Oh so tired!
The night before last I had so little sleep due to the time difference and my fear of sleeping on the top bunk (I always worry I will fall off). Still, I was awake enough to go out and see Maticka Praha (Little Mother Prague). Luke and I wondered through this most gorgeous city, and fully understand Franz Kafka's phrase, "This little mother has claws". We are both in love with the beauty of this city.
First off we organise our sleeper train to Poland, then we walk to Charles Bridge (built in 1357) and cross to the Hrad, Prague Castle. It is the largest castle complex in the world, and climbing up the stairs to it we can see the commanding view it has over the whole of Prague. Gazing out of the city we see that it isn't only the charming city centre that has gorgeous old building, the entire city is paradise. We wander into the castle and see the Golden Lane, a series of tiny rooms carved out into the castle wall where tradesmen lived. We saw number 22 where Kafka lived from 1916-1917 in his sister's room. It is the cutest and tiniest little thing (and for me cute and tiny are always synergistic), and I find it delightful that I can think to myself that Kafta literally lived 'in a hole in the wall'.
We wandered over further to the imposing cathedral, with it's marvellous gothic architecture. It rose up and dominated the castle, just as the castle dominated the city. It was raining, so we got to see the water running off through the mouths of the gargoyles (an interesting titbit I learnt in Oxford is that statues on buildings are grotesques, they are only gargoyles if they have a water spout through their mouth). We lined up and went inside to marvel. We climbed the highest tower, with 287 steps in the narrowest of stairwells, with two way traffic through a stairwell that I struggled with by myself. We were stuck behind a nun who kept on pausing, but on reaching the top the view was worth the effort.
Coming down from the castle we visit St Nicholas' Church. It was built in the beautiful extravagant Baroque style, with gilded statues and painted frescos on the ceiling. It took our breathe away, and we can both understand how people used to be converted in an age when peasants lived in thatch huts. Who but a greater power could build such a building? On the other hand how they used to collect alms after a sermon still confuses me, with the profusion of gold.
Early afternoon now, and we wander through the New Town (it was founded in 1347, so 'new' can be deceptive) then the Old Town again. We have a beer in several out of the way bars, then another few in the Town Square. We decide to see the astronomical clock strike on the hour, but it takes three hours before we pull ourselves away from the beer. A small skeleton rings a bell on the hour, in an anti-climatic event unless you consider that the machinery was designed and built six hundred years ago.
Time to leave the little mother, we hop on our train to Krakow at 10pm, slightly drunk and having deep and meaningful conversation.