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35 Miles - Tuesday, August 30
This morning I bought a bag full of plums from a roadside vendor, handing over 3 Korun (10 cents). I felt like a criminal.
As we coasted and pumped past rolling pastures, I was amazed and intrigued. It feels like we’ve stepped back in time. Farming is done without machinery. A couple people hand pick potatoes or hack clover, filling burlap bags. Scythes are the common implement, also used in personal gardens or to cut roadside weeds. Harvesting must take weeks with such back breaking labor.
Negotiating the maze of winding streets in Prague tested our patience and navigation skills before we settled into a nearly empty campground. Next door is a nature area and sporting complex. All the while, the distant rumble and whir of trolleys remind us of our proximity to a large population.
|Photo credit: Trek Earth|
Wednesday, August 31
This morning we took a trolley to the old section of Prague along the Vitava River. This city of 1 million inhabitants has the unique distinction as the only European city untouched by both World Wars. Its architecture remains intact, neither bombed nor rebuilt. The same cannot be said of romantically beautiful Paris. Prague is named “The Golden City” for its bohemian character, having over 100 gothic spires. Its skyline is mythically medieval, as if one expects knights on horses. Indeed there are 400 horse drawn carriages clip clopping over the cobbles, serenading with city hall’s church bells.
Narrow streets encompass the old town quarter with an unending series of elaborately decorated gothic statues adorning every building. A profusion of dark spires pierce the rooftops; religious sculptures lean out from doorways; storefronts sell Bohemian crystal. The aroma of coffee, pastries, sausage, apple strudel delight our senses. We eat ice cream, buy plums from market stalls, and walk until we are hungry again. The food is relatively inexpensive, though not as cheap as in small towns.
|A souvenir we can carry, a miniature print. View is from |
Charles Bridge, looking toward the old town.
Word is that Prague is fast becoming a tourist mecca. After standing on the Charles Bridge (built in 1300s out of stone) with the 30 black statues on guard along its entire length, it’s like standing in a spot like no other on earth. Spires surround the skyline at both ends of the bridge. The statues are replicas (originals in a museum) but they look neglected nonetheless, covered in soot and cobwebs. The Czech Republic has working smoke stacks, polluting the air and also affecting the exhaust emissions on vehicles. The country is 5 years old, splitting from Slovakia during the peaceful Velvet Revolution – it will contend with future clean air standards, I predict, to become even more tourist friendly.
By noon we’d already decided to stay another day. We originally didn’t plan to go through the Czech Republic, but it has turned out to be an amazing experience. It is the most beautiful city I have ever seen.
A gilded astrological clock decorates one wall of the city hall, working now for 500 years. At every hour two doors open and the figures of the 12 apostles circulate through the opening as the bells toll. It draws a crowd in intervals at Old Town Square.
|Crowds gather for the hourly operation of the astrological clock.|
We stayed until 7:30 in the old district, walking, talking, eventually eating pizza at an outdoor café near the famous clock.
The only mishap occurred when we went to get on the tram, but couldn’t decide what direction we were supposed to go. I insisted on one; Andy the other. It wasn’t until Andy was totally frustrated that he asked the driver for directions. He was right. Andy gets edgy, his brows knitted when he is lost in a city, whereas I tend to laugh. He is more concerned with time: rising early, eating lunch by noon, leaving Prague’s city life by sundown. And his concerns are legitimate as we travel through foreign lands.