I turned 21 this past Saturday! To celebrate, my friends and I spent the day exploring Old Town Square and touring the Prague castle. We also had some incredible food at Kavárna Obecní Dum and Fraktal. It was a day well spent, that's for sure!
After brunch, we went to Old Town Square, which is the biggest tourist spot in Prague. It's at the City Center, and a two minute walk from the NC State Institute. We wandered through the elaborately decorated Church of Our Lady before Tyn, and then St. Nicholas Church. I was torn as I viewed the stunning places filled with golden relics and beautiful historical paintings; torn between appreciation of our Lord, and sadness due to realisation of this portrayal of Him. It felt impersonal, cold, intimidating, yet fancy - a portrayal of wealth and worldly wants. Shouldn't it have felt more personal, warm, and inviting if it were an accurate portrayal of the way our Lord loves? Isn't a church supposed to be a place of community, fellowship, and love? Nevertheless, I loved examining and recognising many of the stories depicted of Jesus in almost photorealistic paintings of His history. The pure size and strength of the buildings made me feel small, acutely aware of His mighty power and presence.
^ The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn
^ Bubbles in Old Town Square
We began our Castle Tour shortly after walking through the churches. Our tour guide, Tom, was extremely informative and so much fun to talk to! It was well worth 120 kuronas to have someone explaining all the history behind each thing we saw. Everything here is so, so full of rich history it's unbelievable. We began by taking a tram ride up the hill and I learned that the Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world! This surprised me because the castle doesn't look like what you'd normally think; it is actually a collection of many separate buildings all from different time periods. There is a different story behind each and every piece of the puzzle, many of which had been destroyed time after time before taking their current form.
^ Foreign affairs building and castle guard
^ View from Castle District
^ Views from within St. Vitus Cathedral
Our tour guide kept joking about how "chill" the Czech Republic is. He said oftentimes the president will wander throughout the castle district with only one body guard! Can you imagine that happening in the US? Never!
One thing I also thought was interesting is that the people of the CZ have recently been unhappy with their president. Because of this, people snuck into the castle district at night, and replaced the Czech flag with red underpants! This was intended to represent that underneath it all, the president is still supporting communism. Since the Czech Republic has a rocky past with their previously communist government, this assumption of the president leaves a bad taste in many Czechs' mouths.
^ Glass mural that was just recently exposed (top of photo)! When initially constructed, the builders didn't realise the material they were using would eventually blacken with rain. For many many years, no one could see this mural because it had entirely blackened over. In 1992, however, a technology was developed that allowed the cleaning of the mural without damaging the glass - and thank goodness, it is beautiful!
^ St. Vitus Cathedral
^ This part of the castle district reminded me of Česky Krumlov!
^ (Left) The builder of the cathedral loved clocks, which inspired this beautiful part of his design. If you look closely, there are two clocks and each one only has one hand. One tells the hour, and one tells the minutes!
Afterwards, we went out for dinner, my friends baked me a delicious cake, and we celebrated. It was a 21st birthday full of adventures not many get to say they experienced. I am so grateful!