Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Prague Quest Continues

Our second day in Prague was a time to wander and explore. We had three goals, two of which we achieved. The unfinished quest will draw us back to Prague. 

We slept long and well.  The breakfast at Unitas Hotel was just as wonderful as the previous day.  The offerings welcome the breakfast tastes of many cultures. In addition to cereal, eggs, breads and croissants, there are fried tomatoes, stuffed mushrooms, pickled herring, lox, wafer-thin smoked meats, five kinds of juice, fresh fruits and the most splendid Wald Honig you can imagine. Peter said it was from bees who drank dark beer and did Slavonic dances. 

We headed back to the city center, following the route we had taken the previous night to the Nuances restaurant. Slowing wending our way through the cobblestone streets, we admired the crystal, the garnate jewelry and the inventive puppets. We arrived in front of the Old Town Hall with fifteen minutes to wait for the Astronomical Clock to chime and show the twelve apostles.  They processed briefly and the show was a bit anticlimactic, but now we know. 

The memorial to Jan Hus was more impressive. He is still seen as a political figure as well as a Christian reformer. In the 15th century, he stood against the Catholic rulers and their influence from Rome. He was a powerful speaker who preached and wrote in Czech and who was burned as a heretic at the Council of Constance in 1415, a century before Martin Luther. 

We sat on a bench at the base of the statue and people watched in the square. There were groups of tourists, obediently following their guides, couples taking selfies, children in strollers, elderly folks with canes and walkers, even a bridal party posing for photos. We watched a trio busking for funds to take them to the Irish Dance competition in Ireland.  

And then we wandered by chance into the church of St. Nicolas. The enormous crystal chandelier sparkled in the sunlight. This Baroque building, which had several previous architectural incarnations was exquisite. We were captivated by the place and interested in the Hussite Church it represents.  If it had been Sunday would have attended a service. Since it was Tuesday we bought tickets for the 5 pm classical concert. 

Just around the corner was a cafe offering dark beer and risotto, so we stopped for lunch and reevaluated our afternoon to make sure we would be back in time for the concert. 

We returned to the 22 tram to get to the Strahov Library. Since the Unitas was on the way we stopped and used their clean bathrooms instead of waiting in line at the restaurant.  
We like trams. They remind us of the year we lived in Germany and depended on them every day. These cars were clean and modern and the 22 took us right where we wanted to go. 
It was one stop past the castle where we exited the tram to come upon two famous astronomers memorialized here: Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe

The Strahov Library was everything we had hoped. The two enormous, beautiful rooms full of books were visible from the doorways. No one was permitted in, but we admired from a distance. In the elaborate cabinets we admired illuminated manuscripts.  There were 15th century copies of both Old Testsment and New Testament Bibles in Czech. This was the influence Jan Hus had. He had even introduced innovations in Czech spelling in an effort to make the Bible accessible to the Bohemian

It was 4 o'clock when we caught the tram back and so we dismounted close to the Charles Bridge so we could go straight to the concert at the St Nicolas Church.  

The light was much better this time across the bridge. We found the crucifix with the Hebrew words mentioned in our guidebook. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Hosts. 
There were a group of Asian tourists, seemingly Buddhist, perhaps Tibetan. A group of them asked Peter to take their photo. They were having a wonderful time on the bridge, and when it game time to regroup, they all sat in a line on the curb to await instructions. 

We made it to the church with plenty of time to spare. The program was magical. The organ filled the space and a mezzo soprano sang with velvet tones.  The program included works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Mendelsohn and Dvorak. Our souls were moved as we sat and listened in the evening sunlight. 
We headed back to the hotel, looking for the perfect place to eat, and we found it. Peter had a hunch and it turned out great. The pub/restaurant was like an old style brasserie. At the entrance people were drinking lots of Pilsner Urquelle. We followed the stairs down to a large hall where pretzels hung on racks at the tables. Peter ordered pasta and I had goulash with mugs of beer. Our dessert was tart, hot raspberries over vanilla ice cream. When we turned down coffee because we needed to sleep our waiter brought a wonderful digestif which reminded me of the herbal taste of chartreuse. 

Time to turn back to our hotel to pack, finish postcards and prepare for our morning trip to Berlin. A perfect end to a fabulous day. The one site we missed was the modern sculpture of Franz Kafka. That will be our quest the next time we come to Prague. 

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