Seeking

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is a city with a long history and many dramatic buildings.

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Prague Castle, up on the hill

I’m pretty sure that is live music, as they closed the windows when it finished. Perhaps a daily opening ceremony?

That’s old Prague. On the Charles Bridge, this is the new world:

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All strings rock and roll.

Prague has an extensive and excellent system of public transit, subways, trams, and buses. The signs are understated. Down arrows mean a subway station:

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The subways are very deep, so you have to take some dizzyingly steep, long escalator rides down to get to them:

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And the Prague escalators are the fastest I’ve ever seen! In the USA, we seem to make the escalators and people movers at airports very slow, in the name of (perhaps) fending off personal injury lawsuits. As a result, in most airports, you can, at a fast walk, get there faster outside the people mover than on it. In Singapore, that is not so. They have a lot of people to move, and faster escalators double the throughput of the system. That is my personal preference. That said, wow, you have to step lively on and off these Prague escalators!
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They get you down to a clean, modern, fast subway system

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A historic tram on the right, a sleek modern one on the left. I like cities with extensive tram networks. Something about hopping a tram, it’s not rational, it’s a feeling thing, I just like them! The sounds, the smooth ride, the chance to see the shops up close as you wind around town. Trams are fun. I like getting a week or month transit pass, so I can just hop on or off any bus, tram or subway without bothering to stand in line to get a ticket.

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The ‘old city’ area of Prague near the Charles Bridge has gotten rather touristy, with way too many souvenir shops and mobs of tourists in season.

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I avoided that as much as possible, and declined to stand in a two hour line to get into Prague Castle. But walk up the hills, or head out from the center a bit, and you soon lose the crowds and can enjoy the plentiful parks, old windy cobblestone streets and sidewalk cafes where locals sit and socialize.

In 200 year old Letensky Park on the hill above the Moldau River (as the Germans called it), now in Czech called the Vltava River, I saw this sign in a park side cafe:

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My friend in Munich was extolling the flavors of mushrooms in season, so I had to stop.

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Here’s what less than $10 USD including tip can get you in Prague. A ‘truffle lasagne’ with salad and bread, plus half a liter of Pilsner Urquell beer. Delicious. Of course, you can pay less in the neighborhoods, or a lot more in the touristy old town restaurants. But in general, you get a very good deal on food in Prague.

Letensky Park has a big patio area behind the giant ‘metronome’, and it has become a simple skateboarding area of sorts with the approval of the city. Kids were also doing bike tricks:


Andre, who drove over from Bavaria with friends, brought his bike and was one of the best.
And you can meet interesting people in cafes if you are bold enough to just go over and say hello:

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From Jamaica

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From Holland. Who does she remind you of?

I started out taking portraits of people to earn money in college. I kept doing it out of interest, part of my love of cultural anthropology. If you share my interest in how faces reflect our humanity, there is a link in the ‘Links’ tab with a collage of some of the interesting people I have photographed.

 

imageI liked Cafe Ullman, and went back several times. Once there was a wedding reception there, and I saw a quaint traditional Czech wedding custom, the breaking of a plate, which led me to learn this about Czech weddings:

“Traditionally the bridesmaids make a wreath of rosemary for the bride to wear—it symbolizes the wish for wisdom, love, and loyalty. In the Czech Republic the tradition of wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue is strictly followed; however, the borrowed item must belong to a friend who is already married and the something old must be a family heirloom.

After the ceremony, friends of the groom would hang a rope decorated by flowers, ribbons, and empty bottles. The groom needed to pay his friends in order to pass through the rope and pay himself out of the sins of his youth. Throwing rice at the newlyweds was a way to ensure fertility.

To start off the reception, someone in the wedding party would break a plate at the feet of the bride and groom. The newlyweds would then proceed to sweep the chips together to insure happiness and show a willingness to work together. (What I saw)

Another tradition to symbolize the couple’s willingness to work together occurs during the dinner when the bride and groom share their soup with one spoon.

Towards the middle of the party, the groomsmen will kidnap the bride and the groom must find her within a specific period of time, otherwise he must buy her back from his friends, to symbolize the fact that he has promised to care for and protect her. At the end of the reception, following the Czech wedding song, the bride’s veil and the groom’s shoes were carried around by the best man and maid of honor so that guests could put in some money for the honeymoon.”

Violins are so much a part of Prague, resting place of Smetana. You can find just about any kind of busking music in Prague, from violins to Dixieland jazz.

Enough talk. Here are visual impressions:

Prague has lots of museums. The National Museum (modern art) is particularly interesting. They even have one large Andy Warhol. I was not a Warhol fan until I saw his dramatic series of animal portraits that hang in a hallway of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Here is a collage of some of the art of Prague:

On a sunny Saturday morning, I took the subway out to a suburban park (Prague has a great many large parks), and set about hiking. Soon, I was in a deep forested valley, walking beside a stream. Other than occasional mountain bikers or other walkers, it was quiet and serene. After many miles, I came out where the stream enters the Moldau River. Here are some scenes along the way:

Prirodni Park, Prague

 

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3 thoughts on “Prague, Czech Republic

  1. Tidewater

    What a lovely portrait of the city. The musical excerpts here lend it a special quality. I am ready to hop a plane tomorrow!

  2. Diane and Bob Allen

    Hi Mel!
    No sure if you’ll get this but I’ll try.
    LOVE the Prague pictures~~thats definitely a bucket list item for us.
    I got the blog address from Sonja. I managed to delete the contact info some how.
    I’m not very tech savvy but I’m trying.
    Keep the pics coming~~they are beautiful!!!!!
    Your pals,
    Bob and Diane

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