Early Morning Tourism
September 12, 2009

Charles Bridge, facing Mala StranaToday was the earliest start I’ve ever done for sightseeing.  I got up before 6am and was at Charles Bridge by 7am!  I almost didn’t recognize the square next to the bridge because I had never seen it empty before – it bordered on eerie.  Seeing the bridge with no slowly ambling tourists, no vendors, and no street musicians was a pleasant dash of calm in Prague’s city center.  I had the bridge almost all to myself, save for a few pairs of tourists and some runners.Charles Bridge, facing north towards Hrad and Cathedral

After traversing the bridge (it took nearly 40 minutes with all the tour-book reading and photo-taking that I did), I made my way to St. Nicholas Square (I think that’s what it’s called) in Mala Strana.  I finally figured out the correct tram, and boarded.  It was very easy – just a 5 minute ride up to the castle grounds where things seemed even more quiet.

I walked across a road and towards the towers of the Cathedral hiding behind a skyline of trees.  It was so early (around 8am by that point) that I seemed to be the only tourist at what normally should be bustling with cameras and umbrellas.  But all that was to come later.  I walked past the guard in periwinkle uniform who was pacing back and forth down an arched corridor.  From there, I found myself in a large courtyard consisting of a large ancient-looking fountain, a small church, and what seemed to be a giant birdcage. Passageway to St. Vitus Cathedral (see the two doors?)I thought I must have been in the wrong place, or at least maybe on the wrong day.  This was the Hrad (Castle) District.  There was me, the guard, an Asian man taking photos with a fancy camera, and an occasional local walking towards their job at the Hrad wearing business attire.

My chance had come – I got to stroll around and experience the Hrad district without the loud music or the lost tourists from every single country or any of the distractions that make the center a headache at times.  No, the Hrad would be all mine for an hour.  I walked through another arched passageway and I saw it – the Cathedral.  First I saw two doors, side by side, peeking through the arches.  As I proceeded, the Cathedral came into full view.  It was magnificent.   Emily wasn’t exaggerating when she told me how unbelievable huge it was – she was completely right.  Front Exterior of St. Vitus CathedralIt is hard to look at the top of the steeples from ground level without hurting your neck.  It occurred to me that this structure was here (in a smaller form that is now part of the Cathedral) before Europeans landed in the Americas.  This was Europe – places older than memory itself, and this was only the second Castle of Prague (the first was near Vysehrad).  For a long while this morning, it was just me and the St. Vitus Cathedra – a woman and her Gothic beauty.  All the talk in Miss Herron’s European History class came back to me – the importance of flying buttresses and all.  I was really here – and i could see it and touch it (and I did touch the outside of the Cathedral – it was a million-dollar feeling).Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral, facing the altar, with lecturn on the left side

At 9am, the doors were opened and I (accompanied by a hundred or so other tourists) were allowed into the Cathedral.  It was so beautiful, not only in the artwork of stained glass and painting, but in subtle ways as well.  The way natural light gently poured in through the long narrow windows high above me was ethereal.  Everything in the Cathedral was beautiful, authentic (I think) and all in that one place to give glory to God, because that’s what the structure of a church is for – and this one did it amazingly.  I was a little phased by the tour groups with umbrella-weilding guides, but I saw so many thrilling things, many Bohemian in character and history, which interested me very much.  The Cathedral of St. Vitus was one of the most amazing and beautiful man-made things I’ve seen in my life, and it definitely makes the eyes of your heart to look up towards God. (…and the pipe organ music didn’t hurt, either; it was pretty amazing)  After leaving the Cathedral, I walked down (much easier than up) to Mala Strana and caught a tram bound for Andel (in the Smicov neighborhood of Prague 5).A row of four-story buildings along Namesti Miru, across from the Church of St. Ludmilla and a lovely public square

After a long morning of sightseeing, I still managed to accomplish finding both Tesco (at the Andel Metro) where I finally bought my surge protector and the Expats center (at Namesti Miru) where I grabbed a copy of the Expat guide to Prague.  I still have a ton of work to do for Monday – make a final draft of a lesson plan and do a 1000+ word assignment from start to finish – wish me good luck and pray for me.  Thanks!  Missing y’all in Prague!