We started our last full day in Prague–Christmas, proper–with another yummy Miss Sophie’s breakfast, which Penn “witnessed” a la Mad Max: Fury Road. As you can see, his sister is now immune to such displays.
Thanks to some great directions by MS desk clerk Ruben, we skipped the underground and took the tram. Prague trams criss-cross the city, taking tight curves and cobblestones in stride. The same ticket that covers the underground can be used on the tram. As our proximity might suggest, the tram was packed on Christmas day, and one of our fellow passengers was the previously mentioned dude with a dog in one hand and a pizza in the other. Oh, Prague.
We knew we were at the Castle when we saw this sign ..
Oh, wait, I meant, this sign …
which I’m certain says, “Welcome to Prague Castle!” Either that, or “Keep on dancing, brightly jacketed American boy.”
The Castle grounds are home to the multiple buildings that were once protected by the fortress-like walls that marked the royal territory. In the distance, you can see the most prominent of these buildings: St. Vitus Cathedral. Today, the Prague government still maintains offices in the complex, and the walk up to it reveals more of the multi-faceted beauty of Prague. By the way, those guards, like all “polizei” we would see on our trip were seriously armed, as in semi-automatic weapons armed. Eastern Europe does not believe in community policing concepts.
Throughout the trip, we would see several cathedrals, but none was a starkly beautiful as St. Vitus: imposing and gothic with soaring interiors lit by richly colored stained glass. I mean, even on the initial approach, you can tell this is a cathedral that doesn’t play:
So, of course, we took a selfie in front of it.
I took about thirty pictures inside the cathedral. The scale of it was just so dramatic and the dozens of stained glass windows sparkling with design and color lit up the dark, heavy, grey interior. You could feel the damp and chill, which made it even more stark and serious.
The cathedral is filled with ornate metal work–gold and silver that add to the weight of the place. One section in particular looks like a movie special effect stopped in time. Silver censers float mid-air near a dusty red canopy held aloft by human-size angels. The canopy offers shade for a massive silver and gold centerpiece of cherubs, thick garlands, and more. It all appears as if a mysterious ceremony was caught in time, waiting to be unbewitched.
We’re not religious people, but St. Vitus Cathedral drew us in and keep us for some time. The cathedral’s marble seemed to retain and enhance the day’s cold with the sun trickling in through shards of colored glass that let in the light but kept out the warmth. At times, we could see our breath, which made it seem like we had traveled to a time when heat was a luxury. It wasn’t hard to imagine winters hundreds of years ago when the residents of Prague Castle made their way to pay tribute to the relics of saints, to have the stories embedded in the stained glass come to life in deep intonations of religious leaders, to breathe in the cold air heavy with incense.
Walking out of the Cathedral, we wandered right into a mini-Christmas market. More pastries, sausages, kabobs? Yes, please! We also picked up a killer potato soup and some bizarre blue Fanta that was orange-lilac flavored. Harper said it tasted like the smell of soap.
Fortified with excellent Prague fair food, we explored the remainder of the fortress. From the oldest part of the castle, we surveyed all of our kingdom below:
We chased history (and a very, very drunk British guy who was advising passersby not to get their “knickers in a twist”) down narrow, cobblestoned streets. These are like the ur-concrete caverns, bounded not by skyscrapers but by the brick and stucco walls of history. Imagine these small spaces teeming with people, animals, vendors, and more. Wow!
As day turned to night, the blue of Prague’s sky once more became cinematic. Seriously, the light here is insanely captivating. At one point, it looked like St. Vitus was against a blue screen. Penn advised that I photoshop in laser cats. I declined–while I’m not religious, there’s no reason to tempt fate.
As you might guess, our kids are drawn to up-lights like moths to flames that will allow them to look demonic. Moth kids do this kind of stuff, too, don’t they?
We felt dorky directing these photos until people started copying us. Always the trendsetters!
Then it was time to say ‘night to the castle and head back to the apartment.
We had lots of plans for dinner but a day of weaving in and out of ancient buildings and meandering down slim streets left us too tired to be imaginative. So, we did take away pizzas, got in another game of Shanghai, and watched some more inscrutable Prague TV before calling it a night. We were ready to sleep for in the ‘morrow we were off for Nuremberg. Our dreams were filled with the adventures of a fearless family who had great fun storming the castle.