3 days down, two to go and in these three days, it seemed we had seen the world, also at the same time realizing that there was so much to see and do, would we cover it all? The day started off with a visit to the Prague Castle, also known as the Hradcany Castle (based on the borough or district in which it is located), which is stated to be the biggest Castle in the world, dating back to the 9th Century. Seat of power of the Kings of yore, Roman emperors, presidents of Czechoslovakia, it currently acts as the official residence of President of the Czech Republic.
The Castle as one goes through seems monstrous and never ending. As with most Castles, the viewing areas were limited to certain sections, however one can gauge the size as one passes through the Royal Gardens, the Basilica of St. George and the St. Vitus Cathedral, all going back centuries. The Cathedral as most Cathedral or Churches are in Europe is yet another reminder of the artistry and vision that builders and engineers of yore had when building these monuments. They are by no means small, with the domes up a good 100 – 150 feet, and with mural glass all around, the light coming in shades and highlighting the details of the glass paintings, which have survived time. Surely, if one would look at doing this today, most would be machined and in mass, but looking at these, simply makes one wonder, what greatness existed in the past.
Passing by through the Castle, we headed through the Valdislav Hall, a room which was used for banquets, receptions, dating back to the Middle Ages. What was indeed astonishing was the fact that the room was long and wide enough to host tournaments between Knights! Impressive was the only word that came to mind. At the end of the Hallway was a small room, which apparently was akin to a small Parliament, where the King heard his ministers with the room built in a small theatre style. Currently this housed the Crown Jewels, and was interesting to hear from the guide that the main Jewel was from India! Surprising? Guess not.
Heading off from the Castle we passed by through the small lanes which were undoubtedly restored, however reminiscent of the past as to the traders who operated within the Castle grounds or nearby. It did appear that those who had shops there were the privileged ones but what was common was the manner that one would see all the historical old towns as, irrespective of the country that one would be in. Small alleys leading from the Castle through the shops, possibly also acting as a getaway in case of need, the roads entwining across the city, some heading into the expanse below, some leading back to where one started off. Confused and lost, could be one way of putting it.
As we headed onto lunch post the Castle visit, one could not but obviously note that the country had a balanced blend of both the historical and the modern. Key to any country’s survival, at least on the tourist front is no doubt their historical legacies, how these are managed, how visitors are treated, how much of heckling and nagging is faced by the local touts, but also how well the country blends modernization into the past. Retaining both has never been an easy job, and with most of Europe having the richness of the vast empires of the past and the great civilizations that seemingly possessed magical powers, when one looks at the creations, it was impressive as to how these were handled.
Lunch was another interesting affair. Another Indian restaurant, of course, and a birthday in tow (this tour seemed to be one of Birthdays) and with a one more Happy Birthday song, we proceeded on our walking tour around the city.
Next stop was a walk around the Old Town Square, located between the Wienceslas Square and the Charles bridge and featuring the world famous Astronomical Clock going back to the medieval ages and built in the early 15th Century. It was quite a feat to learn that that was amongst the oldest Astronomical clocks, the only one still working. The clock mechanism features three main components with the dial representing the position of the Sun and the Moon, with various details. This then added with the 12 Apostles, featuring “The Walk” when the Clock strikes and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months of the year. The clock was without a question the novelty at the Old Town Square with the Apostles doing the walk every hour.
Impressive no doubt, but for the time that one had to wait to see the result, was a tad bit disappointing. However, the beauty of the Clock, or the accuracy of the details and the finesse of the dials, cannot be undermined. No doubt an absolute piece of art, yet another remnant of the mastery of the art of the past and the minds that existed. One could not but wonder, would they have been able to do this in the modern times? We are yet to see such visions created in the 20th and the 21st centuries what with all the resources available on hand. And this clock was 600 + years old.