The biggest decision about Prague was how will we fit in all the things I wanted to do in only 4 days! No grass growing under our feet, each day we took private tours, visited museums, ate at Michelin restaurants and enjoyed Charles Bridge once the weekend was over and all the visitors, apparently from Poland, went home.
After spending time in the Wellenstein gardens and seeing the Senate Parliament building next door to our hotel, the Marriott Augustine, the following morning we had a private city tour. Prague is fairly spread out so having a driver who was also a licensed tour guide fit the bill as far as seeing the typical sights.
Just like other former soviet countries, a lot of work had to be done to bring the city back to it’s former glory. The 1989 Velvet Revolution resulted in Czechoslovakia’s independence from the Soviet Union. Because of communism, the buildings and historical sites were in disarray and decay but today the city is beautiful, vibrant and a testament to the efforts of Czech citizens to restore their country. Czechoslovakia peacefully divided in 1993 into two independent countries, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Our guide picked us up at the hotel bright and early. It didn’t take long to realize that he was indecisive and his English wasn’t as good as he had advertised. I had, as always, done a lot of research about Prague and so when he kept asking us ‘what would you like to see’, and our answer back was ‘we would like to see what you had on the tour itinerary’ didn’t seem to help, we ended up taking it into our own hands and directing him. This was not the best start to our private tours but I don’t let poor guides stop the fun and learning!
St. Vitus Cathedral
Beautiful architecture can be found throughout Prague, but sitting above the city is the largest ancient castle in the world. The Prague Castle complex encompasses numerous buildings including St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George Basilica, the Old Royal Palace and much more.
The crowds on the weekend were crazy! Even locals said they didn’t know what was going on but eventually we discovered that Poland had a school vacation and that caused a huge tourist bump. Once the weekend ended, the crowds dissipated.
The backside of St. Vitus Cathedral is the oldest part of the building.
The Old Royal Palace is both Gothic and Renaissance built beginning in the 12th century. The first residence was built in the 9th century out of wood but the exact location is unknown. It is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic.
St. George’s Basillica dates to 920 and is the oldest surviving church building within Prague Castle.
The line to get into St. Vitus was over an hour wait and our guide had failed to purchase the ‘skip the line’ tickets, so we passed on going inside. Instead we headed to the quiet and uncrowded Loreta Monastery. I mean after all, they named it the same as me, so I ‘had’ to see it.
“My house” even though they spelled my name wrong!
This cute little chapel is a replica of the house of Mary where the original is in Loreto, Italy. The legend is that The Holy House of Mary was taken by angels from Nazareth to Loreto, Italy. This replica was built in 1626. It is also a place of pilgrimage just like the one in Loreto, Italy.
Inside the Chapel of Sorrows is the strangely featured crucified bearded lady. St. Starosta was crucified at the request of her father, the King of Portugal when she didn’t want to marry the King of Sicily. She prayed all night for intervention and awoke with a beard. The wedding, needless to say, was called off.
There are many treasures in the Loreta Monastery museum but my favorite, and probably the most beautiful, is known as the Prague Sun. With over 6200 diamonds, it is astoundingly beautiful. The diamonds were donated by Countess Ludmilla of Kolowrat and while it is not known for certain, the story is that the diamonds were a gift from her husband and sewn in her wedding dress. Her will requested the diamonds be included in a ‘monstrance’ which is a vessel that the sacramental bread is carried in during processions. It was completed in 1699 and transported from Vienna to Prague under cover of soldiers. Countess Ludmilla is buried in the Loretta compound.
Schonborn Palace, built in 1715 is currently the US Embassy. It is one of the few US embassies we’ve seen that is actually pretty – probably because the US Government didn’t build it but purchased it in 1925 for $117,000.
Old town was almost as packed and crazy as Prague Castle.
This Gothic church in Old Town, Church of Our Lady before Tyn, dates to the 14th century. It wasn’t open due to restoration work on the outside.
For over 250 years, the narrow brass line was used to tell time in Prague. From 1652, until a mob tore it down in 1918, the Marian column that cast its shadow was relied upon to determine high noon.
The medieval astronomical clock still works; making it the oldest functioning one in the world. The clock has had additions over the years but the oldest part was built in 1410. The clock is mounted on the Old Town Hall and draws a crowd near the top of each hour in order to see the ‘walk of the apostles’ and other sculptures, including a skeleton representing ‘death.’
Garnet is one of the country’s national treasures. Legend says that the stone will turn sadness to happiness and it wields mystical powers. In old town square the store Diamor Golden Crown was highly recommended to us for quality garnets and fair prices.
I had a lot of fun working with the owner to select pieces for my granddaughter, my daughter-in-law and myself. The dark ruby red stone is beautiful and a great addition to my jewelry! These pieces are set in white gold so the color of the stones is prominent. One thing that definitely happened as I put on my lovely necklace and earrings for dinner that night, I sure felt happy so I guess that legend is true!