08.08.2016 - 10.08.2016
No rest for the wicked! We were up and ready for action (relatively) early on Monday to make the most of our strategically-close-to-the-castle location. By 9.10am we were through the castle gate, and by 9.15 we had castle tickets (and a license to take photographs!) in our hot little hands. We toured The Story of Prague Castle, which was conveniently written in Czech AND English. I enjoyed some of the phrases used - especially when a dynasty was said to have "died out on the spear side". Just because something is written in English, doesn't necessarily mean it will make sense...
We then swanned around the Old Royal Palace, where I'm quite sure a policeman was following us. Next stop was back outside the gates to watch the changing of the guards, complete with parading soldiers and fanfare from the brass band. It was all rather stirring, and left us feeling patriotic for a country that we are in no way connected to. As far as we know...
We wandered back to our 'local' cafe for lunch and a rest from the growing crowds, and then threw ourselves back into it with great gusto. We smugly noted that the line to buy tickets had grown exponentially, and headed for the Basilica of St George and Golden Lane. The latter was hot and crowded - but not unbearably so. We discussed the merits of the various armour styles on display, were impressed by the shooting axes and sympathised with the poor souls held in the dungeons. Then it was time for some people watching, eavesdropping on Spanish tour guides and playing my new favourite game, called WATIP (Why Are They In Prague). The kids were an easy target - they are here because their parents dragged them along - but we also managed some fairly credible backstories for many of the adults who passed us by. Two newly married couples were having their photos taken, and both brides had made the fashion faux pas of mixing a white accessory with a cream dress. Or maybe that's allowed now?
Simon cooked dinner that night and we went out for dessert - fruit dumplings and beer ice cream. Both were better than expected, and absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious. Worth leaving the house for.
On Tuesday we returned to the castle to finish the job - we got into St Vitus Cathedral before the rest of the crowd had made it up hill from the city centre, and then admired the 'historicalising' Castle guard uniforms in the Powder Tower. We watched the changing of the guard again, but this time watched it in the rain instead of the blazing sunshine. Love the 'chin up' salute they give each other.
After all that excitement, we were due for a quiet afternoon of scheming and cheesecake. The two go together remarkably well.
Our scheming paid off on Wednesday, and we took ourselves on a day trip to Karlstejn instead of paying a tour group to do it. We walked into the city early, and went via the John Lennon wall, which we were able to admire all on our ownsome, only sharing it occasionally when someone walked past with a dog. Charles Bridge was practically deserted, except for some more newlyweds having photos taken. We were at the Astronomical Clock by 9am, which meant we could choose where we wanted to stand to se the apostles parade past the window.
We strolled down Wencelas Square and saw the memorial marking the place where Jan Palach set himself on fire in protest against the Soviet invasion - a fairly sobering reminder to appreciate democracy.
We caught the train to Karlstejn, and upon arrival we discovered that the dumplings were just as good as just as cheap here as they had been in Olomouc. They were a good fuel to help us walk up the steep hill through the village to Karlstejn Castle, where we booked a tour for later in the afternoon. The weather was pleasantly cool - ideal hill walking weather. We ventured back down into the village and paid 50 kc each to enter the Nativity Museum - money well spent! So many nativity scenes, so many disproportionately sized animals! There were several scenes made entirely of gingerbread, so the place smelled like Christmas. Nom nom nom.
As we returned uphill to the castle, the weather decided to turn. It rained. It poured. We sheltered under the arch at the entrance to the castle, and watched as it hailed. We checked our clocks as the thunder rolled around us. And five minutes before our tour started, it reduced to a mere drizzle. Phew. We climbed up to the fifth floor of the Great Tower (which had withstood being sieged by the Swedish army in the 17th century) and met Charles IV and admired the views of the countryside.
I had fried cheese on the way back down - because I didn't want to miss out on any of the local delicacies. It was like having a toasted cheese sandwich. Without the toast. Awesome.
The train took us back to Prague, and then our legs took us back to the monastery for our final dinner in the Czech Republic and after one last distant fireworks display it was time for our last sleep in Prague. Dekuji, Česká Republika.