Czecholsovakian Pottery

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Prague, a city to enjoy!

While living in Spain for several years we had the opportunity to travel in Europe. One of my favorite trips was a long weekend to Prague. I have always had a love for Czechoslovakia pottery and I wanted to see the region and try to find a piece of pottery.

There were many beautiful examples of architecture in Prague such as Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and the Astrological Clock.

The Astronomical Clock, built in to one side of the Old Town Hall Tower, dates from the 15th century. To fully appreciate the clock's intricate construction, we joined the crowd in front of the tower to observe the procession of the Twelve Apostles. On the hour, every hour, a small trap door opens and Christ marches out ahead of his disciples, while the skeleton of death tolls the bell to a defiant statue of a Turk. Below the Astronomical Clock are 12 medallions with the signs of the zodiac.

The Old Town Hall Tower, built in 1338, is one of the most striking buildings in Prague. Inside is a staircase and an elevator. Visitors can climb or ride to the top to experience terrific views over the Old Town Square and the rest of the Old Town. In 1364 the Old Town Hall Tower was joined to a private house adjoining it, which in turn was knocked into other houses beside that. This amalgamation of buildings became known as the Old Town Hall.

Across the river, on Castle Hill, the gorgeous and well-kept Prague castle looks like something straight out of a fairytale. From the two Titans framing the entrance, to St. George’s Basilica and the Cathedral within its walls, the Castle has many sights for the curious traveler. I walked from the Charles Bridge to the top of the hill to see the changing of the guard at the Castle.

The Charles Bridge is flanked by a series of giant stone statues, fifteen per side, representing religious figures and icons. One of these statues is said to bring luck to whoever touches it. During the day, the Bridge is home to many artists and musicians, but at night, the bridge quiets down and becomes a wonderful place to look out over the sparkling waters of the Vltava river. I loved looking at the art displays on the bridge.

You can see the Kampa island on your left as you pass Charles Bridge on your way to Mala Strana. The island is caressed by water on all sides thanks to a tributory of the Vltava known as the Devil’s Stream, “Čertovka”. The stream’s name was derived from a devilishly tempered woman who lived at the nearby Maltese Square in the 19th century. The stream was used as a mill creek for several centuries, three old water mills still remain and the last one ceased to function in 1936. The island houses some restaurants, older residences and a park, and is known as the Venice of Prague due to its canals and the houses on the water.

Located in the very heart of the Old Town Square (Staré Mesto) has a variety of attractions. In the center of the square is a large statue of Jan Hus, the medieval Prague citizen who was burned at the stake. Old Town Square is also lined with a wide variety of cafes, bars, and restaurants, featuring traditional Czech food and beer.

Under the slopes of the Prague castle you find Mala Strana (little quarter) where virtually nothing in the architecture has changed since the 18th century. Mala Strana holds impressive baroque palaces and many old houses. Its centre is Malostranske square with St. Nicholas Church.  It used to be a main approach to Prague Castle. The street got its name after the famous Czech poet and writer Jan Neruda who lived in the house of The Two Suns (U Dvou sluncu). In the street you will find many quaint restaurants, shops with souvenirs and crafts and also hotels and embassies. I loved taking pictures of the shop windows.

Prague is not all about historical architecture. An astounding and contemporary building is the Dancing House, Nationale-Nederlanden building in downtown Prague. It was designed by Yugoslavian-born Czech architect Vlado Milunic in co-operation with Canadian architect Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront plot, where the previous building had been destroyed during the Bombing of Prague in 1945. The building was completed in 1996. We had to take pictures of the Dancing House.

The Church of Our Lady Victorious is the very first Baroque church built in the Czech Republic. It also features a handsome Baroque tower that has since faded to a dull green with a gold cross on the top. Aside from the church's architectural significance, it is famous for hosting one of the most renowned effigies in the world, the Infant Jesus of Prague. The Infant Jesus statue, a wax image of the Infant Jesus, is believed to have extraordinary healing powers. This fact alone makes the Church of Our Lady Victorious one of the most sacred and popular pilgrimage sites in Europe. It is also one of the top attractions during Prague tours and simply a beautiful cathedral to take in.

In the year of 1628, the Infant Jesus of Prague was donated to the church by a noblewoman named Polyxena of Lobkovic. The statue is almost 20 inches high and made of wood with a wax surface. One hand is raised in a blessing while the other bears a cross.

There is a very long and absorbing history behind the miraculous Infant Jesus statue and the many hands it passed through before it was donated to the church. Originally, the Infant Jesus of Prague came from Spain where it is said to have miraculously appeared to a monk who then fashioned a likeness of it based on the presentation of the apparition. Another legend reveals the Infant Jesus statue belonged to St Theresa of Avila, the founder of the Carmelites, who then gave it to a friend's daughter heading off to Prague. Upon marrying a Bohemian noble, Duchess Maria Manrique de Lara received the Infant Jesus of Prague as a wedding gift from her mother.

The church is open to the public throughout the year. I entered the church on a Sunday passing through the doors not noticing the sign DO NOT TAKE PICTURES. I went in tried to be respectful of others but took many pictures. I felt terrible when I was leaving the church and noticed the no pictures sign. I have posted the pictures below. I also have a couple of carved Infant of Prague statues I have acquired since returning to the United States.

One place we found was the John Lennon Wall. The John Lennon Wall was across the Charles Bridge over by Prague Castle. It was just a wall that had graffiti all over it. The original portrait of John Lennon has been lost through layers and layers of spray paint, but the message is still there. People from all over the world have written on the wall and it was a great experience to slowly walk down the sidewalk and read the quotes that were newly written and some that you could tell had been there for a while.

Archibald U Karlova Mostu is the hotel where we stayed. It was a lovely well appointed little hotel. We stayed in a room with wonderful views across Charles Bridge,the river and the Old Town. The window opened for a great view of the river. It was an absolutely perfect location for us in Prague, just was just a few yards from the bridge and within walking distance of everything else.

The staff at the hotel referred us to a great restaurant in the area, The Alchymist.  I have to say that  I was excited to walk through the doors of the restaurant.  Alchymist truly has to be one of the more opulent and ornate restaurants I have ever had the luxury of dining in.  The night we were there there was a large party of well dressed people in the back having a private party.  As I remember the food was wonderful.  I would love to go back there some day.

Richard and I explored many antique stores in Prague. While looking for pottery we notice lots of puppets. Puppetry is an old Prague passion, and the puppet making goes back to the 18th century. They are traditionally handcarved from wood. There are several small shops selling marionettes across the city, with countless fantastical marionettes dangling from the ceiling. Whether you’re looking for a fairytale princess, toy-town soldier or contemporary cartoon favourite, you could find one in the shops.

Prague is certainly a place you could spend many days there and not get bored since the is so much to see, have a glass of Grog and kick back and enjoy!
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