the Kaunas Fortress. As was customary for military churches at the time, the construction of Kaunas Cathedral was financed in equal parts by the Military Ministry and by donations from military men.

Šv. Arkangelo Mykolo bažnyčia (Church of St. Michael the Archangel)

After the fall of the Kaunas Fortress during World War I, the Germans took the bells from the church and took them to Germany. The church remained closed until 1919.

In the inter-war period, the cathedral became a Roman Catholic church of the Lithuanian garrison in Kaunas. During the Soviet era it was used as an art gallery, and after its dissolution it resumed its Roman Catholic ecclesiastical activity.

From here we head to the Žaliakalnio funikulierius (Žaliakalnis funicular), the oldest funicular in Lithuania built in 1931. It runs a distance of 142 metres to the Basilica of the Resurrection of Christ. It quickly became a very popular means of transport, carrying some 5 million passengers between 1950 and 1970.

Žaliakalnio funikulierius (Žaliakalnis funicular)

We take the funicular, which costs 1 Lita per person (€0.30), up to Kauno Kristaus prisikėlimo bažnyčia (Basilica of the Resurrection of Christ), a monumental Roman Catholic church consecrated in 2004.

After Lithuania regained its independence in 1918, the idea of building a church as a national shrine and a symbol of gratitude to God for the freedom regained in the city of Kaunas, then the temporary capital of Lithuania, began to gain ground.

In 1922, the city of Kaunas gave the land for the construction and the design of the engineer Karolis Reisonas was chosen in a competition, and in 1933 the building permits were granted.

Kauno Kristaus prisikėlimo bažnyčia (Basilica of the Resurrection of Christ)

The cornerstone of the church, brought from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, was solemnly blessed and laid in the foundations in 1934. Construction proceeded apace until the Soviet Union occupied the country, when the building was confiscated and converted into a radio factory. The building was then remodelled, with three storeys in the side aisles and five in the central nave. The crosses were removed and the chapel demolished.

In 1990, the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic forced the reconstructed building to be returned to its original form, but it was returned in a deplorable and dilapidated state.

Reconstruction then began, with some changes to the original plans. But the work was hampered by a lack of funds. It was not until 1997 that the work was accelerated thanks to contributions from the Lithuanian government.

The church was consecrated in 2004 and the work was finally completed in 2005.

Kauno Kristaus prisikėlimo bažnyčia (Basílica de la Resurrección de Cristo)

The building is really curious although it doesn’t look like a church. We paid 8 Litas (2.30€) each to enter. The interior is very simple and sober and you can go up to the terrace to see the spectacular views from the place.

Kauno Kristaus prisikėlimo bažnyčia (Basílica de la Resurrección de Cristo)
Kauno Kristaus prisikėlimo bažnyčia (Basílica de la Resurrección de Cristo)

We walked down instead of taking the funicular and went to the building of the Vytauto Didžiojo Karo Muziejus (Vytautas the Great War Museum).

In the same building we found the Nacionalinis M. K. Čiurlionio dailės muziejus (National Museum of Art). Apart from the museums, on the square in front of the museum is the Freedom Monument, which was erected in 1928 but destroyed during Stalin’s regime. It was reinstalled in 1989.

There is also the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Kauno kariljonas (Kaunas Carillon), with its 49 bells ringing since 1956, and concerts are held every Saturday and Sunday at 16:00.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Kaunas
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Close by is the Devil’s Museum (Velnių muziejus). A famous Lithuanian painter, public figure and professor Antanas Žmuidzinavičius (1876 – 1966) started to assemble this collection.

The museum contains a collection of more than 3,000 devils: creations of fine and applied arts, souvenirs and masks not only from Lithuania but from about 70 countries.

It was time for lunch. We decided to have lunch at a place on the way to the old town called Hesburger, a Finnish hamburger chain that is all over Lithuania. The burgers were quite good and it was quite cheap.

After lunch we went to the bank of the Niemen river. There we came across Nemuno Sala (Nemuno Island), an island about 1.5 km long that was undeveloped until 1917, when the German army built a harbour.

In the inter-war period it served as a winter harbour and recreational facilities were built. The harbour was in operation until 1970. Today it is a beautiful recreational park in which the ‘Algirio Arena, the largest sports hall in the Baltic States, is located. It opened on 18 August 2011 with a match between the Lithuanian and Spanish basketball teams.

As a basketball lover, I had to visit it as it was here that Spain won Eurobasket 2011.

Nemuno Sala (Nemuno Island)
Nemuno Sala (Nemuno Island)

We leave the island and head to the old town of Kaunas. We stroll along Vilniaus gatvė (Vilnius Street), the oldest street in the city, which is part of the old medieval road to Vilnius. Here we find numerous historic buildings, built by the wealthy class of the city.

On this street you will find many shops and terraces where you can have a good Lithuanian beer… which we did.

Vilniaus gatvė (Vilnius Street)

One of the most notable buildings on the street is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter and Paul (Kauno Šv. apaštalų Petro ir Povilo arkikatedra bazilika), a Roman Catholic cathedral basilica dedicated to the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul.

The exact date when the first Gothic-style church was built is unknown, but it is first mentioned in written sources in 1413. The construction work was not completed until 1624.

The church was badly damaged in 1655 during the Russo-Polish War but was rebuilt in 1671 with the addition of some Renaissance features. During a raging fire on the roof in 1732, both towers were destroyed and only one was rebuilt.

The present appearance of the building is the result of a new renovation in 1800. The church was promoted to cathedral status by Pope Leo XIII in 1895 and received the title of Basilica in 1926, when Pope Pius XI reorganised the Diocese of Samogitia into the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Kaunas.

Kauno Šv. apaštalų Petro ir Povilo arkikatedra bazilika

Motiejus Valančius, the Bishop of Samogitia, who was also a historian and one of the best-known Lithuanian writers of the 19th century, was buried in a crypt of the church in 1875.

On the side façade facing Vilniaus gatvė is the mausoleum of Jonas Mačiulis – Maironis, a Lithuanian poet, professor and theologian, considered one of the leading figures of Lithuanian literature in the late 19th century.

Kaunas

A little further on from the church we come to Kauno Rotušės aikštė, the town hall square. Here we find (logically) the town hall (Kauno rotušė).

The construction of the town hall began in 1542 as a single-storey building with an unpainted façade and vaulted cellars. In the 16th century, the first floor and the eight-storey tower to the east of the building were built.

By 1638 it was built in the Renaissance style, and between 1771 and 1775 a second restoration was carried out by the architect J. Matekeris.

In the following centuries, it was used for various functions, such as an orthodox church, a munitions depot and the residence of the tsars.

Kauno rotušė

Between 1869 and 1944 it was used as a theatre. After the Second World War it became the municipal archive.

The building was restored between 1968 and 1973 under a project by the architect Žibarts Simanavičius and became the town hall. Today its functions are mainly weddings, but it is also the place where the authorities are received and official ceremonies are held.

On the town hall square is also the Church of St. Francis Xavier (Kauno šv. Pranciškaus Ksavero (Jėzuitų) bažnyčia).

It was built by the Jesuits in 1666 and consecrated in 1722. On the same site, they previously built their first residence in Kaunas in 1642 and established a chapel in the House of Perkūnas in 1643.

By 1824 the tsar handed the church over to the Orthodox Church, but a century later it reverted to the Jesuits. During the Soviet occupation, it was converted into a technical school and sports centre. After independence in 1989, it was once again in Jesuit hands.

Kauno šv. Pranciškaus Ksavero (Jėzuitų) bažnyčia

After a short evening stroll around the area, we looked for a place to have dinner and went to rest. Last day in Kaunas tomorrow.

August 5th

We get up at a reasonable hour, have breakfast and go to the street.

We return to Vilniaus gatvė, a street you will walk along many times. After a coffee, we head to Kaunas Castle (Kauno pilis).

Located on the bank of the Nemunas River near the confluence of the Neris River in the Confluence Park. It is believed to have been built in the mid-14th century in Gothic style.

By 1362, the castle was besieged by the Teutonic Order. At that time, the castle walls were more than 11 metres high. Inside was a garrison of about 400 Lithuanian soldiers commanded by Vaidotas, son of Duke Kęstutis.

After three weeks, the Knights managed to breach the castle walls and shortly afterwards the castle was taken. Of the 400 soldiers defending the castle, 36 survived. On Easter Sunday 1362, the knights celebrated a mass in the castle to commemorate their victory.

Kauno pilis

In 1384, the Lithuanian army besieged the castle and took it back. After the Battle of Grunwald, Kaunas Castle lost its strategic military importance and was used as a residence.

During the 16th century, the castle was strengthened and adapted to new defensive purposes by building an artillery bastion near the round tower.

The castle was used as a prison in the 18th century; later, the Russian administration granted permission for the construction of houses on the castle’s territory, which resulted in significant damage to the castle itself.

Kauno pilis

After that, the castle was abandoned for decades until 1960. A museum was opened in the round tower, but was soon moved due to the poor condition of the tower.

The castle is restored between 2010 and 2011. A branch of the Kaunas Museum is established there. On 14 July 2018 a new sculpture “Freedom Warrior” (representing Vytis) was erected near the castle.

Opposite the castle is the Church of St. George the Martyr (Kauno Šv. Jurgio Kankinio (pranciškonų) bažnyčia). It is a church built in Gothic style between 1492 and 1502.

Kaunas

The church was badly damaged during the Napoleonic Wars. During the Soviet occupation the church was converted into a medicine warehouse.

We turn back towards the centre. After a nice walk and a well-deserved and delicious Lithuanian beer, we enter St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral. We had not had time the day before.

We continue strolling through the beautiful historic centre of the city. We reach Perkūno namas (House of Perkūnas). This is one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in the city. It was built in the 15th century by Hanseatic merchants and its purpose is not really known.

There is a legend about a sculpture of the deity Perkūnas found on a wall of the building, about priestesses guarding the eternal fire; however, the extensive collection of artefacts found by researchers suggests that it was a commercial office belonging to Hanseatic merchants.

Kaunas

Perkūnas is one of the most important deities in the Baltic pantheon. In Lithuanian and Latvian mythology he is the god of thunder, rain, mountains, oaks and the sky.

Today, the House of Perkūnas belongs to the Kaunas Jesuit order. The Perkūnas House houses an exhibition on the life and works of Adomas Mickevičius, an art exhibition and a concert hall.

It can be visited for a fee of €3.

A little further down is the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary – Vytautas the Great (Vytauto Didžiojo bažnyčia). It is the oldest early Gothic monument in Kaunas. The exact date of its construction is unknown.

According to the Jesuit historian Albert Vijūkas Kojelavičius, Vytautas the Great built this church in 1400. Soon after, the Vilnius Franciscan monks began to guard it.

The first record of the church dates back to documents from 1439 and refers to a small wooden church. Shortly afterwards it was replaced by the present brick church. The tower was built between the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century.

Kaunas

The church was spared three major fires in the city (1603, 1624 and 1668). But it was devastated during the Russian invasion in 1655. It was restored in 1669.

In 1812, after the French invasion, it became an arms depot and, after their departure, the building was set on fire. It was restored again in 1819.

During the First World War, the German army used it for storage. After their departure, the building was again badly damaged.

In 1919 it was returned to the Catholic Church and restored again. On 15 August 1920 the church was consecrated by the prelate Aleksandras Jakštas-Dambrauskas.

The church is located on the banks of the river Niemen, so we walk to the Confluence Park (Santakos parkas).

The Confluence Park (Santakos parkas) is a large 12-hectare park at the confluence of the Nemunas and Neris rivers. Here you will find Kaunas Castle, sports facilities and even a monument to Pope John Paul II.

Kaunas

It’s a perfect place to take a stroll at sunset and sit on the grass and relax for a while. And even go fishing.

After a well-deserved rest we went on our way to a nearby shopping centre called Akropolis. There we found a place called Čili Pica where we had a quiet dinner.

After dinner we went to sleep, as we had to get up early. We took the bus back to Vilnius.

Back to Vilnius

August 6th

Last day in Lithuania. We took an early bus to Vilnius.

As soon as we arrived in the city we went straight to the hotel, which was opposite the Vilnius Cathedral. This time we chose the Amberton Hotel. A 4 star hotel that cost us 61€ a night with breakfast, which we booked as a picnic as we were leaving the hotel at 3am.

Find the best hotel at the best price in Vilnius with Agoda.

Hotels in Vilnius / Lithuania

The truth is that the hotel, for a 4-star hotel, was pretty dingy, although it had a good view.

Vilnius
Views from the room

We left our things and went to do the last Lithuanian sightseeing. A stroll along Pillies Street, where there was a craft market. There we bought some souvenirs.

Then we go on our way to see a sculpture of the musician Frank Zappa… unique in the world…

And from here we go down to Gedimino Avenue, the main avenue of the city. A large shopping street closely related to the world of theatre and with numerous government buildings.

Here we had some hamburgers for lunch from a fast food chain…

The Lithuanian National Theatre of Dramatic Art (Lietuvos nacionalinis dramos teatras) is located on this street.

The theatre opened on 6 October 1940 with a performance of the play “Hope” by the Dutch playwright Herman Heijermans. At that time it was located in Basanavicius Street. The theatre moved to its current location in 1951.

The sculpture Celebration of the Muses (Mūzų šventė) by sculptor Stanislovas Kuzma, which crowns the main entrance of the theatre, has become the symbol of the National Drama Theatre of Lithuania. These figures represent the muses of Drama (Calliope), Comedy (Thalia) and Tragedy (Melpomene).

Lietuvos nacionalinis dramos teatras

This street is also home to the Mažasis Theatre (Mažasis teatras) and the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (Lietuvos muzikos ir teatro akademija).

This avenue is a beautiful promenade lined with stately buildings.

Mažasis teatras

Paseando paseando llegamos de nuevo a la calle Pillies. Allí tomamos nuestra última cena en el primer local que descubrimos de Čili Pica y temprano a la cama para madrugar.

Madrugón exagerado. Bajamos a recepción a recoger el desayuno y hacer el check out. Aquí nos pasó algo que nunca habíamos vivido. Entregamos las llaves y el recepcionista nos pasa la cuenta: 210 Lt. El hotel lo teníamos pagado mediante la web en la que lo contratamos. Se lo hacemos saber y nos pide una prueba del pago. Por suerte ya tenía mi primer smartphone y pude enseñarle el correo con el recibo del hotel y del banco.

No se si nos quería estafar o era un novato, pero nos dejó marchar pero teníamos que mandarle los recibos al correo del hotel… nunca lo hicimos.

En la puerta nos pesperaba nuestro transfer al aeropuerto, ya que a esas horas no había transporte público.

Balance of the trip

What can I say about Lithuania… A country that pleasantly surprised me. Its spectacular landscapes, its gastronomy, its culture and its kind and friendly people.

I am aware that 10 days is very little time and that we missed a lot to see. I am sure I will come back.

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Lithuania 2012 (II): visiting Klaipėda and Curonian Spit

We continue our journey through Lithuania. Today we moved the camp and went to Klaipėda.

August 1st

Klaipėda is Lithuania’s third most populous city and the country’s main seaport, located on the Baltic Sea coast.

Remember to always travel with travel insurance. With IATI, specialists in travel insurance, you have a 5% discount for being our reader.

Brief history of Klaipėda

The town was founded in 1252 by the Teutonic Order and is called Castrum Memele (in German Memelburg) and the whole area was Christianised. The Peace of the Melno Sea in 1422 fixed the brotherhood between the province of Prussia and Lithuania. Memel was included in Prussia and the border remained unchanged until 1919. It was one of the longest unchanged borders in Europe.

At the beginning of 1474 Memel was governed by the Culm Law of the Prussian towns. In 1525, the Duchy of Memel adopted Lutheranism under the reign of Albert of Prussia. It was the beginning of a long period of prosperity for the city and the port, as the Duchy of Prussia was a Polish fiefdom and later part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. That prosperity came to an end when, between 1629 and 1635, Memel was attacked and occupied by Sweden.

With the creation of the unified German state in 1871, Memel became the most northeastern town in Germany. After the Treaty of Versailles, the territory surrounding Memel was separated from Germany and given autonomy under French occupation. In 1923 Lithuanian troops under Colonel Budrys attacked the town and the French withdrew.

Klaipeda

Memel was reabsorbed by the German Reich on 22 March 1939, after the annexation of Austria, the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia. In January 1945 the town was captured by the Red Army and handed over to Lithuania.

At 11.35 the bus left Vilnius station. During the journey, something happened that left a deep impression on me. At a certain point on the motorway, we overtook an old car that was being towed by a Seat Ibiza with a normal rope tied to the bumper. In Spain you get caught and you get a packet of shit.

A little less than 4 hours later we arrived at Klaipėda station. From here we walked to our hotel, the National Hotel. A 4-star hotel, very centrally located and quite cheap.

We left our things and went for a walk through the old part of the city, the central part of which looks like a typical German village. The central part of the district looks like a typical German village – have we changed countries without realising it?

The most central place is Aikštė Theater, the Theatre Square. This is the central square of Klaipeda’s old town. Originally, part of the castle moats were located here. After being filled in 1819, a market was opened here. This market evolved and grew over the years.

Aikštė Theater

The most notable building on the square is (obviously) the theatre. The time of construction of the first building is unknown, but according to 18th-century city plans, a square building called “Komedijų namais” (Comedy House), which was formerly a military building, was located here.

The new boom of theatrical life in Klaipėda began after 1818, when the German Ulbrich arrived here. A forestry trading company allowed him free use of a temporary wooden building, where he set up a 200-seat hall and opened a theatre.

At the end of the 19th century, the construction of a new two-storey brick theatre in Classicist style with an attic was completed on the site of the present theatre. In 1854 the theatre burned down during a fire in the city but was rebuilt in 1857.

In 1935 the Šiauliai Theatre was moved to Klaipeda, a town 170 km to the west, and functioned as the Klaipeda State Theatre until 1939.

Unfortunately, during our visit it was completely covered up as it was undergoing restoration work and we were unable to see it.

Another notable feature of the square is the monument to Simon Dach, a poet born in 1605 in Klaipeda when it was officially called Memel and belonged to Germany. It is a fountain installed in 1912 whose sculpture represents the barefoot girl, one of the characters created by the poet.

monument to Simon Dach

In 1939 the sculpture was removed from the square and it is said that the idea was to replace it with one of Adolf Hitler. In 1989 a replica of the original sculpture was reinstalled.

From here we went to the banks of the Danish river. We crossed the river on the Biržos Bridge. Until the 18th century, the then wooden bridge was used not only for crossing the river, but also to collect tribute from all the ships that wanted to pass over it.

In 1877, construction began on a new steel bridge designed by the Wiesbaden engineer Bernstein, which was opened in 1879. In 1904, the upper part of the bridge was redesigned so that the new trams of the city could travel over it. During the reconstruction, the bridge was decorated with two openwork Art Nouveau metal portals, to which street lamps were attached.

Destroyed during World War II, it was rebuilt to the same design in 1948 and restored in 2007.

Biržos Bridge

The city must have been in a festive mood. In the park by the river there were several little food and craft stalls. There we sat down to have some refreshments and eat kepta duona, a kind of fried bread strips with cheese, which is delicious.

Next to the bridge is Arka, a monument built by sculptor Arūnas Sakalauskas in 2003 to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the Tilsit Law and the 80th anniversary of the Klaipėda uprising. The smaller red column is made of red granite and symbolises Lithuania Minor and its cultural heritage, while the grey part symbolises Lithuania proper. The grey part at the top appears to have been broken off and represents the Kaliningrad Oblast, now part of Russia.

The inscription at the top reads: ‘Esame viena tauta, viena žemė, viena Lietuva’ (‘We are one nation, one land, one Lithuania’) in the words of the Lithuanian writer Ieva Simonaitytė.

Arka Klaipeda

From here we went to rest for a while but, on the way, we stopped at a supermarket to buy some dinner. For 18.84 Litas (5.45€) we bought a lot of things.

After the break we had a short evening stroll but went to bed early as we had to get up very early. The next day was going to be hard, very hard.

August 2nd

We got up very early, no, very early. Today we visited the Curonian Spit, a sandy spit that separates the Baltic Sea from the Curonian Lagoon. It is 98 km long, of which 52 km belong to Lithuania and the rest to the Kaliningrad Oblast in Russia.

According to Baltic mythology, the spit was formed by a very strong girl called Neringa who was playing on the beach.

Curonian Lagoon
Curonian Lagoon

The entire Lithuanian part belongs to the municipality of Neringa. Until the reform of the Lithuanian municipality in 2000, it was known as the town of Neringa, although there was never a real “town” there. It became a city in the Soviet Union in 1961 by formally combining 4 settlements into one administrative unit.

At 7.20 in the morning we were taking the ferry from Klaipeda to Smiltynés. The trip cost us 2.90 Litas (0.85€) and takes about 20 minutes to cross the lagoon. From here we took a bus to Nida. The journey cost us 11 Litas (3.20€) and takes just over an hour.

Nida is the administrative capital of the municipality of Neringa and is well known as a tourist destination and for the Nida artists’ colony, an important artistic movement in East Prussia that began around 1890 and ended with the outbreak of World War II.

Nida is the westernmost point of Lithuania and the Baltic states, near the border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad Oblast, and has a population of about 2,300.

Nida

Here we bought a snack for the road and went to a bike rental point that I had already booked. The bikes cost us 30 Litas (8.70€) each and we could return them at any of the points along the isthmus.

With the bikes we headed to the first point we wanted to see, the Parnidžio kopa, the Parnidis Dune or the Great Dune of Nida. A 52-metre high moving sand dune and it is believed that its name, Parnidis, comes from the phrase meaning “it passed by Nida” because this wind-blown dune has passed by the village of Nida several times.

It is possible to climb to the top but only along the marked paths. It is strictly forbidden to leave these paths to ensure their preservation.

Parnidžio kopa, the Parnidis Dune

We park the bikes and climb the stairs through the lush forest to the top and admire the breathtaking views.

Parnidžio kopa, the Parnidis Dune

At the top of the dune is Saulės laikrodis, a granite sundial built in 1995. In 2011 it had to be restored as it was destroyed during a storm. The sundial is a 13.8-metre-high stone pillar weighing 36 tons. From an astronomical point of view, the Parnidis dune is an ideal place for the sundial in Lithuania.

Saulės laikrodis

After admiring the spectacular views we set off northwards towards the ferry, although we were not going to get that far. Practically the whole way we were able to cycle along the cycle path. It’s great because you don’t run into traffic and you don’t put yourself in danger.

The next stop was Vecekrugo kopa, the Vecekrugo dune about 8 km from Nida. This is the highest dune on the Curonian isthmus at 67 metres high and you can also climb it along the marked path to admire the views, but they are less impressive than those of Parnidis Dune.

Vecekrugo kopa

Here we took the opportunity to rest in the shade and eat what we had bought in Nida. After the rest we returned to the road. After kilometres of spectacular scenery combining forest and coast, we reached the town of Pervalka, about 8 km from Vecekrugo kopa.

Pervalka is a (very) small town of about 200 inhabitants. Most of the houses are small fishermen’s buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century and most of them are located on both sides of the main street along the shores of the Curlandia lagoon.

The village is really charming. If one day I win the lottery, I’ll buy a holiday cottage here.

Pervalka

Here we buy something to eat in a little shop, a light snack to keep on pedalling. We continue riding until we reach the coast of the Baltic Sea. Specifically to Juodkrantės bendras paplūdimys, Juodkrantės beach, about 17 km from Pervalka. A spectacular beach of fine, white sand where you felt like taking your clothes off and jumping into the sea, as it was very hot that day.

Juodkrantės bendras paplūdimys, Juodkrantės beach

From here we head to Juodkrantė (literally black coast), a tourist village with about 700 inhabitants. Located in the territory of the former Prussia, it was for centuries a fishing village called Schwarzort, which experienced a tourist boom in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Here we returned the bikes to the town’s quay and got on the bus to go to the ferry. We arrived at the hotel around 7 p.m. and rested for a while before going to get some dinner.

The break got a bit out of hand and we were running a bit late. I had booked a place for dinner on the internet and we set off. After a long walk we arrived in Soviet Klaipeda: wide avenues and huge blocks of flats. There was nothing on that road and the lighting was not very bright. As we couldn’t find the place we decided to turn around and look for something in the old town. With such bad luck that it had become too late and we were no longer allowed to enter any restaurants (they close at 22.00). So we decided to buy some ready-made food in a supermarket and eat it quietly in the hotel.

what to do in Klaipeda

August 3rd

Last hours in Klaipeda. We strolled through the old town until we reached the ruins of the castle, Klaipėdos Pilis. Klaipeda Castle also known as Memelburg or Memel Castle was built by the Teutonic Knights. The year of its construction is unknown but it was first mentioned in written sources in 1252 and underwent numerous destructions and reconstructions in the following centuries.

During the 19th century, having lost its strategic importance, the castle was demolished. Archaeological work was carried out on the site during the 20th century, and in 2002 a museum was established under one of its bastions. The castle is currently being restored.

It must be said that we did not have time to visit the museum.

On the quay is the most… strange or disturbing sculpture I remember seeing: Klaipėdos Juodasis vaiduoklis or the black ghost of Klaipeda, a hooded ghostly figure climbs out of the water, holding a lantern in his hand.

This disturbing sculpture is linked to a legend dating back to 1595 when Hans von Heidi, one of the Klaipėda castle guards, was making his nightly rounds near the harbour.

Out of nowhere, a hooded figure appeared near the water’s edge. Instead of attacking the startled guard, he asked him how the city’s grain and timber supplies were holding up. Von Heidi informed the ghost that the city had sufficient supplies, but the ghost warned him that it would not be enough. At that point, the apparition vanished.

In the old days, of course, people were inclined to believe the words of ghosts, witches, goblins and giants. And so Hans von Heidi dutifully reported his ghostly encounter to his superiors, and the town set about increasing its supplies of wood and grain. Then followed a few bleak years of famine and scarcity, which the people of Klaipėda only survived thanks to the ghost’s warning.

The sculpture, by Svajunas Jurkus and Sergejus Plotnikovas, was installed in 2010 and pays homage to the city’s saviour ghost.

Klaipeda

This is the end of our visit to Klaipeda and Neringa. It was time to go back to the station to take the bus to a new destination: Kaunas.

what to do in Klaipeda / Lithuania

Lithuania (Lietuva)

On this page you can find information about Lithuania. From detailed general information to our travel diaries.

Officially Lietuvos Respublika (Republic of Lithuania), it is one of the 27 sovereign states that make up the European Union, constituted as a social and democratic state under the rule of law, whose form of government is a parliamentary republic. Its territory is divided into ten counties. Its capital is Vilnius (Vilnius).

Travel Diary

what to do in lithuania

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Lithuania 2012

On this page we will describe our trip to Lithuania in the form of a diary. A country that will not leave you indifferent.

As always, we recommend traveling with good health insurance. IATI is a specialist in travel insurance and, for being our reader, you have a 5% discount.

what to do in lithuania

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Prague 2023 (V)

Last day of our beautiful trip to Prague. Really last half day.

March 1st

We get up early to make the most of the day and head for the Jewish quarter.

The first stop is Španělská Synagoga, the Spanish Synagogue. Built in 1868, it is the youngest synagogue in Prague. It was the work of architects Josef Niklas and Jan Bělský.

Its name comes from the spectacular interior decoration inspired by the Alhambra in Granada. It was designed by Antonín Baum and Bedřich Münzberger between 1882 and 1883.

Španělská Synagoga, the Spanish Synagogue

Before going for the entrance to the synagogues, we decided to have a Trdelník for breakfast. Next to the old-new synagogue there was a small place that looked (and smelled) very good. Its name is Trdelník & Coffee and they are kosher. It was a bit more expensive than the previous one but it was much better. It was delicious.

Trdelník & Coffee

Now we went to the Pinkas Synagogue to buy our tickets. You can buy them separately or a voucher for all of them.

Pinkasova Synagoga or Pinkas Synagogue is the second oldest synagogue in Prague. It was built in 1535 in the late Gothic style. Its author was Aron Mešulam Horovic. It was named after his grandson Rabbi Pinkas Horovic.

In the years 1955-60, the Pinkas Synagogue was transformed into a memorial to almost 80,000 Czech and Moravian Jews who became victims of the Shoah. After the Soviet invasion in 1968, the memorial was closed for more than 20 years. It was completely rebuilt and only became accessible in 1995.

Pinkas Synagogue
Pinkas Synagogue

Next to it is Starý židovský hřbitov, the old Jewish cemetery. Founded in the early 15th century, it is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the world. The oldest gravestone dates back to 1439 and the most modern to 1787.

The cemetery was enlarged several times over the centuries, but its area was still insufficient. The deceased were thus buried in the ground in up to ten layers one on top of the other.

Before it gets too late, we head to the Staronová Synagoga, the Old-New Synagogue.

Staronová Synagoga, the Old-New Synagogue
Staronová Synagoga, the Old-New Synagogue

Despite its name, it is the oldest active synagogue in Europe. For 700 years it has been the main synagogue of the Jewish people.

It was built at the end of the 13th century by stonemasons from the royal foundry and was originally called Nová or Velká (New). With the construction of other synagogues at the end of the 16th century it began to be called Old-New.

Legend has it that the foundation stones for its construction were brought by angels from the demolished Temple of Jerusalem. It was on the condition that they would be returned when it was restored.

Staronová Synagoga, the Old-New Synagogue

According to another legend, the remains of the Golem are kept there. An artificial being created and revived by the great Rabbi Löw to protect the Prague community.

It is one of Prague’s must-sees, pure history of the city and of Judaism. But, frankly, I find it outrageous to pay 220 CZK to enter. Almost 10€, considering that the visit takes very little time.

Staronová Synagoga, the Old-New Synagogue
Staronová Synagoga, the Old-New Synagogue

From there we made our way to Klausová Synagoga, the Klausen Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Prague.

In the 1570s, a renowned businessman and ghetto benefactor, Mordechai Maisel, decided to build in the area of today’s Klausen Synagogue. It was then a complex of buildings that included a synagogue and a Talmudic school.

The complex was destroyed after the ghetto fire in 1689. In 1694 a new building was completed in the early Baroque style. Two years later a monumental three-storey aron ha-kodesh and the Ark of the Torah were added. This was thanks to the donation of Samuel Oppenheimer, a wealthy and influential personality of the Austrian monarchy.

Klausová Synagoga, the Klausen Synagogue
Klausová Synagoga, the Klausen Synagogue
Klausová Synagoga, the Klausen Synagogue
Klausová Synagoga, the Klausen Synagogue

From here we go to see Maiselova synagoga, the Maisel synagogue. It was built between 1590 and 1592 by the mayor of the Jewish aljama of Prague, Mordejay Maisel. It was badly damaged in a fire in 1689 but was quickly rebuilt.

During World War II, the Nazis used it as a storage facility for artefacts from 153 synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia. They were to use them to open a museum in Prague.

In fact, the Germans kept Prague’s Jewish quarter intact with the intention of turning it into the Great Museum of the extinct race.

Maiselova synagoga, the Maisel synagogue
Maiselova synagoga, the Maisel synagogue

After the visit to the Jewish quarter. We went for a walk to Letenská pláň, Letna Park. It is a huge park in the upper part of the city. It is used for the organisation of occasional cultural events such as ice rinks or circuses.

It offers spectacular views of the city.

Letenská pláň, Letna Park

To get to the park, we cross the Moldova River on the beautiful Čechův most, the Čech Bridge. Built between 1905 and 1908.

Čechův most, the Čech Bridge
Čechův most, the Čech Bridge

We climbed up the million steps to the park, although there are also ramps, but they are much longer than the stairs.

At the bottom is Pražský metronom, Prague’s metronome. A giant metronome that was installed in 1991 on the site of a monument to Joseph Stalin.

Pražský metronom, Prague's metronome
Pražský metronom, Prague’s metronome

Nearby is the Hanavský Pavilon. It is one of the most impressive eclectic buildings in Prague. It was built as a pavilion representing the Komárovský Blast Furnaces for the Jubilee Exhibition in 1891.

Today it houses a restaurant with a fantastic view of the city.

Hanavský Pavilon
Hanavský Pavilon

While we were here, two curious things happened to us. We decided to have a coffee while admiring the view. When it was time to pay with a 200 CZK note (the last one we had left) the girl wouldn’t accept it. She told us that it was an old note that stopped working on 31 December 2022. If we wanted to change it, it had to be in a Czech bank.

The banknote was “placed” in a grocery shop on the corner of Letenská Street and U Lužického semináře. It’s a good way to get rid of black money… to give it to tourists.

While we were sipping our coffee, thinking about how to change the ticket, a message began to sound over the loudspeaker throughout the city. A few minutes after it stopped, the bomb siren started to sound. Fortunately they were only testing it.

Anti-bomb siren

We finished our coffee and thought about where to change our banknotes. Then we remembered that there was a change machine in the castle baths. So that’s where we headed for a brisk walk.

Right next to the park is Chotkovy sady, the Chotek gardens. Founded in 1832, it was the first public park in Prague, under the Summer Palace of Queen Anne.

It is a wooded park with more than 55 species of plants. Inside is a monument to the poet Julius Zeyer. It is a cave in which there are sculptures representing characters from his works.

Chotkovy sady, the Chotek gardens
Chotkovy sady, the Chotek gardens

The gardens belong to Letohrádek královny Anny, the Summer Palace of Queen Anne. It is a Renaissance building in the Royal Garden of Prague Castle. It was built between 1538 and 1560 at the eastern end of the Royal Garden. It was a gift from Ferdinand I to his wife Anna Jagiellonian.

Letohrádek královny Anny, the Summer Palace of Queen Anne
Letohrádek královny Anny, the Summer Palace of Queen Anne

The chateau gardens are beautiful and have several remarkable features. These include the Fontána se sochou Herkula or Míčovna v Královské zahradě, the ballroom.

The hall building was built between 1567 and 1569 as a place for ball games. Later it was used as stables and during the reign of Joseph II as a military storehouse.

Today it is mainly used for art exhibitions, concerts and important social events.

Míčovna v Královské zahradě

In front of the building there was a couple having a wedding photo session. Nice place.

Now we are on our way to the change machine.

We arrived, went into the toilet and… BINGO! accepts the 200 CZK note and gives us change in… 10 COINS! It was like a slot machine.

It was time to leave the city. But first we had to eat. We picked up our things from the hotel and headed for the pub where we had eaten so well the day we went to Kutná Hora.

But on the way we had a stop: Jeruzalemmská synagoga, the Jerusalem synagogue. Unfortunately it was closed. But the outside of the building was beautiful.

Jeruzalemmská synagoga, the Jerusalem synagogue
Jeruzalemmská synagoga, the Jerusalem synagogue

We arrived at the pub. The waiters were different from the previous day. We sit down, I take the menu of the day. The waiter arrives, takes it out of my hands and tears it up saying: “menu finish”.

I get up, give him an expletive in Spanish (I’m sure he more or less understands me) and we leave. Twice you don’t laugh in my face.

We end up eating at a chain hamburger joint in the station.

At 2 pm we take the bus to the airport. The ticket is 100 CZK (4.20€). Guess how we paid… right, we loosened the 200 CZK in 10 coins…

At 17.20 the return flight took off on time…

What to do in Prague

Prague 2023 (IV)

We continue our journey through Prague, which is getting closer and closer.

18th February

We get up early and set off in the fresh air. Our first destination is Městská knihovna v Praze, the Prague City Library.

But what we are really looking for is the work of art The Idiom Installation, the Infinite Tower. Hundreds of carefully stacked books assembled by Slovak artist Matej Kren.

It runs from the floor to the ceiling, inside which mirrors have been installed. This creates the illusion of an endless spiral of books.

The Idiom Installation

The tour guides had told us that there are endless queues of up to 2 hours. We went early in the morning and… there was nobody there. We had trouble finding the entrance.

The Idiom Installation
The Idiom Installation

Next to the library is Nová radnice, the New Town Hall. It was built in Art Nouveau style between 1901 and 1908. Since 1945 it has been the seat of the Prague Municipality and its mayor’s office.

On the northwest corner stands Socha Železný rytíř, the statue of the Iron Knight. A curious story is told about this knight.

Socha Železný rytíř

Jáchym Berka was engaged to a girl but had to go to war. After his return it was rumoured that this girl had been unfaithful to him. Because of this, the gentleman married another woman.

The former fell into a deep depression and committed suicide by throwing herself into the Vltava. Her father threw himself from the top of a tower.

Jáchym Berka, in great remorse, took advantage of a drunken night when his wife was drunk to strangle her and then hanged himself in their cellar.

As punishment, his soul is trapped in this statue.

Nová radnice, the New Town Hall
Nová radnice, the New Town Hall

Legend has it that every 100 years, if a woman talks to him for an hour, he will be released from his torment. The last time was in 2009…

In the southwest corner is another sculpture: Rabbi Judah Loew (1520 – 1609).

Rabbi Judah Loew
Rabbi Judah Loew

Known as the “Maharal of Prague” to Jewish scholars, he was a prominent Talmudist, Jewish mystic and philosopher who served as rabbi in the city of Prague.

Rabbi Judah Loew is credited with the creation of the Golem, whose legend stimulated the fantasy of central Europe for several centuries.

The Golem was a colossus made of clay. Animated by kabbalistic combinations of the letters that made up the holy name of God, it came to life and moved, performing all sorts of tasks for Rabbi Loew.

Legend has it that this Golem saved the Jews of Prague from the persecutions and anti-Jewish accusations of the time.

Opposite the town hall is the Klementinum. It is a complex of historic buildings that formerly housed the National, University and Technical Libraries.

After the university and technical libraries were moved to the Městská knihovna building, it now houses only the Prague National Library.

Klementinum
Klementinum

In the 11th century, a small chapel dedicated to St. Clement was located here. In the Middle Ages a Dominican manastery was founded here. It became a Jesuit college in 1556. The Jesuits moved the library of the Charles University to the Klementinum in 1622. In 1654 the college merged with the university.

After the expulsion of the Jesuits from Prague in 1773, Empress Maria Theresa I of Austria established an observatory, library and university at the Klementinum.

At one time the Klementinum was known as the third largest Jesuit college in the world.
The oldest meteorological record in the Czech lands began at the Klementinum in 1775, and continues to this day.

Klementinum
Klementinum

In one of the corridors of the courtyard of the Klementinum is Dívka s vlaštovkou, the Girl with the Paper Plane. It was created in 2005 by Polish sculptor Magdalena Poplawská. It depicts a young woman holding a paper aeroplane.

Dívka s vlaštovkou

We leave the Klementinum and cross the Charles Bridge once again. We head straight to Kostel sv. Mikuláše, the church of St. Nicholas in Malá Strana, the most famous baroque church in Prague.

It is the site of a Gothic parish church consecrated in 1283 and dedicated to St. Nicholas. In 1620 it was handed over to the Jesuits who moved the parish to the church of St. Wenceslas.

The old church was demolished and the foundation stone of the new church was laid in 1673. However, the start of construction was delayed until 1703 according to Kryštof Dienzenhofer’s plan.

The church was consecrated in 1752, but its decoration lasted until the 1760s.

Kostel sv. Mikuláše, the church of St. Nicholas in Malá Strana
Kostel sv. Mikuláše, the church of St. Nicholas in Malá Strana

The church is remarkable not only for its architecture, but also for its decoration. It is mainly due to the frescoes by Jan Lukas Kracker and a fresco inside the 70-metre-high dome by František Xaver Palko.

It is said to be the Sistine Chapel of Prague.

Entry costs 100 CZK (4.27€) and is well worth it. It is spectacular.

Kostel sv. Mikuláše, the church of St. Nicholas in Malá Strana
Kostel sv. Mikuláše, the church of St. Nicholas in Malá Strana

Opposite the church is Morový sloup Nejsvĕtĕjší Trojice, the Holy Trinity Column. It was built between 1713 and 1715 to commemorate the end of the plague epidemic.

Morový sloup Nejsvĕtĕjší Trojice, the Holy Trinity Column

As it was freezing cold, we decided to look for a place to have a warm coffee. But without going out of our way. We did so in a very chic café called Nº 211 cafe & wine.

We accompanied our coffees with some sweets that were to die for. When it was time to ask for the bill, it turned out that we were overcharged for a coffee. We told the girl about it and she went ballistic. She gave us back the extra and also gave us a huge biscuit, which we could use as a snack.

Nº 211 cafe & wine

Everything cost us 270 CZK (11.50€).

After warming up we headed to our next destination: Strahovský klášter, the Strahov monastery.

Strahovský klášter, the Strahov monastery
Strahovský klášter, the Strahov monastery

It is a Premonstratensian abbey founded in 1143 by Bishop Jindřich Zdík, Bishop John of Prague, and Duke Ladislaus II.

It was originally a wooden building next to a Romanesque basilica. It caught fire in 1258 and was severely damaged. It was rebuilt on the spot.

In 1420, during the Hussite Wars, the building was sacked but little damage was done to it.

During the communist regime it was taken over by the government and converted into a National Literature Monument. During an archaeological investigation, the original Romanesque style was revealed and the monastery was sensitively reconstructed.

After the fall of the communist regime in 1989, the monastery was returned to the Premonstratensian order.

Strahovský klášter, the Strahov monastery

Of particular note in the library are the Baroque Theological Room and the Classicist Philosophical Room. These contain books and manuscripts from the Middle Ages, illustrations and globes.

It also has one of the most important picture galleries in Central Europe.

From here we take a cool walk uphill to Mount Petřín. There are several remarkable features at the top. The most prominent of these is Petřínská rozhledna, the Petrin Tower.

Known as the Eiffel Tower of Prague, it was built as part of the Jubilee Exhibition in 1891. It offers spectacular views of the city of Prague. It is a must-see.

The entrance fee is 220 CZK (9.40€) and on the day we went, the lift was out of order and we had to walk up.

Petřínská rozhledna, the Petrin Tower
Petřínská rozhledna, the Petrin Tower

Here we also find Kaple Božího hrobu, the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre. It was built in 1737, inspired by the one in Jerusalem.

It is interesting to note that the window is positioned in such a way that at three o’clock in the afternoon on Easter Day, the sun’s rays fall through it onto the sacrificial stone in the middle of the chapel.

Kaple Božího hrobu, the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre
Kaple Božího hrobu, the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre

Opposite is Katedrální chrám sv. Vavřince, the Church of St. Lawrence. It is a Baroque church built in 1735. The original church dates back to 1135 and was built in the Romanesque style.

The Way of the Cross leads to it on the way to the top of the hill.

Katedrální chrám sv. Vavřince, the Church of St. Lawrence
Katedrální chrám sv. Vavřince, the Church of St. Lawrence
Petrin

At the end of the Stations of the Cross, next to the Church of St. Lawrence, is Kaple Kalvárie, the small Chapel of Calvary.

It was also built in 1735 as the penultimate stop on the Way of the Cross. The unique sgraffito of the Resurrection of Christ, which decorates the front wall of the chapel. It was painted in 1936 by Jaroslav Reidl after a design by the famous Mikoláš Aleš.

Kaple Kalvárie, the small Chapel of Calvary
Kaple Kalvárie, the small Chapel of Calvary

After our visit to Mount Petřín, we set off down to the city. Our first stop was a bakery called Náš Chléb, Vaše pekárna. Mostly because we were struck by the look of the cakes.

Náš Chléb, Vaše pekárna

While we were enjoying our cakes, we made our way to the Loreto, one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Prague. The Holy House was built between 1626 and 1631 by the Italian architect Giovanni Orsi. It was financed by Kateřina Benigna, a noblewoman from the Lobkowicz family.

It is a replica of the house where the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary (supposedly) took place. The original is located in Loreto (Italy).

Half a century later, it was surrounded by cloisters. The baroque façade dates from the 18th century and was designed by the architects Christoph Dientzenhofer and Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer.

The carillon was built by the clockmaker Peter Neumann in 1694. It still sounds today and has done so since 15 August 1695.

Loreto
Loreto

From here we went to Kostel Panny Marie Vítězné, the church of St. Mary of Victory. It was built in Baroque style in 1611 and rebuilt by the Carmelite order between 1634 and 1669.

Kostel Panny Marie Vítězné, the church of St. Mary of Victory
Kostel Panny Marie Vítězné, the church of St. Mary of Victory

The church is famous for the statuette of the Infant Jesus of Prague. It originates from Spain and was donated to the Carmelites by Polyxena of Lobkovice (1628).

The Infant Jesus wears 2 crowns and about 46 garments, which, according to custom, are changed 10 times a year according to the season.

statuette of the Infant Jesus of Prague

In the church we can visit a small museum with children’s clothes and other religious articles.

Admission to the church and the museum is free.

Although it was early in the morning, it was getting to be time for lunch. We had lunch at the other place we had eaten the day before, a pub called Ferdinanda. Well, this time WE WERE SCAMMED.

We went in, they sat us down and automatically took the menus of the day off the table and tore it up. We assume they were out of them. We ordered a soup and a plate for each of us. Meanwhile, the Czechs who came in were being served the menu of the day. Ordering à la carte is more expensive, so there is no menu of the day for tourists.

Ferdinanda
Ferdinanda

The truth is that we ate very well and it really wasn’t expensive, 643 CZK (27€) but the menu would have been cheaper. We were left with the feeling that they had laughed in our face. It would not be the last time.

With our stomachs full we went to Nejužší pražská ulička, the narrowest street in Prague. It is about half a metre wide and is regulated by traffic lights. It’s a bit of a tourist attraction, but we had to walk along it.

Nejužší pražská ulička, the narrowest street in Prague

Nearby we find Čůrající postavy, Types Pissing… This is another of David Černý’s sculptures. There are two guys pissing in a fountain depicting the map of the Czech Republic.

When the communist regime fell, the Czechs mistook freedom for licentiousness. It seems that this freedom gave them the right to piss on every corner of the city, with all that that entailed. Bad smells… above all. The fountain is a satire on… WE ARE PISSING ON OUR HOMELAND!

Čůrající postavy, Types Pissing

From here we went for a walk to the Rudolfinum. It is an important concert hall. It was built in neo-Renaissance style between 1876 and 1881. It belongs to and is home to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

Rudolfinum
Rudolfinum

Before it got later, we went to visit the interior of the Týn Church. We talked about it in the first part of the diary.

It is forbidden to take photos inside the church. I took some of them incognito but I keep them for myself. But I have to say that it is not the most beautiful in Prague by far. But it is free.

After the visit we went for a long walk on our way to the Paratroopers’ Crypt. On the way we passed another of David Černý’s works: Viselec.

It is a sculpture of Sigmun Freud hanging from the roof of a building on Husova Street. It was designed in 1997 to interpret the state of an intellectual at the end of the 20th century.

Sigmun Freud

After walking two kilometres we reach Národní památník hrdinů heydrichiády, the Crypt of the Paratroopers.

Officially the National Monument to the Heroes of Heydrich, it is an exhibition located in the crypt of the Church of St. Cyril and Methodius.

During World War II it served as a refuge for a group of Czech paratroopers, who in 1942 successfully eliminated the representative of the Reich Protector, Reinhard Heydrich.

Národní památník hrdinů heydrichiády, the Crypt of the Paratroopers

Strolling along, we come to Novoměstská radnice, the new town hall, presided over by its tower.

The tower was completed in 1456 and served as the headquarters of the New Town fire brigade. Later it was used by a guy to announce the time.

It has undergone several restorations until it reached its present appearance dating from 1876. Since 1760, merchants’ merchandise could be officially weighed here to prevent fraud.

Novoměstská radnice, the new town hall
Novoměstská radnice, the new town hall

Today the tower houses an exhibition gallery where short-term exhibitions are held (closed in winter).

On the way to the centre we passed another work by Černý: Franz Kafka – Otočná hlava, Kafka’s Head. It depicts Kafka’s 11-metre high head. It consists of 42 movable parts that move in a variety of ways, representing Kafka’s metamorphosis.

Nearby is another of his works: Embryo. Located in Anenské náměstí, it is a kind of embryonic sack attached to the façade and illuminated from the inside. It was created for the 50th anniversary of the Na zábradlí Theatre.

Embryo

From here we went to warm up with a hot chocolate. We did this at a place I had seen on the internet called Choco Café. It has a lot of varieties and they were to die for. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it. The two chocolates cost us 220 CZK (9.25€), service not included, of course.

Choco Café Praha

After warming up a bit, we return to the cold. We go to the castle again, as we were looking forward to visiting it at night.

It’s a different way of seeing it, with little light and, best of all, practically alone.

Night view of Prague
Night view of Prague

On the way down we were so tired that we didn’t feel like looking for something to eat. We had dinner at the McDonald’s at the Palladium. We went down the Macpiedra quietly in the hotel and went to sleep to get up early again.

What to do in Prague

NEXT ENTRY

Prague 2023 (III): visiting Kutná Hora

We continue our tour of Prague. But this morning it’s time for an excursion. We are going to Kutná Hora, a small town 80 km east of Prague.

February 27th

We get up very early and go to the main train station in Prague.

We arrive at the station around 7.30 and buy our return ticket. It is valid for the next two days. The price is 247 CZK (10.50€).

Billete a Kutná Hora
Ticket to Kutná Hora

We locate our platform and catch the 8.06 train, which leaves on time. We thought they might be like the ones in Romania, in a rather deplorable state. But no, trains in very good condition, more or less like those in Spain.

Train to Kutná Hora

The scenery along the way was quite spectacular, especially the snow-covered countryside.

50 minutes later we arrived at Kutná Hora’s main station, Kutná Hora hl.n. There are two other stations in the city but this is the one with the fastest trains. It is a bit far from the city, but has good bus connections.

But as we were interested in visiting the Sedlec Ossuary first, we went on foot, as it is only a 15-minute walk away. It is only a 15-minute walk away.

A little before, there is the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and St. John the Baptist, which we will talk about later.

We arrived at the tourist office, very close to the ossuary while it was still snowing.

The girl at the information office was very nice and helpful. We have to say that we were the only tourists there.

There we bought the tourist pass which cost us 320 CZK (13.69€). The pass allows us to enter the Sedlec Ossuary, the Church of the Assumption and the Church of St. Barbara. Separately it would be 420 CZK. It pays off.

After buying the tickets we go in search of something for breakfast. That part of the city seemed to be dead, so we went into a grocery shop. We buy some biscuits and that’s it.

We head for the ossuary as we go along.

Kostnice Sedlec, the Sedlec Ossuary is an underground chapel in the All Saints’ Cemetery. It was originally part of the Cistercian abbey in Sedlec, founded in 1142 by Miroslav of Markvartic. It was the oldest in Bohemia.

The All Saints’ Church was built in the 14th century in the High Gothic style.

Kostnice Sedlec, the Sedlec Ossuary

According to legend, one of the local abbots was sent by the Czech king to Jerusalem around 1278. The abbot brought a handful of soil from Golgotha and scattered it over the cemetery in Sedlec.

The cemetery was considerably expanded during the great epidemics of the 14th century, where 30,000 bodies were buried.

After the abolition of the cemetery at the end of the 15th century, the exhumed bones were stored outside and inside the underground chapel. In 1511 a half-blind monk from Sedlec assembled them into large pyramids.

In 1870, the Schwarzenberg family hired the woodcarver František Rint to put the bones in order. He is the author of the macabre works that can be seen today.

Kostnice Sedlec,Sedlec ossuary

Despite having seen it many times on TV, the ossuary is very impressive. And even more so at the time of our trip, when we were completely alone and there was a sepulchral silence.

According to what I have read, in summer it gets very crowded and uncomfortable.

On the way out, with our hair still standing on end, we set off for the Church of the Assumption.

Katedrála Nanebevzetí Panny Marie a sv. Jana Křtitele, or the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and St. John the Baptist. It is the oldest Cistercian cathedral in Bohemia and dates back to the mid-12th century. This was the period of the greatest expansion of the Cistercian order.

In 1421, during the Hussite Revolt, it was burned and abandoned along with the monastery. Between 1700 and 1708 it was restored first by architect Pavel Ignác Bayer and then by Jan Blažej Santini-Aichl. The latter gave it a Baroque Gothic style.

Katedrála Nanebevzetí Panny Marie a sv. Jana Křtitele

Despite its name, it does not have the status of a cathedral.

The church is notable for its large art collection. Highlights include works by Judy Tadeáš Cena, Michael Leopold Willmann and Petr Brandl and sculptures by Matěj Václav Jäckel.

Katedrála Nanebevzetí Panny Marie a sv. Jana Křtitele

We stroll around, contemplating the numerous works of art, and go up to the first floor. The stairs on the way up are also remarkable. Designed and built without a central axis by Jan Blažej Santini-Aichl.

Katedrála Nanebevzetí Panny Marie a sv. Jana Křtitele

From the top we have a wonderful view of the central nave of the church. We can also go out into a corridor between the façade and the roof. There is a small exhibition on the architect Jan Blažej Santini-Aichl.

Katedrála Nanebevzetí Panny Marie a sv. Jana Křtitele
Katedrála Nanebevzetí Panny Marie a sv. Jana Křtitele

We finished our visit and set off for the city centre. To do so, we went to the bus stop right in front of the church.

As it was 10 minutes before it was due to pass, we went into a little shop there to buy some pastries. We waited in the bitter cold, while it was still snowing.

We took bus 381, which cost us 14 CZK (0.60€). Very convenient because you can pay by credit card. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the Žižkov stop, Na Valech.

It was still very cold.

Kutná Hora

We quickly make our way to Chrám svaté Barbory, the church of St. Barbara. This is one of the most famous Gothic churches in Central Europe. Construction began in 1388 to compete with St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.

They wanted to demonstrate the power of the city in comparison with the latter. Thanks to its rich silver mines, there was no lack of money for it.

But silver mining ceased. The works were interrupted several times and were finished in 1905. Yes, more than 500 years later. Moreover, its size is half of what was originally planned.

Chrám svaté Barbory, the church of St. Barbara
Chrám svaté Barbory, the church of St. Barbara

Inside we can contemplate the spectacular organ and its medieval frescoes. Also the stained glass windows and all the elements. The truth is that it is a beautiful church.

Chrám svaté Barbory, the church of St. Barbara

At the bottom we climb the 84 steps leading up to the inner terrace, where we enjoy a good view of the central nave. There is also a small exhibition on the construction of the church.

We leave the church and next to it is Kaple Božího těla, the Corpus Christi chapel. It is a small chapel that is… empty. There is nothing inside.

It was originally a Karner, a cemetery with an ossuary. Later it was used as an oratory by the Jesuits. After the abolition of the order in 1773, the chapel passed from hand to hand with different uses. It was used as a warehouse or workshop.

In the middle of the 20th century it was abandoned. In 1990 it was included in the list of the 100 most endangered monuments in the world. Between 1997 and 2000 a demanding reconstruction was carried out, which saved the chapel.

Kaple Božího těla
Kaple Božího těla

Incidentally, admission is completely free. It has a terrace with beautiful views of the city.

Kutná Hora from Kaple Božího těla
Kutná Hora from Kaple Božího těla

Next to the chapel and the cathedral is GASK, the central art gallery of Bohemia. It is housed in a former Jesuit monastery.

Six years after the arrival of the Jesuits in the city (1626), Emperor Ferdinand II issues the charter of the Jesuit College.

With the Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648), its construction was delayed until 1666. It was built in Neo-Baroque style between 1667 and 1750. The design was by the architect Giovanni Domenico Orsi de Orsini.

In 1773 the Jesuit order was abolished and the building was taken over by the army. Since 1998 it has housed the GASK, a modern art gallery.

GASK, the central art gallery of Bohemia
GASK, the central art gallery of Bohemia

We stroll along the Jesuit Walk, a group of thirteen 18th century statues on the viewing terrace in front of the Jesuit College. The 12 original sculptures were made by František Baugut between 1703 and 1716.

In 1740, a statue of St. John of Nepomuk by an unknown artist was installed next to the castle.

We walk along Barborská Street and arrive at the gates of Hrádek, the Kutná Hora Castle. A small wooden fortification once stood on this site. In the 14th century, a fortified manor house was added to it as a mint.

Over the centuries, it passed through several owners, who made various alterations. Between the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was rebuilt as a patrician palace. In the 17th century, Hrádek served as a Jesuit school.

At the beginning of the 20th century, it was bought by the town. In the early 1990s, it underwent extensive restoration. In 1996, after the work was completed, the Czech Silver Museum was opened.

Hrádek
Hrádek

Under the castle there are old silver mines that can be visited. But in February and March they are closed. What bad luck.

We continued along Barborská Street, one of the most touristic streets in Kutná Hora. And we were practically alone. It has its charm but… it doesn’t feel like being in the real world. There is a lack of people.

Barborská
Barborská

On our walk we come to Kamenná kašna, the Stone Fountain. Intense mining activity in the town disrupted the underground water sources. This resulted in a shortage of drinking water. This problem was solved in 1495. It was with the construction of a stone fountain in the form of a dodecagon on today’s Rejsek Square.

It was originally roofed. It served as a water reservoir, to which drinking water was brought through wooden pipes from the spring of St. Adalbert, about 3 km away. It functioned until 1890.

Kamenná kašna
Kamenná kašna

We continue walking through the deserted streets of Kutná Hora. We approach Kostel sv. Jakuba, the church of St. James. This is the oldest stone church in the town. It was begun in 1333 and completed in 1420 in Gothic style.

In 1995 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

On the south façade we have a fantastic viewpoint.

Kutná hora

Next to it is one of the most spectacular buildings in the city: the Vlašský dvůr, the Italian Court.

Originally, it was the seat of the Prague Central Mint. Its name derives from the Italian experts who were at the forefront of minting reform.

For many centuries, the Italian Court was the centre of the state’s economic power. It housed the royal mint and was the residence of the king during his visits to the Kutná Hora silver mines.

The royal mint and the position of the supreme master of the mint came to an end in the 18th century. This was after the great fire of 1770. Then the town hall moved to the Italian court.

To conclude our visit, we went to Morový sloup, the Plague Column. Also known as the Column of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, it is located on Šultysova Street.

It was built between 1713 and 1715 as a commemoration of the contemporary plague that killed more than a thousand people. This Baroque plague column was built by the Jesuit sculptor František Baugut.

It is decorated with different motifs. A statue of the Immaculate Virgin Mary adorns the top of the column. In the central part are statues of Charles Borromeo, St. Sebastian with an arrow through him, St. Roch with a dog at his feet, and Francis Xavier.

Among the statues of saints on the pedestal are reliefs of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, St. Norbert, St. Barbara.

In the lower part of the column there are sculptures of crows with shields, among them there are reliefs of Mary Magdalene, John of Nepomuk and St. Dominic.

The visit to Kutná Hora is over. We take the bus back to Palackého náměstí, the heart of today’s historical centre of the town.

Most of the houses here are originally Gothic and Baroque. Originally, the square was mostly occupied by the town hall. The town hall was destroyed during a fire in 1770.

We take bus 802, which costs us 15 CZK (0.64€), one crown more than the return… but we go further. It drops us at the door of the train station.

We catch the 13.01 train, which arrives a little late, leaving at 13.10. In about 50 minutes we are back in Prague.

Being already a bit late we look for something to eat. We do so in a nearby pub called Ferdinanda. Menu of the day. Exquisite homemade food which cost us 450CZK (19€), two soups, two courses and drink. Gratuity not included. The waiters were very pleasant but, as everywhere in Prague, not in a hurry.

Very good experience which, we would try again, was isolated. We went back twice and had a totally bad experience. But we will comment on that later.

After filling our stomachs, we set off for a place that we had only made a note of if we had time. But I have to say, it is one of the places we liked the most in Prague.

It is Vyšehrad, one of the original towns of Prague. It was the first seat of the Czech princes and the legendary Princess Libusa.

Vyšehrad, which means “castle on high”, is situated on top of a huge rock on the banks of the Moldova River. It was the second castle founded by the Premyslids in the 10th century, having been renovated and enlarged during the following centuries.

Within its walls there are several remarkable elements that we will tell you about below.

After a walk of about 3 km, we reach Cihelná Brána, the Brick Gate. Also known as the New Gate, it is an entrance to the north of the fortification. It was built in the Baroque style between 1835 and 1831 by the engineer Johann Weiss.

Cihelná Brána

We pass through the gate and go to Hřbitov Vyšehrad, the Vyšehrad cemetery. Opened in 1869, it is the resting place of many Czech celebrities. Composers, artists, sculptors, writers, scientists and politicians are buried here.

The truth is that some of the tombs are true works of art.

Hřbitov Vyšehrad

Next to it is Bazilika svatého Petra a Pavla, the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul. It was founded around 1070 by the Czech King Bratislava II. It was an early Romanesque church that was badly damaged in a fire in 1249.

It was rebuilt first in Gothic style during the reign of Charles IV and later in High Baroque style at the beginning of the 18th century.

The basilica we see today is the result of a reconstruction carried out between 1887 and 1903.

Bazilika svatého Petra a Pavla
Bazilika svatého Petra a Pavla

But the best part is inside. It is richly decorated with murals by the painter František Urban and his wife Marie Urbanová-Zahradnická. They are inspired by the art of Alfons Mucha.

The truth is that it completely blew us away. I think it is a must-see in Prague. The entrance fee is 130 CZK (5.55€). It’s not cheap but it’s worth it.

Bazilika svatého Petra a Pavla
Bazilika svatého Petra a Pavla

We leave the church in awe of the interior of the basilica and take a stroll around the grounds. Next to the church is Vyšehradské sady, the Vyšehrad Gardens.

We climb to the top of the wall to admire the beautiful views.

Prague

From the west side of the wall we can see Libušina lázeň, the ruins of Princess Libuše’s Bath. It was originally a guardhouse from the 15th century. It was part of the fortifications from the time of Charles IV.

The river traffic was monitored from here. The name of the Libuše Bath comes from a legend that says that the princess used to bathe here. She used to receive her lovers here. When she tired of them she would throw them into the river through a sinkhole in the ground or a crack in the rock.

The inhabitants of Prague do not quite agree with this. It is said to be an invention of the Germans who populated the area in the 19th century to discredit Princess Libuše.

Libušina lázeň
Libušina lázeň

As we were tired, we decided to stop for a coffee at a place called Rea Art. We did so at a place called Rea Art. A really delicious coffee and one of the least expensive we have ever had: 70 CZK (3€).

Right next door is the Galerie Lucerna. Located in the Lucerne Palace, it is a roofed shopping street with numerous shops, a concert hall and even cinemas. It was built between 1907 and 1921 and was the idea and work of Vascláv Havel.

Another of David Černý’s works is also of note. It is Kůň (Horse), which depicts St. Wenceslas in the same position as his original statue. The difference is that in this one the horse is dead and hanging upside down.

It is one of his most famous works.

Kůň

The gallery has one of its exits at Václavské náměstí, Wenceslas Square, one of the most important squares in Prague.

It is the commercial and administrative centre of the city, a place of important social and historical events. It is the traditional venue for demonstrations, celebrations and other public gatherings.

Built by King Charles IV with the foundation of the New Town in 1348. This was the second largest square in the city, known as Koňský trh (horse market). It was so named because horse markets were held here periodically in the Middle Ages.

In 1848 it was renamed Svatováclavské náměstí.

Václavské náměstí

On 28 October 1918, Alois Jirásek read the proclamation of Czechoslovak independence in front of the statue of St. Wenceslas.

The Nazis used the square for mass demonstrations.

On 16 January 1969, student Jan Palach committed suicide in the square to protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

In 1989, during the Velvet Revolution, large demonstrations of several thousand people took place here.

At the southeastern end of the square is Pomník svatého Václava, the monument to St. Wenceslas. It is the work of Josef Václav Myslbek and was built between 1887 and 1924. It was unfinished and inaugurated in 1913. It was not until 1924 that the statues of St. Vojtěch and St. Agnes were installed.

Pomník svatého Václava

Behind the statue is the Národní muzeum, the National Museum in Prague. The museum was founded in 1818 under the name of the Patriotic Museum in Bohemia.

Between 1821 and 1846 it was housed in the Šternberský palác, and later in the Palác Sylva-Taroucca between 1846 and 1891.

In 1848 it was renamed the Czech Museum (České muzeum) and from 1854 to 1919 it was renamed the Royal Czech Museum (Muzeum Království českého).

The present building was built between 1885 and 1895 in the Neo-Renaissance style. It was designed by the Czech architect Josef Schulz.

Národní muzeum
Národní muzeum

Across the street to the north is Nová budova Národního muzea, the New National Museum. Another building that is part of the National Museum in Prague. It occupies the former National Assembly building.

The building was constructed between 1936 and 1937 and designed by Jaroslav Rössler to house the Stock Exchange. After its abolition in 1948, it became the National Assembly and then the Federal Assembly.

The National Museum was installed here in 2006.

Nová budova Národního muzea
Nová budova Národního muzea

Right next to it is the Státní opera, the Prague State Opera. The theatre was founded in 1888 as the New German Theatre (Neues deutsches Teather). It was built in neoclassical style by architect Alfonso Wertmüller.

In 1938 the German Theatre Society was dissolved and the theatre was sold to the Czechoslovak state. During the Nazi occupation, it was renamed Deutsches Opernhaus and performed only German plays.

After the war, a group of Czech artists promoted the creation of the 5 May Theatre and it opened in September 1945.

In 1949 it was renamed the Smetana Theatre, with special emphasis on ballet. After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, the theatre regained its independence from the National Opera and was renamed the State Opera.

Státní opera
Státní opera

And a little further north, on the same avenue, we find the railway station and its old façade. It was inaugurated on 14 December 1871. It was named Františka Josefa in honour of Franz Joseph I of Austria.

Between 1918 and 1939 it was called Wilson Station in honour of US President Woodrow Wilson.

Prague railway station

The beautiful Art Nouveau interior lobby was designed in 1909 by the Czech architect Josef Fanta.

Prague railway station

To get to the lobby, go to the left side of the station as you enter and go up to the first floor, where you will soon find signs.

On our way back to the centre we pass Jindřišská věž, the Jindřich Tower. It is the original bell tower of the church of St. Henry and St. Kunhuta?

It was built in Gothic style between 1472 and 1476. The clock was installed in 1577.

During the Siege of Prague in 1648 it served as a military guard post. It was heavily damaged by Swedish artillery.

During the siege by Prussian troops in 1757 it was further damaged. It was restored between 1876 and 1879 in the Neo-Gothic style by the architect Josef Mocker.

Today, the bell tower is leased to a private company that operates a restaurant, a viewing platform and a carillon.

Jindřišská věž

From here we went to Muzeum Komunismu, the Museum of Communism. A museum dedicated to the communist regime established in Czechoslovakia after the Second World War. It was opened in 2001.

Muzeum Komunismu

Taking advantage of the fact that there was a supermarket in the same building, we went in to get some sweets for a snack. We went with them to the hotel to rest a bit as we were exhausted.

After the rest we went out for a walk looking for something to eat. We went to a place called Restaurant Na Ovocném Trhu. It was a light dinner but it was very good and the service was also good and made good recommendations. The dinner cost us 535 CZK (23€), service not included.

Restaurant Na Ovocném Trhu
Restaurant Na Ovocném Trhu

After dinner we go for a cool walk back to the hotel to rest. Tomorrow is going to be a tough day.

NEXT ENTRY

Prague 2023 (II)

Second day in Prague. We get up early to make the most of the day and are surprised to find that the snow has set. There is not much. Mostly in gardens and on rooftops, but it was going to be a different sight. But we had to hurry because it was not going to last long.

Staroměstské náměstí
Staroměstské náměstí

March 26th

We went out into the street. It’s freezing cold: -3ºc with a wind chill of -9ºc. But it’s worth the spectacle.

We go for a walk back to Charles Bridge. There the views are amazing. Another view of the previous day.

Prague
Mount Petřín
Mount Petřín

We head towards the castle, stopping at every moment to take photos and videos.

prague

As we had not yet had breakfast, we bought a trdelník at a place that had been recommended to us. It is a sweet of Hungarian origin, although it is called Kürtőskalács there, which we tried in Romania. It’s like a kind of rolled pastry that in Romania (read the travel diary here) they used to grill it.

In Prague you can find it everywhere, although it’s made on a gas cooker.

Trdelnik

We climb the 200 steps of Zámecké schody and at the top, more spectacle.

Prague

Now we are going to Prague’s castle, Pražský hrad.

Pražský hrad was built in the 9th century. It was the residence of the Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. Later presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. It houses the Bohemian Crown Jewels.

The last renovation was carried out by architect Jože Plečnik between 1920 and 1934. It was commissioned by the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Masaryk.

There are several noteworthy features within the complex, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The main gate, guarded by Sousoší Souboj Titánů, is striking. This is translated as a statue of Titans Fighting. They are the work of sculptor Ignác František Platzer, who made them between 1761 and 1762.

Pražský hrad
Pražský hrad

We went straight to the entrance to the site, which is free of charge. But to access some of the monuments you have to pay. We pass a strict security check and we are inside.

Pražský hrad

We cross the first gate into a large courtyard, Druhé nádvoří Pražského hradu.

Druhé nádvoří Pražského hradu means Second Courtyard of Prague Castle. In the centre of the courtyard is the Kohlova kašna, the Fountain of Khol. It was made by sculptor Hieronymus Kohl and stonemason Francesco Bartolomeo della Torre in 1686.

Kohlova kašna, the Fountain of Khol
Kohlova kašna, the Fountain of Khol

The square is also home to Kaple svatého Kříže, the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The original chapel was built between 1756 and 1767 by Anselm Martin Lurag. It is built in the Baroque and Clacistic styles.

Between 1852 and 1856 the interior was modified by order of the new Emperor Ferdinand V.

Between 1960 and 1963, the chapel was converted into an exhibition hall for the Treasury of St. Vitus. From 1990 it was used for tourist information. In 2012 it was restored as the exhibition hall of the Treasury of St. Vitus.

Kaple svatého Kříže, the Chapel of the Holy Cross
Kaple svatého Kříže, the Chapel of the Holy Cross

We cross the next gate and come face to face with the spectacular west façade of Katedrála Sv. Víta, the Cathedral of St. Vitus.

The cathedral was built between 1344 and 1420 and is the greatest example of Gothic art in the city. The project was designed by the French architect Matthias of Arras.

A Romanesque rotunda (a temple, not the one for vehicles) and a basilica once stood on this site. Both were dedicated to St. Vitus.

Katedrála Sv. Víta, the Cathedral of St. Vitus
Katedrála Sv. Víta, the Cathedral of St. Vitus

It was the site of the coronation of all the kings of Bohemia. All the holy bishops, archbishops and many kings are also buried here.

The cathedral has been owned by the Czech state since the beginning of its construction.

The west façade is the oldest of the building. It is decorated with statues of fourteen saints, one of King Charles IV and one of his architects.

Opposite the front façade of the cathedral are the ticket offices. This is where we bought our tickets for the cathedral and the castle.

You can choose between different types of tickets. We bought the basic ticket. For 250 CZK (10,50€). It includes the former Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, the Golden Alley and the cathedral.

Pražský hrad ticket
Pražský hrad ticket

For an additional 200 CZK (8.40€) it includes two exhibitions: the history of the castle and a photo gallery. Another 150 CZK (6.30€) and you also get a climb up the cathedral tower. If you want the full package you have to fork out 600 CZK (25€), which I think is a real bargain.

We have to say that ticket prices in Prague are really expensive. Much more expensive than in the other countries we have been to. If you want to get into all the sites… save, save a lot.

After buying the entrance ticket, we went to the third courtyard. There you will find Archiv Pražského hradu, the archive of Prague Castle, created in 1920.

Archiv Pražského hradu, the archive of Prague Castle
Archiv Pražského hradu, the archive of Prague Castle

But the most impressive feature of the square is the south façade of the cathedral. Here we find the Golden Door, which owes its name to the red and gold background of the mosaics. It is the work of Niccoletto Semitecolo and depicts the Last Judgement.

Katedrála Sv. Víta, the Cathedral of St. Vitus

This façade was the main entrance for 5 centuries. The entrance to the main tower is also located here. This was built in 1770 by Peter Parler. It is 99 m high and is crowned by a Renaissance dome by Pacassi.

Katedrála Sv. Víta, the Cathedral of St. Vitus

This courtyard is also the site of the socha sv. Jiří s kašnou, the statue of St. George. It was made in bronze in 1373 by the Saxon sculptors Martin and Georg from “Clussenberch” (Cluj-Napoca, in present-day Romania).

The statue was originally placed in Bratislava, Slovakia. Later it travelled to Königgrätz in Bohemia. It finally landed in Prague in 1471.

socha sv. Jiří s kašnou, the statue of St. George
socha sv. Jiří s kašnou, the statue of St. George

This is also the location of Býčí schodiště, the Bull’s Staircase. It connects the Third Courtyard of Prague Castle with the Na Valech Garden. It was designed by the castle architect Josip Plečnik in 1927.

Býčí schodiště, the Bull's Staircase
Býčí schodiště, the Bull’s Staircase

Next to the gate to the Old Royal Palace is Orlí kašna, the Eagle Fountain. It was originally part of the fountain created in 1662 by the sculptor Francesco Caratti. He placed a sculpture of St. George with a dragon on top.

A group of dolphins were placed on the column but were stolen. After the theft, an eagle was placed on the column. It was later replaced by a gilded copper ball with lead nozzles, designed by Josip Plečnik.

Orlí kašna, the Eagle Fountain
Orlí kašna, the Eagle Fountain

Now we enter Starý královský palác, the Old Royal Palace. The original residential building was built at Prague Castle as early as the 9th-10th centuries. It was made almost entirely of wood, but its exact location is unknown.

In the 12th century, the new residence was built in the Romanesque style on the orders of Prince Soběslav.

At the beginning of the 14th century, Charles IV extended the Romanesque building to create a Gothic palace. His son, Wenceslas IV, added two perpendicular wings and the Chapel of All Saints was rebuilt.

Starý královský palác, the Old Royal Palace
Starý královský palác, the Old Royal Palace

During the 15th century it was abandoned for 80 years. In 1483 King Vladislav Jagiello returns to the castle and begins the last large-scale reconstruction of the palace.

We enter the palace and next to the gift shop is Vladislav’s Bedroom. Built in 1490, it served as an audience hall.

Leaving the souvenir shop, we enter the enormous Vladislavský sál, the Vladislav Hall. It was built between 1490 and 1502 by Benedikt Rejt and measures 62 x 16 metres and is thirteen metres high.

Since the 16th century it has been the scene of coronation feasts and banquets. It has also been the scene of knights’ tournaments and markets with artistic and luxury goods.

Vladislavský sál, the Vladislav Hall
Vladislavský sál, the Vladislav Hall.

On the right side is a door leading to the Ludvík wing with several rooms. This wing was remodelled by Rudolf II of Habsburg (1552 – 1612) for the Imperial Court Council.

On 23 May 1618, Vilém Slavat of Chlum and Košumberk and Jaroslav Bořita of Martinice, two regional rulers, were thrown out of the window, together with the scribe Fabritius. This was called the Defenestration of Prague.

Starý královský palác, the Old Royal Palace

Adjoining the Vladislav Hall at the other end is the Diet. The furnishings inside give an idea of how the Diet developed after 1627.

Starý královský palác, the Old Royal Palace

A little further on we find a portal with stairs leading upwards. Here you will find Zemské desky, the rooms of the land records. Here you will find all the documents of land property records that survived the Great Fire.

Starý královský palác, the Old Royal Palace

Another room is decorated with painted coats of arms of the highest officials of the Kingdom of Bohemia.

Starý královský palác, the Old Royal Palace

This concludes our visit to the Old Royal Palace in Prague.

We leave and make our way to the west square of the castle, Náměstí U Svatého Jiří. Here the cathedral delights us with its rear façade.

The square is also the site of Carratiho kašna, the Carrati Fountain. It used to house the statue of St. George. The original base was moved to the third courtyard, where it is now the Orlí kašna fountain.

The present fountain dates from 1840. Until 1928 it was located next to the Old Royal Palace.

To the southwest of the square is the Tereziánský ústav šlechtičen, the Institution of Noble Ladies of Prague Castle. Also known as the Royal Teresian Institution of Noble Ladies of Prague Castle.

It was founded by Empress Maria Theresa in 1755. The institution occupied the so-called Rosenberg Palace as well as the Gothic All Saints’ Chapel. On 1 May 1919, the government of the newly created Czechoslovak Republic decreed the dissolution of the institution.

Today the building is used for various purposes, such as the Archives of the Office of the President of the Republic.

Tereziánský ústav šlechtičen, the Institution of Noble Ladies of Prague Castle
Tereziánský ústav šlechtičen

And in the far west, Bazilika svatého Jiří, St. George’s Basilica. Another attraction for which we have a ticket.

It was created as the second church of Prague Castle. Only the foundations of the original building founded around 920 by Prince Vratislav I have been preserved.

With the foundation of the monastery in 973 the church was rebuilt and enlarged.

After a devastating fire in 1142, the church was rebuilt in the Romanesque style. In the first half of the 13th century, the Chapel of St. Ludmila and the entrance portico on the west side were added.

The present appearance is the result of a reconstruction between 1887 and 1908, in an attempt to restore its 12th century Romanesque appearance.

Bazilika svatého Jiří, St. George's Basilica
Bazilika svatého Jiří, St. George's Basilica

The remains of St Ludmila of Bohemia have been buried here since the 11th century. After the great fire of 1142, the remains were relocated behind the high altar.

At the back of the church is the chapel of St. Ludmila.

Bazilika svatého Jiří, St. George's Basilica

The basilica also houses the Chapel of St. John of Nepomuk, built between 1717 and 1722. The chapel was consecrated on 10 May 1722 by St. Vitus canon Jan Rudolf Špork.

The remains of (supposedly) St. Theodora are preserved under the altar.

Chapel of St. John of Nepomuk
Chapel of St. John of Nepomuk
Remains of Saint Theodora
Remains of Saint Theodora

We finish our visit to the basilica and set off again. We head towards Zlatá ulička u Daliborky, the Golden Lane.

Zlatá ulička u Daliborky was built at the end of the 16th century, originally to house the twenty-four guards of Emperor Rudolf II of Habsburg (1555 – 1612) and their families.

The alley owes its name to the goldsmiths who later lived here. Famous writers such as Franz Kafka and the Nobel laureate Jaroslav Seifert lived here for a short period of time.

Zlatá ulička u Daliborky, the Golden Lane
Zlatá ulička u Daliborky, the Golden Lane

Since 2011, an exhibition dedicated to its history from 1600 to 1956 has been on display in the alley.

Zlatá ulička u Daliborky, the Golden Lane

The walk became very special as the snow fell on us.

As it was early and we didn’t have a reservation until 2 o’clock for lunch, we decided to have a coffee. We did so at a place called Vikárka Restaurant. Big mistake. Extremely slow service. Almost an hour for coffee. We had to run.

The entrance to the cathedral was included in the basic pass.

One of the elements I liked the most was the Chapel of St. Wenceslas. It is Gothic in style and was built between 1362 and 1367. It was consecrated before Charles IV.

It is located in the same place where the Rotunda of St. Vitus stood, where St. Wenceslas was executed. The impressive paintings date from 1509.

Katedrála Sv. Víta

The spectacular tomb of St. John of Nepomuk, made of silver in 1736, is also a highlight. The goldsmiths were Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, Antonio Corradini and Jan Josef Würt.

tomb of St. John of Nepomuk
Tomb of St. John of Nepomuk
Katedrála Sv. Víta

After the visit to the cathedral, we set off at a brisk pace for the restaurant we had booked. The place in question is called Pork’s. It is a place specialising in pork with a very small menu where the roast knuckle is the star.

We arrived at the place by the skin of our teeth. There was a long queue, although it was for those without a reservation. We went in, looked for our reservation and… surprise! we had made it for the next day. Even so, the guy sits us down. The place is huge and has about a million tables.

The food was over the top good and it’s not expensive. But we ordered too much…

Pork's

In case you can’t tell from my expression, it looked like butter. And for dessert: beer ice cream.

beer ice cream in Pork's

In total we spent 1,020 CZK (44.35€), but we had ordered food for 3 people.

With our stomachs full (and beyond) we headed to our next destination. We visited the Muzeum Karlova mostu, the Charles Bridge Museum. The entrance is included in the castle pass.

In the museum you can learn about the history of Prague’s most famous bridge. From its construction to the present day, including its restorations. In the basement you can see part of the foundations of the old Judith Bridge on display.

Interesting… but only if you have time.

Muzeum Karlova mostu, the Charles Bridge Museum
Muzeum Karlova mostu

After the visit to the museum we set off for the Dancing House. Although there were actually several things of note during this one.

Like the otters… yes, the otters. The water rats. An invasive species that arrived from South America and has colonised most of the country. The Czech state is trying to wipe them out, but tourists and many locals feed them. It is an invasive species that threatens the endemic ecosystem. So the best thing to do is NOT TO FEED them.

otters in Prague

But let’s get down to business, we come to Most Legií, the Legion Bridge. It was built between 1898 and 1901 by architect Antonín Balšánek and engineer Jiří Soukup.

This bridge replaced the old chain bridge that operated from 1841 and 1898.

Most Legií, the Legion Bridge
Most Legií, the Legion Bridge

Národní divadlo, the National Theatre, is located next to the bridge. In 1844, the Czech politician František Palacký proposed the construction of a large theatre in parliament. It was to house the nascent Czech National Opera.

Construction did not begin until 1868 and was completed in 1877. The architect was Josef Zítek.

It was opened on 11 June 1881 with a performance of Bedřich Smetana’s opera Libuše. It was used for the visit of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria.

In 1977 it was closed for extensive restoration. It reopened on 18 November 1983, again with a performance of Libuše.

Národní divadlo, the National Theatre
Národní divadlo, the National Theatre

A little further south we find Palác Žofín, the Žofín Palace. It is a neo-Renaissance chateau located on Slovanský Island in the Moldova River.

In 1830, the island, then called Barvířský ostrov, was bought by a prosperous miller. He built this chateau there between 1836 and 1837. It was named after Princess Sophia, mother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I (King of Hungary and Bohemia).

In 1925 it was renamed Slovanský ostrov to commemorate the Prague Slavic Congress of 1848.

In 1884, the city of Prague bought the island, including the palace, which was reconstructed as a two-storey building. The exterior and interior were renovated between 1991 and 1994.

Palác Žofín, the Žofín Palace
Palác Žofín, the Žofín Palace

At the southern tip of the island, but actually in the middle of the river, is Šítkovská vodárenská věž. It is a water tower built at the end of the 15th century. It was built to replace the old wooden one from 1495, which burnt down in 1501. After the fire, it was rebuilt in wood, which burnt down again in 1588.

Between 1588 and 1591 the current one was built. In 1641 it was severely damaged during the Swedish siege of Prague. It was repaired in 1651.

The tower served as a central water supply. It distributed water by gravity to the fountains and houses in the New Town and the Old Town. It served this purpose until 1847.

Close by is Tančící dům, the Dancing House. Built between 1992 and 1996, it is a deconstructivist building. The design is the work of the Czech-Croatian architect Vlado Milunić.

It was a controversial design as it clashes with the beautiful Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings in the area. It is curious, but it is really ugly as hell.

The building houses a hotel, a gallery, a restaurant and a bar. It’s just another tourist attraction for Instagram…

Tančící dům, the Dancing House
Tančící dům, the Dancing House

This building is just across the street and is actually much nicer:

Prague

We rest for a while and then set off for our next destination. This is a free tour of the mysteries and legends of Prague.

On the way, we take a short detour to the Deymovský palác, the Deymovský Palace. On its façade we find another of David Černý’s sculptures: Three women on a house.

These are three statues of women engaged in different activities.

From here straight to the free tour. It was a marvellous experience. Dani, the guide, you can tell he lives it with passion. Highly recommended.

After the free tour we left totally exhausted for the hotel. But first we had to have dinner. We did so at the Palladium, in a sandwich franchise called Bageterie Boulevard. They weren’t bad but they were nothing special. Dinner cost us 418 CZK (18€).

After dinner we retired to the hotel to rest. Tomorrow we have to get up early for an excursion.