Day 4: Then head south to Vyšehrad

The approach to Vyšehrad is up a winding street behind it. On it are several more examples of cubist style apartments. Vyšehrad is an old fortress atop a granite bluff overlooking the Vltava. You enter it through a tunnel cut through massive ramparts and climb to the top. At the top is a yet another large gothic church and really fascinating cemetary. The people buried there are only artists, poets, politicians. Many of the graves themselves are sculptures by noted Czech artists. Among the largest of the graves is one belonging to the composer Antonin Dvorak.

At the foot of the bluff, is another cubist apartment building. This one is not in such great shape.

Time for another climb!

Day 5: Exploring Prague's Arcades

Prague is known for its arcades. They wind through the buildings of the old and new towns. One of the most notable in the new town is the Lucerna Arcade, located in the Lucerna Palace on Wenceslas Square. The building and arcade were built by Vaclav Havel (whose namesake gransdon would become the first post-Communist president of the Czech Republic) in the early 1920s. It houses Prague's first cinema as well as shops, a jazz club, and interesting sculpture of the good King Wenceslas.

You can walk almost the length of Wenceslas Square in arcades only coming outside to cross the side streets.

Into the arcades...

Then out to Vinohrady for some more modern views

As we leave the subway station we enter a large, open square dominated by the Church of the Sacred Heart. From a distance, it almost looks post-modern with its huge clock face cutting a visual line through the slab of a tower at one end of the structure. It's hard to believe that it was built in the early days of Modernism at the end of the 1920s.

Looming over the neighborhood, and technically in Zizkov, is the Prague TV tower. Begun in 1985 under the Communists to block Western TV signals, it was finally finished almost 8 years later after a two year delay by the Velvet Revolution. it has two different platforms, the higher one for viewing and the lower one holding a rather tastelessly decorated restaurant with food of the same caliber as the decor. However, with views like that, a bag of chips would be sufficient!

OK, up we go again!

Day 6: Zizkov and the Olsanske Hrbitovy (cemetary)

Zizkov is on the eastern side of Prague. It's a generally working class neighborhood that is also home to one of the oldest and largest cemetaries in the city. After taking the subway out to Flora, we walked through the heavily wooded and somewhat overgrown Olsanske Hrbitovy. It is a huge space that runs the length and width of two city blocks. The thick tree canopy provides a deep, almost spooky shade on the criss-crossed streets of countless graves. There are rows of ancient mausoleums, some of which are two stories tall.

Directly next to the cemetary and above the subway staion is a very modern shopping mall. We stopped at the food court for some really tasty (and cheap) noodles.

I see dead people....

The National Museum and Prague at dusk

The National Museum is a rather creaky and antiquated museum with the requisite displays of fossils, minerals, and taxidermied specimens. With the exception of the stunning central atrium, there's not much to see. To make things even less interesting, all of the descriptive placards are exclusively in Czech.

We'll skip the stuffed reindeer, but the staircases were nice.

Day 7: We head to Bohemia and Karlovy Vary

Our last day, we took a two and half hour bus ride east to the heart of Bohemia to visit the ancient spa town of Karlovy Vary (also known as Carlsbad). It is built on about 20 hot springs that gurgle a supposedly curative mineral water. Given that we had 14 hours of flying ahead of us the next day, we wisely opted to sample the famous spa wafers instead.

Time for a stroll through one of the many colonnades.

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© 2007 Joseph Hoffman