Saturday, April 11, 2015

Day 5 - Prague

Day 5 - Prague

Our day began with a bus ride up to the hills overlooking the beautiful city of Prague to Prague Castle, the largest castle complex in Europe. During the ride, our local guide Kamila, told us a little about the geographical layout of the city as well as some of the history. The capital city of the Czech Republic has a little more than one million residents, and is called Praha, which means ‘threshhold’ because as she told us, one never knows when they are crossing the threshold from history to mythology in this city. We were to learn that from several of the stories we would hear throughout the day.

We started at the Strahov Monastery manned by friars who came to Prague in the 12th century from France, selling their services as bibliophiles (librarians) and scribes (copies of books). A special tour had been arranged for us and we were able to physically enter the two beautiful halls of their library, one for theological works and one for philosophical works. The library contains over 45,000 volumes of works dating back to the

10th century, demonstrating how the church institutions were the depositories and guardians of much of the European culture. In the Hall of the Censors we learned how the friars would determine whether a book was acceptable to the church or needed to be archived as a forbidden book because of the content. Kamila explained the beautiful paintings which adorned the ceilings and showed us the hidden staircases to the second floor. She also impressed upon us the value of a single book to people in this time period by showing us a statue in one of the halls. The man is carrying his book around in a pouch, because having a book was like having a diamond, she said, and one did not leave it behind.

From the top of Castle Hill we had wonderful panoramic views of the city of Prague and great spring weather to enjoy the walk down the hill into the Lesser Town. During our walk we were able to see the Schwarzenberg Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Sternberk Palace. We viewed the magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral and visited the former Royal Palace dating from the 12th century where Mr. Barmore told us the story of how horse manure and an event in this building led to the disastrous Thirty Years War in Europe. Continuing down towards Lesser Town, we walked through the Golden Lane, which students felt looked like something from Harry Potter stories and marveled at how short the doors were at the time.

Arriving in Lesser Town, we ate lunch, and then continued our walk. We stopped at the Lennon Wall which is a memorial to freedom of expression in Prague and the site where people in love have attached locks to the bridge as in many other cities. We then climbed the stairs from Lesser Town to the Charles Bridge which connects the two sides of Prague: Castle District / Lesser Town and Old Town / New Town / Jewish Quarter. Walking over the bridge provided us with incredible views of this beautiful city and Kamila told us several stories connected with the statues and the bridge.

We had started the day in a library and we would end our day in another.  On the way to the Market Square Kamila took us into a public library where, in the foyer, stood a tower of books, The Tower of Knowledge, comprised of 8,000 books.  This demonstrated how important the subject and history of books was to this beautiful city.  As Kamila had shown us in the Strahov library, a statue of an individual holding closely a small pouch;  she said it contained a book and books were like diamonds so one would not have left it behind but carried it with him.

We stopped in the Market Square for a short while where we could listen to a choir performing or purchase some souvenirs, before heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner which would be back in the Market Square.

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  1. The trip to the Strahov Monastery looked amazing from the pictures taken. The well done paintings and thousands of books perfectly organized for centuries is something truly special; also being able to carefully preserve books dating back to the 10th century is remarkable.

  2. Prague looks so beautiful - so glad you have such nice weather -

  3. What a wonderful day! I find it very interesting how books were compared to diamonds. Why would people carry them around? What made them so valuable? Was it the knowledge that it contained? I look forward to continuing to follow you along on your trip.

  4. Prague sounds like such a beautiful place full of rich history and culture! I found it interesting how important owning a book was. I thought it was cool that you guys visited the former royal palace and learned the story of how horse manure and an event in that building led to the Thirty Years War in Europe. I really wish I was on this trip, it sounds like so much fun!