The morning air is crisp but not overly cold. I get happily lost along cobblestone streets, yet the spires eventually guide me to the entrance. In perfect European fashion, I find an old and narrow street with high walls on both sides. I start walking up to the castle quarters. At the top are two guards solemnly standing their ground, with a breathtaking view of old Prague below. It is still early for tickets to be sold, and I finish a coffee while the city rises.
The castle quarters are on an expansive piece of land, housing several palaces, basilica’s, and cathedrals. Starting in the 880’s, these buildings have housed the Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors, and today’s Czech President.
The history of this place is mesmerizing. I start by exploring Svatovotsky popklad, the Treasury of St. Vitus Cathedral.
From the great hall that brings to mind the underground scene in the movie “The Lord of the Rings” to the paintings and statues housed within, the cathedral does not disappoint.
I then head to Stary kralovsky palac, the Old Royal Palace.
Before the crowds become unbearable, I find the entrance to Prazsky hrad, the Prague Castle, surprisingly desolate. Resting against ancient stone, I have the time to truly admire the artwork and architecture of this place.
After the castle I find myself in Bazilika sv. Jiri, the Basilica of St. George. It is here that a tomb to a great King of old lay in rest, guarded by the ruler of Death in Bohemian times.
My last stop is the Zlata ulicka, the Golden Lane. In here are small shops were the infamous Czech crystal is made, as well as a old marionette toy making shop, the Frank Kafka museum, a 1920’s Czech movie studio, and a long hallway showcasing the history of weaponry and battle uniforms of the Bohemian and Czech people.
As you exit the long hallway, there is one last area, the torture chamber the rulers used. From the Rack, to full body torture devices and human cages dangling from bottomless pits, it is a startling reminder of the cruelty humans devise to punish acts we see as wrong.
It is a chilling end to a day of fascinating history. The sculpture before you as one exits perhaps sums it up best….
that history is there for one to learn from, and to try and not repeat the mistakes of the past. I think of this as I make my way back down the steps, passing through dead groves of the castle’s vineyards.
The people of this earth are slow learner’s in many respects.