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05 September 2014 @ 08:46 pm
I went to Prague for the European Conference on Artificial Intelligence. I did not get ripped off by any taxi drivers - the websites I consulted about an hour before I left for the airport warned strenuously against trusting taxi drivers in Prague but it was too late, by that point, to order the hotel shuttle service to pick me up. As it was I ordered a taxi from a booth at the airport for a firm the Internet grudgingly allowed to be usually OK and was ferried to my hotel for a third of the price the shuttle service would have charged.

My schedule was pretty packed but, having established that the conference dinner was on the opposite side of Prague to the hotel, I decided there was probably time between the final conference session of the day and the dinner for about an hour's wander, particularly if I took the metro to the city centre. As it was I got a bit confused about timings, missed the final session of the day and found myself in the centre of Prague with about three hours to kill - just as most tourist attractions shut for the evening. However I was armed with the Lonely Planet guide book that my boss had thrust into my hands as I was leaving Liverpool.

You are spared most of my photos because my iPhone really wasn't up to the light conditions.

I reached the Staroměstské máněstí (Old Town Square) just before five. It was on the guide book's list of 21 things not to miss. There was quite a crowd gathered in front of this clock so I figured it was probably about to do something. And indeed it was. Various figures duly processed representing, according to the guide book, the apostles, the four threats to Prague (Death, Vanity, Jews and Turks apparently), before a cockerel appeared and flapped his wings.

I then ambled along to Karlův most (Charles Bridge) over the Vltava where I took some rather dingy photos of the river, before heading up to Prague castle.

As well as the usual bus and horse drawn city tours you can see in a lot of places, Prague was obviously keen on Vintage car tours.

The castle was guarded by two figures I was initially absolutely convinced were waxworks until, it being nearly 6pm by this point, I realised that a crowd was gathering to watch them. The guide book revealed that they were presidential sentries wearing uniforms designed by the Oscar winning costume designer (winning the Oscar for Amadeus). The guard was apparently changed hourly so I hung around, sitting on the steps in front of a statue of Masaryk, while new sentries solemnly marched out of the castle and changed places with the ones already there. It was not, to be honest, as entertaining as the clock.

Initially he was wearing sunglasses, I think that didn't help my impression that he was a waxwork.

The castle itself was a series of courtyards and all the buildings were closed, but I still spent a pleasant hour wandering around them.

Outside the Cathedral

A Courtyard

The Zlatá ulička (Golden Lane) which is, apparently, terribly crowded at other times of day. All the little houses appeared to be shops where, presumably at other times, one could pay exhorbitant prices for souvenirs.

And at one end of the Golden Lane there were canon and siege engines under tree.

From the gardens one got various views of Prague

This is the Starý královský palác (Old Royal Palace) from which the second defenestration of Prague took place, starting the Thirty Years War. The guide book claimed there was some controversy about which window the two Catholic governors were thrown from, though it said they were in it the Bohemian Chancellery in the south west corner of the hall. My guess (given I only had access from the outside) was that it must be one of the second floor windows in this jutty-outty bit.

The guide book claimed there were two sandstone obelisks to commenorate the defenestration, but I could only find one.

This presidential sentry, I felt, was considerably less upright and formal than the ones at the gate.

The rest of the castle area was also very grand having, apparently, been completely rebuilt by the nobility following a fire in 1541.

I observed funky wall decorations.

Before making my way to the Strahovský klášter, a Premonstratensian monastery. This had managed to keep itself open after Bohemia's own dissolution of the monasteries by rebranding itself a library, but was eventually shut down by the communists. It reopened when the iron curtain fell.

The guide book claimed that the entrance was topped by a statue of St. Norbert, twelth century founder of the Premonstratensian order.

A monk!

Around this point I decided it was probably time to make my way to the dinner which I'd noted was somewhere west of the castle. I plugged the address into my iPhone and was a bit surprised to be told I was there already. The name "Monastery Restaurant" should, in retrospect, have been a clue.

We had a buffet accompanied by buxom Czech wenches who wandered about with six or seven jugs of beer clasped in their hands and genuine Czech music which was a bit too loud to enable easy conversation.

No buxom wenches, but a grainy photo of Czech musicians and Computer Scientists

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/126181.html.
fredbassettfredbassett on September 5th, 2014 08:15 pm (UTC)
Looks a bit like the tour of Prague Bigtich and I had in may. We loved it there. had three nights, flying in Thursday morning and out late Sunday evening. We covered a lot of miles every day, and had a lot of fun. It's a lovely city.

You did well seeing the castle complex etc when it wasn't heaving.

Did you get into the monastery to see the libraries with the painted ceilings? they were fab. We were spotting locations from The Musketeers while we were there. The libraries were a lucky find.
louisedennislouisedennis on September 5th, 2014 08:19 pm (UTC)
I didn't see inside anything. It was pretty clear Prague basically closed up shop at 5pm (well apart from the bars and restaurants). I was pretty lucky that the castle still allowed you to wander around the grounds, though as you note, that did mean I got to see them without too many crowds milling around.
fredbassettfredbassett on September 5th, 2014 08:33 pm (UTC)
The views from up there were fabulous!

I was very taken with the city.
bigtitchbigtitch on September 6th, 2014 06:51 am (UTC)
As Fred said, we had a brilliant time in Prague. I was less impressed with the clock, but we were off to one side, so maybe didn't get the same view as you.

We managed to visit the scene of both the Defenestrations (the first one by accident). I loved the vintage car tours going past.

I want to go back!
louisedennislouisedennis on September 6th, 2014 03:42 pm (UTC)
The guide book (which I realise now was a Rough Guide, not a Lonely Planet) didn't enlighten me on the location of the first defenestration. I love the fact that Prague has had two defenestrations though!!!
bigtitchbigtitch on September 6th, 2014 03:59 pm (UTC)
I just love the fact that chucking people out of windows required i's own name!
louisedennislouisedennis on September 6th, 2014 04:13 pm (UTC)
I love that too!
the little creep: sidewisenyarbaggytep on September 6th, 2014 05:23 pm (UTC)
Oooh lovely!
louisedennislouisedennis on September 7th, 2014 02:56 pm (UTC)
It looked like a lovely city and it would have been nice to explore some of the art galleries and things earlier in the day. I got the impression it could be a bit tiresome later in the evening though - lots of stag parties.