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Monday, January 14, 2013

NEW YEARS IN PRAGUE




The first book in my mystery series is set in Sweden, in Queen Christina’s court. Her army brought back a significant number of treasures from Rudolph II’s castle in Prague, and while researching for the book, I became intrigued with the capital city of the Czech Republic. For this reason, when I saw a trip over New Years that would take me there, I quickly enrolled. Looking back, it was a wise choice.

Unlike other large European cities, Prague escaped most of the devastating bombings that ruined other old buildings. Only minor damage was done to one of the newer buildings, according to our guide, and the residents are justly proud of the architecture, examples of which can be seen throughout the city, from Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Classicism, to Neo-styles.
Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square

The impressive Old Town Square is still the center for all major events, as it was during the Middle Ages.Twisty narrow streets lead to stone houses and monasteries. It was in this square where I saw one of three extant astronomical clocks, and the only one still working. We walked through the
Ceiling fresco Strahov Library
Old Jewish Cemetery, Europe’s oldest and best-preserved Jewish burial ground, which dates back to the 15th century.

Christmas Markets in the Old Town and Wenceslas Squares offered Czech food, including sausages and potato pancakes, and always the roasted chestnuts and mulled wine.

Strahov Monastery entrance
I did get to see parts of the Strahov library, where old manuscripts are kept. The oldest parchment gospel-book is from the ninth century. There are also Dutch globes from the seventeenth century in the hall. Because of the holiday week, tours had been suspended, but from the open doors we could see the high shelves of early books and the beautiful fresco ceiling, pictured to the right.

Part of Rudolph II’s huge collection can be seen in the newer part of the building. He collected valuable paintings, stones, bird feathers, and everything imaginable, including wildlife specimen and exotic cats. The Silver Bible iin his collection, taken by Christina's army, inspired the first mystery in my series.
   
In the Grand Hotel Bohemia I attended a Mozart/Dinner where between each course, we were treated to various Mozart pieces, including arias from his popular operas. The dinner was served by candlelight in a neo-baroque, historically protected ballroom, not normally opened to the ublic. Another evening we splurged and bought box seat tickets at the State Opera House to enjoy Verdi’s Il Trovatore. That evening was worth the whole trip to this opera lover.

For further reading about Prague and it’s interesting history, I recommend The Magic Circle of Rudolph II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague, by Peter Marshall, or Prague in Black and Gold; Scenes from Life in a European City, by Peter Demetz. 

10 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Joyce,

This is a fascinating blog! I have to travel vicariously of late, so this is particularly of interest to me. Both of my sons have traveled and loved Prague, obviously a very cultural Old World city. I look forward to reading your new mystery. Clearly, it will be something unique.

Mary F. Schoenecker said...

Joyce,It is a small wonder that you hadn't answered my latest Email. You were in Prague! I was asking about my blog, but put that aside for now because your trip is most interesting. I've been contemplating a trip to the Czech Republic and wonder if you were on a specific tour? What you visited sounds so enticing and I'm sure you will weave it into another interesting historical.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Jacqueline: It's no wonder your sons love Prague. It's an amazing place. I didn't even mention the Prague Castle, the largest in Europe. It's awesome, and the Charles Bridge, for which Charles consulted his astrologers as to best time to build it. They waited 2 years until the planets were aligned just right. I need to go back to see what I missed.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Mary: Yes, I did get your email but I only had my phone with me and it's tedious punching those teensy letters so I didn't answer emails. I went with Road Scholar, Prog. # 19240, "New Year's Eve in Prague", though the trip was longer of course. It was a great group of people. We ate that night in a Bohemian restaurant and watched fireworks from across the river. A great adventure!

Flossie Benton Rogers said...

What a wonderful experience, Joyce. From your descriptions I know your trip was unique, and I am especially enthralled by the dinner by Mozart and the opera. We enjoy vicariously participating in your adventures.

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