Up the Hill to Prague Castle and a Trip on the Vltava

Buoyed by the success of our ascent of Petrin Hill the previous day, on Saturday we decided to climb the hill to Prague Castle. The view was absolutely stunning.

View from the top

But by the time we got to the top I was puffed,  so I had a little drink of mulled wine at the terrace bar.

Yes the sugar was for the hot wine

Now I’m not saying the wine was rough but they do give you a sachet of sugar for a reason. From in front of the castle we could also see the spires of the nearby Loreto.

The Loreto

We had visited this rather lovely Baroque building back in 2009. It encloses a replica of  Santa Casa the Virgin Mary’s house where she is alleged to have received the incarnation, from Loreto, Italy. It was built to tempt the Czechs back to Catholicism after the Hussite Wars that put paid to the Czech Reformation. It won’t come as any surprise that the Loreto is of course built over a site of pagan significance. In one of the chapels inside, there is an alter dominated by a crucified woman with a beard. This is St Wilgifortis, who prayed to look like a man in order to protect her chastity.

As it happened we had arrived just in time for the changing of the Castle Guard, no photos I’m afraid as you would only see the odd bayonet and fur hat poking above our fellow tourists’ hats, but it was quite fun: lots of foot stamping, shouting and crashing of rifle butts, plus the odd tune from the band at the open second floor windows. So show over we headed through the Baroque facade of the Castle to St Vitus Cathedral.

Inside St Vitus Cathedral

The present Cathedral is the third to be built on this site and was founded in 1344. Thanks to various wars, running out of money every now and again, the Reformation and the Counter Reformation, it was eventually finished in 1929, by which time the original Gothic had fallen out and back into fashion and out again!

Thanks to this late completion it does have some incredible stained glass windows in the nave including this rather lovely one by Alfons Mucha.

The Mucha Window St Vitus Cathedral

Designed in his own inimitable Art Nouveau style, it is just beautiful.

Detail from the Mucha Wimdow

While on the opposite side of the nave, the window by Frantisek Kysela is topped by a stunning red robed Christ.

Detail from window by Frantisek Kysela

Here’s one of my top tips, unless you really want to see the tombs of the dead kings and saints in St Vitus, don’t bother buying a ticket for the castle as you can enter the nave where these windows are for free. You can also wander right through the castle grounds for free, and here we had an inexpensive lunch at one of the little cafes.

I felt sorry for this poor lad standing to attention at the Castle’s exit, he looked ever so cold despite his overcoat and fur hat.

Chilly Czech Soldier

on exiting we were treated to this wonderful view over the Vltava.

View from the top

By the time we’d got back to the riverbank we’d all had about enough of walking and decided to combine exploration with a bit of a lazy, on one of the river cruisers. This was something we had been unable to do on previous visits due to the Vltava being in flood. The tickets for a one hour cruise on the Jazz Boat (fortunately the day cruises do not involve bloody jazz) cost 220 crowns each, about  £8.

Now I like a good river cruise and this was nice and relaxing even if the commentary was a bit rubbish. The drinks were by Prague’s standards a bit expensive (our three glasses, not pints mind, of beer and a coke cost 228 crowns) but it was nice to put our feet up for a bit and watch the world go by.

Mr Wolfe and I enjoy the scenery

All too soon it was over, so we disembarked to wander back over Charles Bridge,

Charles Bridge

then cross Europe’s most dangerous road (I have never known anywhere, even Essex! for so many nutjobs with driving licences)   and head off into the Old Town for our final night in this most lovely of Europe’s cities.

Prague sunset

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