Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland – Prague – Cesky Krumlov: A Fairytale Adventure

20 SEP 2018:

After a hectic and a stressful day at work and a disappointment from the day before, it was time again to enjoy a nice well deserved trip to my next destination on my bucket list: Prague.

My suitcase and I were ready, and even though I did not have much time to sleep, I headed to the airport excited for my new adventure.

This time it had a special flavor, since I was having a one full day for myself to explore a new place. I started to get used to the routine procedure at the airport and after all was done, I met my friend for a little time at the duty free till it was time to board. She was going also to Prague but will arrive at night time.

The flight was not bad, I had to close my eyes for a while but couldn’t sleep. We went 15 minutes late than the actual time of departure but we got to be on time at Prague airport. The queue of Prague general security was not long but unfortunately every person was taking too long to get his passport stamped for I don’t know what reason, so my taxi driver was not there waiting for me. After a while I ordered a taxi and went straight to the hotel because I was having a day tour and they have to pick me up from there around 8.00. Luckily I arrived before my pickup time. And so began my first day of the journey.

My group was 6 persons including me and our guide, which made the tour more private, funny and very informative. The road was made of beautiful scenery all around. we were heading North Bohemian region of Czech Republic toward Elbe Sandstone Mountains, our first stop for the tour.

Our ride was around 2 hours on the road till we reached Elbe region in Czech Republic. Our hike started there going down alongside the Elbe River surround by Elbe Sandstones Mountains with a short river boat trip then going up again until our starting point for lunch break.

The Elbe Sandstone Mountains, also called the Elbe sandstone highlands (German: Elbsandsteingebirge; Czech: Labské pískovce) is a mountain rangestraddling the border between the state of Saxony in southeastern Germany and the North Bohemian region of the Czech Republic, with about three-quarters of the area lying on the German side. The mountains are also referred to as Saxon Switzerland and Bohemian Switzerland in both German and Czech (Sächsische Schweiz and Böhmische Schweiz in German, Saské Švýcarsko and České Švýcarsko in Czech) or simply combined as Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland. In both countries, the mountain range has been declared a national park. The name derives from the sandstone which was carved by erosion. The river Elbe breaks through the mountain range in a steep and narrow valley. The eroded sandstone landscape of this region was formed from depositions that accumulated on the bottom of the sea millions of years ago. Large rivers carried sand and other eroded debris into the Cretaceous sea. Rough quartz sand, clay and fine marl sank and became lithified layer by layer. A compact sandstone sequence developed, about 20 x 30 kilometres wide and up to 600 metres thick dating to the lower Cenomanian to Santonian stages.[3] The tremendous variety of shapes in the sandstone landscape is a result of the subsequent chemical and physical erosion and biological processes acting on the rocks formed from those sands laid down during the Cretaceous Period. The inlets of a Cretaceous sea, together with marine currents, carried away sand over a very long period of time into a shallow zone of the sea and then the diagenetic processes at differing pressure regimes resulted in the formation of sandstone beds. Its stratification is characterized by variations in the horizontal structure (deposits of clay minerals, grain sizes of quartz, differences in the grain-cement) as well as a typical but fairly small fossil presence and variably porous strata. In the Tertiary period, the adjacent region of the Central Bohemian Uplands and the Lusatian Mountains was shaped and affected by intense volcanism; but individual intrusions of magma also forced their way through the sandstone platform of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Large parts of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains are under statutory protection. In the Bohemian part of the range there has been a nature reserve in the northeastern region since 1972 called the Elbe Sandstone Protected Area (Chráněná krajinná oblast Labské pískovce) with an area of 324 km². In 2000, the Bohemian Switzerland National Park (Národní park České Švýcarsko) was established with an area of 79 km², bringing around 700 km² of the range under protection as a natural and cultural landscape. The Elbe Sandstone mountains have been a popular destination for tourists for more than 200 years, and for climbers for more than 100 years. The Elbe Sandstone Mountains have numerous facilities for cure and rehabilitation. The region has a tradition of many years. The discovery of ferrous and sulphurous sources in Bad Schandau in 1730 led to its development as a health resort and the building of swimming baths.

After a delicious lunch and a nice cold beer, it was time to hit the road again and cross the border to Germany for our next stop: Bastei in Saxon Switzerland National Park.

The Bastei is a rock formation towering 194 metres above the Elbe River in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains of Germany. Reaching a height of 305 metres above sea level, the jagged rocks of the Bastei were formed by water erosion over one million years ago. They are situated near Rathen, not far from Pirna southeast of the city of Dresden, and are the major landmark of the Saxon Switzerland National Park. They are also part of a climbing and hiking area that extends over the borders into the Bohemian Switzerland (Czech Republic). The Bastei has been a tourist attraction for over 200 years. In 1824, a wooden bridge was constructed to link several rocks for the visitors. This bridge was replaced in 1851 by the present Bastei Bridge made of sandstone. The rock formations and vistas have inspired several well-known artists, among them Caspar David Friedrich (“Felsenschlucht”). The very name Bastei (“bastion”) indicates the inclusion of the steep, towering rocks in the old defensive ring around Neurathen Castle. In 1592 the rock is first mentioned by Matthias Oeder in the course of the first state survey by the Electorate of Saxony as Pastey. As the region of Saxon Switzerland was explored and developed for tourism, the Bastei rocks became one of its first tourist attractions. Its lookout point was first referred to in travel literature in 1798 in a publication by Christian August Gottlob Eberhard. One of the first walking guides who took visitors to the Bastei was Carl Heinrich Nicolai, who wrote in 1801: “What depth of feeling it pours into the soul! You can stand here for a long time without being finished with it (…) it is so difficult to tear yourself away from this spot.” To begin with, the Bastei was only comparatively easily accessible from Wehlen and Lohmen. Numerous artists reached the Bastei over the so-called Painter’s Path, the Malerweg. Caspar David Friedrich painted his famous picture Felsenpartie im Elbsandsteingebirge (“Rocks in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains”) based on the Bastei. Ludwig Richter also sketched the Bastei. From Rathen, access used to be more difficult; but in 1814 a staircase with 487 steps was laid that climbed out of the Wehlgrund valley past the Vogeltelle to the rocks. At Pentecost in 1812, the Lohmen butcher, Pietzsch, started the first catering services for visitors to the Bastei. From two simple huts he sold bread, butter, beer, brandy, coffee and milk. Two years later a kitchen and a cellar were built below one of the rock overhangs and the lookout point was fitted with a railing. In February 1816, Pietzsch was given a licence to sell spirits; unfortunately the modest huts he had built were destroyed in a fire in September that same year. In June 1819, August von Goethe reported: “Friendly huts and good service with coffee, double beer, spirits and fresh bread and butter really revived the tired wanderer …”. In 1820, the spirit licence went to the Rathen judge (Erblehnrichter), Schedlich. The development of the Bastei was given significant impetus in 1826. That year, the first solid inn building was erected with overnight accommodation, based on plans by Gottlob Friedrich Thormeyer. From then on the old huts acted as night quarters for the walking guides. The first bridge, called Bastei Bridge (Basteibrücke), was built of wood over the deep clefts of the Mardertelle, linking the outer rock shelf of the Bastei with the Steinschleuder and Neurathener Felsentor rocks. In 1851, the wooden bridge was replaced by a sandstone bridge, due to the steady increase in visitors, that is still standing today. It is 76.5 m long and its seven arches span a ravine 40 m deep. At the end of the 19th century, the Bastei finally developed into the main attraction of Saxon Switzerland. The existing inn was completely converted and extended in 1893/94. A high pressure water main was laid to it in 1895 and a telephone line in 1897. Around 1900, plans were laid for the construction of a mountain railway from the Elbe Valley to the Bastei, but these did not come to fruition. Even today a ravine southwest of the Bastei is known as the Eisenbahngründel (“Little Railway Valley”). At the beginning of the 20th century, the Bastei road was widened to handle the growing motorisation. After 1945 the number of visitors increased sharply again, especially at weekends and public holidays, as the Bastei became a place of mass tourism. Between 1975 and 1979 the former inn was replaced by a large, new building, later a hotel. The Bastei is one of the most prominent lookout points in Saxon Switzerland. In 1819 August von Goethe extolled the views: “Here, from where you see right down to the Elbe from the most rugged rocks, where a short distance away the crags of the Lilienstein, Königstein and Pffafenstein stand scenically together and the eye takes in a sweeping view that can never be described in words.” Today the Bastei still has the highest number of visitors of all the lookout points in Saxon Switzerland. In addition to the actual vista, there are also other points of interest. At the Jahrhundertturm, a rock pinnacle on the Bastei Bridge, there are tablets commemorating the first mention of the Bastei in travel literature (in 1797) as well as the memory of Wilhelm Lebrecht Götzinger and Carl Heinrich Nicolai. These last two were amongst the pioneers of tourism in Saxon Switzerland, thanks to their descriptions of their journeys and their other works. Another tablet commemorates the Saxon court photographer, Hermann Krone, who took the first landscape photographs in Germany at the Bastei Bridge in 1853. From the Ferdinandstein, part of the Wehltürme rock towers, there is a famous view of the Bastei Bridge. It is reached over a branch from the route to the bridge. Another well-known rock formation in the vicinity of the Bastei is the Wartturm, a large piece of which broke off in 2000. Neurathen Castle, the largest rock castle in Saxon Switzerland, may be reached from the Bastei by crossing the Bastei Bridge. The ruins of the castle, some timber rebates, rooms carved out of the rock, a cistern and stone shot from a medieval catapult or slingshot may be viewed on a self-conducted circular walk. A replica slingshot was put on display in the castle in 1986. The finds from excavations in the area, especially pottery, can also be seen. The climb from Rathen to the Bastei runs past an open-air museum dedicated to Slavic settlement in the region and also past the path leading to the Rathen Open Air Stage. Another famous landmark in the local area is the fortress of Königstein. The Eisenach–Budapest mountain path runs over the Bastei.

After these beautiful scenery, we were heading back to Prague. On the way, we stopped for a final destination: the Adršpach-Teplice Rocks.

Everyone knows the classical books and films of the chronicles of Narnia. In particular The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It’s a classic! But I bet what you did not know was that the most recent film, released back in 2005, was in fact shot right here in the Czech Republic.The place famous for such a role? A unique and stunningly beautiful place called The Adršpach-Teplice Rocks. In northeastern Bohemia,  this hidden gem covers an area of 17 km2 and is a set of unusual and some comically shaped natural sandstone formations, such as the tooth and the kissing rocks. Since 1933, this site has been classed as a protected national nature reserve.

I started with the group walking the path, but due to the fact that I was really tired and could not walk much and on top of that I did not have any time to sleep the night before, I decided to wait for them till they climbed their way to some of the rocks and come back again to meet me for returning to Prague where they dropped me off to my hotel. And by this I ended a very marvelous first day of my visit, this day was definitely the highlight of my trip.

21 SEP 2018:

We woke up on a warm sunny day my friend and I early this day. After our delicious morning breakfast at the hotel, we prepared ourselves to explore the wonderful city of Prague on our own.

Our hotel was well located since were in the old town and were near to all access of the tourist aspects of the city. First there was the Náměstí Republiky translates to Republic Square, and this beautiful square indeed exemplifies the variety of the beauty and history of the Czech Republic. The Powder Tower, an impressive monument is one of the 13 original entrances to Old Town. The Gothic building dates back tothe reign of King Vladislav II Jagiello in 1475 when it was known as the Mountain Tower, it was later used to store gunpowder in the 17th century, hence the current name. It is an elaborate 65-meter tower, which hosts a permanent exhibition of many other beautiful historic towers in Prague. 186 stone steps will take you up to a gallery that offers an incredible view of the city. The Powder Tower was meticulously renovated in the Nineties. Adjacent to the Powder Tower there is The Municipal House: the Art Nouveau gem of Prague. The Municipal House is the beginning of the royal mile. It was built on the grounds of a former Royal Court Palace between 1905-1911 and houses a large concert hall. Both exterior and interior are elaborately decorated with Art Nouveau elements and motifs; some of the greatest Art Nouveau artists, including Alfons Mucha, have left their mark on this remarkable piece of design and architecture. The municipal House features an upscale restaurant and a classy cafe where you will receive proper service in a gorgeous setting.

After a short pause to exchange some money, which spot later was our mark sign of getting near back to our hotel, we headed to the Old Town Square. Old Town Square draws the greatest number of visitors in Prague as it boasts meticulously preserved buildings and monuments: the Church of Our Lady in front of Tyn, The Old Town City Hall and the Baroque church St. Nicolas. One building that truly dominates the square is the Old Town City Hall, which dates back to 1338. In 1410 the astronomical clock was added to the Hall with a chronometer and the zodiac below; this clock is a worldwide attraction and one of the signature stops on your visit to Prague. Hundreds of people gather at the start of every hour to see the elaborate installation with its centerpiece, the 12 apostles rotating inside the clock, which we didn’t expeirence unfortunately due to some renovation work at our time of visit. The building was badly damaged during World War II; however, the remainder of the building was carefully restored to its former days of glory. The city government is long gone from the Old Town City Hall; it is now used for tourism and is the most famous place in Prague to get married. Actually we saw a bride with her groom taking photo sessions there. There were also some shows going on such as people pausing in the air for entertainment, a desguised Panda for kids to have fun, and all over the place there were booths of food market and handmade and flowers with coffee shops and restaurants on the streets.

You can easily get impressed with this square, the buildings and monuments are marvelous. The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, a Gothic church from the mid 14th century is perhaps the second signature landmark in Old Town Square (after the Astronomical Clock). It was the main church during the time of the Hussites. The interior of the church, especially the altar, is one of the most elaborate ones in the Czech Republic; its centerpiece is the portrayal of the rise of Virgin Mary to Heaven. You many notice that the two signature towers are not identical; one of them is more elaborate and wider, it was said to represent the stronger part of the family, the man. The Church of Our Lady is imposing, dominant and intimidating at times, especially at night. The two towers are illuminated and often portray a fairy tale like ambiance; the best time to capture the magical church in a haunting photograph is at night (which we did experience the next day at night). Sadly there was no climbing up to the church.

On one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, sits the lovely neo Rococo Kinsky Palace with its delicate pink and white stucco facade. Between 1755-65 it was built for Jan Arnost Goltz, on the grounds of two old hotels. Goltz wished for a Rococo palace that would feature two entrances under two balconies and a balustrade on the first floor. The Kinsky family would become the new owners after the death of Jan Arnost Goltz and reside in the palace until 1945. The location of the palace is not in line with the next-door buildings, such as the House at the Stone Bell. A superstitious legend involving three hanged men surrounds this mistake, but it turns out that the architect was only following the original position of the hotels. Countess Kinsky, also known as Baroness Bertha von Suttner, was born at the palace in 1843; she was the first Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 1905. The palace was also used as a German speaking school where Franz Kafka was enrolled; his father operated a small stall on the ground floor, there is a plaque on the wall at the location. In the year of 1948, Klement Gottwald announced the beginning of Communism from one of the balconies of the palace; 42 years later, the beloved president Vaclav Havel proclaimed it would never again return.

The Jan Hus Memorial stands at one end of Old Town Square. The huge monument depicts victorious Hussite warriors and Protestants who were forced into exile 200 years after Hus in the wake of the lost Battle of the White Mountain during the Thirty Years’ War, and a young mother who symbolises national rebirth. The monument was so large that the sculptor designed and built his own villa and studio where the work could be carried out.[1] It was unveiled in 1915 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Jan Hus’ martyrdom. The memorial was designed by Ladislav Šaloun and paid for solely by public donations. To the people of Bohemia and other regions around Prague, Jan Hus became a symbol of dissidence and a symbol of strength against oppressive regimes. His opposition to church control by the Vatican gave strength to those who opposed control of Czech lands by the Habsburgs in the 19th century, and Hus soon became a symbol of anti-Habsburg rule. He is said to stand arrogantly in the square in defiance of the cathedral before him. In 1918, a Marian Column that had been erected in the square shortly after the Thirty Years’ War was demolished in celebration of independence from the Habsburg monarchy. When Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule, sitting at the feet of the Jan Hus memorial became a way of quietly expressing one’s opinion and opposition against the Communist rule. The memorial was restored in 2007

The Stone Bell House is just one of the remarkable buildings located on Old Town Square and one of the oldest monuments in Prague housing short-term exhibitions of the City Gallery Prague. The oldest part of the building dates back to the second half of the 13th century. Only in the 1970s and 1980s during extensive reconstruction when the Neo-Baroque façade from the 19th century was pulled down the Gothic decorated façade was uncovered. After the completion of the reconstruction the City Gallery Prague started using the house as an exhibition space in 1988 and besides exhibitions of modern and contemporary art concerts also take place here. The gallery gift shop and a café can also be found in the building and like the gallery space, they are open daily except Mondays from 10 a.m. till 8 p.m. The Stone Bell House bears its name after a house sign that was placed at the corner of the building in the 16th century.

In the magical Old Town Square sits the lovely Renaissance pearl, The House at the Minute.Covered in ornate Sgraffito decorations depicting Greek mythology as well as references to biblical and Renaissance legends, this house is easily recognizable with such an impressive facade. The House at the Minute was built at the beginning of the 15th century as a house in the late Gothic style and was supposedly a tobacconist’s shop. Sgraffito decorations were created in two phases – before 1600 and before 1615, but they were whitewashed during Baroque modifications. Their renewal took place only in the 1920s. The Kafka family lived on the second floor of the House at the Minute from 1889 till 1896; it was the childhood home of Franz. The house currently features an Italian restaurant and pizzeria called Ristorante Italiano Al Minuto.

We continued through the old town city arriving to the Old Town Bridge Tower and Charles Bridge. The Old Town Bridge Tower is one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in Europe. The tower was built in the second half of the 14th century together with the Charles Bridge on its right bank side not only as a fortification, but also as a certain type of triumphal arch. The tower was namely on the route of the coronation parades leading to St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. The tower has a shape of a three-floor prism with battlements and a high roof covered with slate. At the end of the Thirty Years War in 1948 especially its western part was severely damaged during bombardment by the Swedish troops that were trying unsuccessfully to get to the Old Town. In 1848 the tower became a witness of another crucial event, when rebels were hindering Austrian troops to get over the bridge. The majority of original Gothic sandstone statues were taken down from the tower and placed at the Lapidary of the National Museum in the 20th century and so now we can see their sandstone copies.

Under the Old Town Bridge Tower there was an entertaining man with pigeons that my friend insisted of stopping by and take photos with, so i followed her lead and took the chance of some funny pictures with Romeo & juliette (the names of the pigeons). Romeo was so funny, he was standing on my shoulder refusing to fly away and paying with my earrings. It was fun.

The famous Charles Bridge was ahead of us, a very busy bridge with so many tourists and stands of souvenirs and paintings, and of course the marvelous sculptures. I was so busy of getting pictures of the view, that I forgot to take the pictures of the scultupres. So after the trip I was doing some research about the meaning of these sculptures, just to know the story behind them and this is what I found:

Charles Bridge is a historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge replaced the old Judith Bridge built 1158–1172 that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342. This new bridge was originally called Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or Prague Bridge (Pražský most) but has been “Charles Bridge” since 1870. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava (Moldau) until 1841, Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town and adjacent areas. This “solid-land” connection made Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe. The bridge is 621 metres (2,037 ft) long and nearly 10 metres (33 ft) wide, following the example of the Stone Bridge in Regensburg, it was built as a bow bridge with 16 arches shielded by ice guards. It is protected by three bridge towers, two on the Lesser Quarter side (including the Malá Strana Bridge Tower) and one on the Old Townside, the Old Town Bridge Tower. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas. These statues mounted to the balustrade of Charles Bridge in Prague. They form two rows, one on each side.

On the South Side of the Bridge: Statue of St. Ivo – The original was made by Matthias Braun in 1711, paid for by the Law faculty of Charles University. The statue portrays St. Ivo as the patron saint of lawyers, accompanied by an allegorical depiction of Justice.  Statues of saints Barbara, Margaret and Elizabeth – The statues were sculpted by Ferdinand Brokoff in 1707. Although there is an inscription saying IOANN BROKOFF FECIT (made by Jan Brokoff), their style is evidence that his son Ferdinand is their true author. Statue of the Lamentation of Christ – Designed by Emanuel Max in 1858, upon commission from the Old Town’s public authorities, the statue depicts Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary mourning the dead Christ. At this position on the bridge, there was originally a wooden crucifix, which was destroyed by a flood in 1496. In 1695, a statue depicting the lamentation of Christ by Jan Brokoff was installed here; this was removed to the Monastery of Gracious Nurses under Petřín hill in Prague in 1859 and replaced by the current statue. Statue of St. Joseph – This statue was designed by Josef Max and sponsored by Josef Bergmann, a tradesman in Prague. It depicts St. Joseph leading a small Christ, and is situated on a pseudo-Gothic base. It replaced a statue with the same motif by Jan Brokoff, designed in 1706. This was damaged by cannon fire during the 1848 revolution and was replaced by the current statue in 1854. Statue of St. Francis Xavier – This statue is a 1913 replica by Čeněk Vosmík of Ferdinand Brokoff’s original 1711 sculpture. The original sculpture was commissioned of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy of Charles University, but fell into the river during the floods of 1890. The statue depicts an Indian and a Japanese prince being baptized by the saint, along with a Moor in chains and a Tatar. Statue of St. Christopher – (socha sv. Kryštofa) This statue was designed by Emanuel Max in 1857 and sponsored by Václav Wanek, the portreeve of Prague. It depicts the saint holding Christ as a boy on his shoulder. The statue was originally conceived by Count Antonín Sporck, who wanted to build a marble statue as tribute to Charles VI in 1720. A plan of this was created by Matthias Braun, which was not executed. Statue of St. Francis Borgia – (sousoší sv. Františka Borgiáše) This statue was commissioned from Ferdinand Brokoff by the imperial Burgrave František z Colletů in 1710. The sculpture portrays St. Borgia, a Jesuit priest, with two angels. Statue of St. Ludmila – (socha sv. Ludmily) The exact date and sculptor responsible for this statue are not known, although it is believed that it was created by Matthias Braun around 1730. The sculpture was erected on the bridge in 1784 to replace the statue of St. Wenceslas damaged in the floods in that year. The statue depicts St. Ludmila teaching her grandson, St. Wenceslas and the base contains a relief sculpture showing the murder of St. Wenceslas. Statue of St. Francis of Assisi -(socha sv. Františka Serafinského) Sculpted by Emanuel Max in 1855, the statue was donated by count František Antonín Kolowrat Liebsteinský. It portrays St. Francis standing with two neoclassic angels, on a pseudo-baroque base. The sculpture replaced a similar statue designed in 1708 by František Preis. Statue of Saints Vincent Ferrer and Procopius + Bruncvík column – (sousoší sv. Vincence Ferrarského a sv. Prokopa) One of the most artistically important pieces on the bridge, this statue was sculpted by Ferdinand Brokoff in 1712, paid for by Romedius Josef František, the count Thun and lord of Choltice. St. Vincent is on the left, with a coffin and a kneeling penitent sinner by his legs. Saint Procopius of Sázava stands on a devil to the right. Beside the statue of Sts. Vincent and Procopius stands a column with a sculpture of Bruncvik, (a mythical Bohemian knight inspired by the Saxonian and Bavarian knight Henry the Lion from Brunswick), portrayed helping a lion fight a seven-headed dragon. This was sculpted by Ludvík Šimek in 1884, and sponsored by the City of Prague. The knight, Bruncvík, is holding a golden sword, with a lion lying by his legs. This replaced a statue of Roland, erected in 1502, and was intended to remind passers-by of the Old Town’s privileges, in particular the right to charge tolls and duty. It was damaged by cannon fire when the city was attacked by Swedish forces in 1648. Statue of St. Nicholas of Tolentino – (socha sv. Mikuláše Tolentinského) Sculpted by Jan Bedřich Kohl in 1708, this statue was paid for by the Augustinian order convent of St. Thomas in Prague. The saint is portrayed standing on a simple base, together with an angel holding a basket of bread. Statue of St. Luthgard (Dream of St. Luthgard) – (socha sv. Luitgardy) Possibly the most valuable piece of art on the bridge, the statue of St. Luthgard was sculpted by Matthias Braun in 1710 as a commission from Evžen Tyttl, the abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Plasy. Statue of St. Adalbert – (socha sv. Vojtěcha) Designed by Michael and Ferdinand Brokoff in 1709, this statue was sponsored by Markus Bernard Joanelli, the councilor of the Old Town of Prague. The saint is represented with a prelate stick developing into a sea paddle and is standing on a base decorated with angels and the emblem of the donor. Statues of Saints John of Matha, Felix of Valois, and Ivan – (sousoší sv. Jana z Mathy, Felixe z Valois a Ivana) The most spacious and expensive sculpture on the bridge, this was designed in 1714 by Ferdinand Brokoff and sponsored by František Josef Thun, the lord of Klášterec nad Ohří. The sculpture was intended to honour the two founders of the Trinitarians, the order that supervised buying back and redeeming of Christians in captivity under Turks. St. Ivan, the saint patron of Slavs was added to the group for unknown reasons. The base depicts a cave in which three chained Christians are praying to the Lord for salvation. Statue of St. Wenceslas – (socha sv. Václava) This statue was designed by Karel Böhm in 1858 and was based on the design by Josef Kamil Führing. The statue was paid for by the Institute of the Blind at Klárov, Prague. Until 1822, various little shops stood on this part of the bridge.

On the North Side of the Bridge: Statue of the Madonna attending to St. Bernard -(Czech: sousoší Madony se sv. Bernardem) This statue was sculpted by Matěj Václav Jäckl in 1709 and donated by the abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Osek, Benedikt Littwerig. Statue of the Madonna, Ss. Dominic and Thomas Aquinas – (sousoší Madony se sv. Dominikem a Tomášem Akvinským) This group was sculpted by Matěj Václav Jäckel in 1708, and sponsored by the Dominicans Convent of St. Giles in the Old Town of Prague. The statue portrays the Madonna giving the Rosary to St. Dominic on the left, with St. Thomas Aquinas standing to the right. The Crucifix and Calvary – This sculpture is one of the most historically interesting sculptures on the bridge, which gradually gained its present appearance throughout many centuries. The original wooden crucifix was installed at this place soon after 1361 and probably destroyed by the Hussites in 1419. A new crucifix with a wooden corpus was erected in 1629 but was severely damaged by the Swedes towards the end of the Thirty Years’ War. The remnants of this crucifix can be found in the lapidarium of the National Museum in Prague. This was replaced by another wooden Calvary which, in turn, was replaced with a metal version in 1657. Bought in Dresden, this crucifix was originally made in 1629 by H. Hillger based upon a design by W. E. Brohn. In 1666, two lead figures were added, but these were replaced in 1861 by the present sandstone statues by Emanuel Max, portraying the Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist. The golden Hebrew text on the crucifix was added in 1696 and is a prime example of Medieval European anti-Semitism. In that year, the Prague authorities accused a local Jewish leader, one Elias Backoffen, of blasphemy. As his punishment he was ordered to raise the funds for purchasing of gold-plated Hebrew letters, placed around the head of the statue, spelling out “Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord of Hosts,” the Kedusha from the Hebrew prayer and originating in the vision from the Book of Isaiah. The inscription was a symbolic humiliation and degradation of Prague Jews, forcing them to pay for a set of golden letters referring to God and hung around the neck of the statue of Christ (information from Steven Plaut, The “Vav” from the Charles Bridge). A bronze tablet with explanatory text in Czech, English and Hebrew was mounted under the statue by the City of Prague in 2000. The tablet’s placement came after an American Rabbi, Ronald Brown of Temple Beth Am in Merrick, New York was passing over the bridge and noted the possibly offensive nature of the placing of the text. Upon a direct request to the mayor, the tablet was soon placed to the side of the statue. Statue of St. Anne – (socha sv. Anny) Designed by Matěj Václav Jäckel in 1707, at the expense of count Rudolf of Lisov, the hetman of the New Town of Prague, this statue represents St. Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, who is portrayed here as a young girl. Statue of St. Cyril and St. Methodius – (sousoší sv. Cyrila a Metoděje) This statue was sculpted by Karel Dvořák between 1928 and 1939 and was erected by the Ministry of education. It portrays the saints Cyril and Methodius (missionaries who introduced Christianity to the Slavs). The original statue of St. Ignatius which stood here, designed by Ferdinand Brokoff in 1711, was displaced by the floods of 1890 and can now be found in the Prague lapidarium. Statue of St. John the Baptist – (socha sv. Jana Křtitele) Sculpted by Josef Max in 1857, at the expenses of Jan Norbert Gemrich of Neuberk, this statue depicts a standing St. John. This replaces a statue by Jan Brokoff, portraying the Baptism of Jesus by St. John, which stood in this position between 1706 and 1848. Statue of Saints Norbert of Xanten, Wenceslas and Sigismund – This statue was designed by Josef Max in 1853, under the patronage of the abbot of Strahov Monastery, Dr. Jeroným Zeidler. Statue of St. John of Nepomuk – This statue is the oldest on the bridge. The original clay design was made by Austrian sculptor Matthias Rauchmüller, based upon a wood model by Jan Brokoff. The statue was then cast in bronze by Volfgang Jeroným Heroldt in Nuremberg. The saint is presented in a traditional way, as a bearded capitulary with a five-star glory, standing on a tripartite base. The base portrays scenes from the life of St. John of Nepomuk, including the confession of Queen Johanna and the saint’s death. In 1393 St. John of Nepomuk was thrown from the bridge into the river where he drowned. In modern times it has become traditional to touch the bridge here; this is held to bring good fortune and to ensure that the visitor will return to the city of Prague. Statue of St. Anthony of Padua – (socha sv. Antonína Paduánského) Designed by Jan Oldřich Mayer in 1707 and sponsored by Krištof Mořice Withauer, councilor of the Prague Castle burgraviate, this statue represents St. Anthony standing between two vases, holding Jesus. Statue of St. Jude Thaddeus – (socha sv. Juda Tadeáše) This sculpture portrays St. Jude holding a rod. It was sculpted by Jan Oldřich Mayer in 1708 and paid for by František Sezima, the knight Mitrovský from Nemyšle and Jeřichovice. Statue of St. Augustine – (socha sv. Augustina) Designed by Jan Bedřich Kohl in 1708 and paid for by the Augustinian convent of St. Thomas in Prague, this portrays the philosopher holding a hook and a burning heart. He is followed by an angel attempting to pour the sea out of a sea-shell. Statue of St. Cajetan – (socha sv. Kajetána) This statue was sculpted by Ferdinand Brokoff in 1709, and sponsored by the convent of Theatins in Prague. The Saint, founder of the religious order of Theatins, is portrayed holding a book and standing before an obelisk representing the Trinity. Statue of St. Philip Benitius – (socha sv. Filipa Benicia) Designed by Michal Bernard Mandel in 1714, this statue was made from Salzburg marble and donated by the Servites convent in Prague. The statue portrays St. Philip Benitius, fifth general of the Servites, holding a cross, a book and a spray. By his legs there is the crown of the Pope. A clay model of this statue can be found in the Salzburg museum. Statuary of St. Vitus – (socha sv. Víta) Sculpted by Ferdinand Brokoff in 1714, this statue was donated by Matěj Vojtěch Macht of Löwenmacht, the dean of the Vyšehrad canonry. St. Vitus is portrayed standing on a base in the shape of cave, from which lions crawl up. The Saint is depicted as a Roman aristocrat, martyred for his faith. Duke Wenceslas acquired a number of his relics to honor the founding of St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. These relics, together with others acquired by Charles IV in 1355, are embedded in the cathedral building. Statue of the Holy Savior with Cosmas and Damian – (sousoší sv. Salvatora se sv. Kosmou a Damiánem) Designed by Jan Oldřich Mayer in 1709, at the expense of the faculty of medicine, University of Prague, this statue portrays Jesus with the patron saints of medicine placed on either side.

After a nice walk and many stops for pictures on the Charles Bridge, it was time for some cultural time at Prague Castle. We took the quickest tour highlighting the main places of the castle and the royal garden and of course we took many pictures overlooking the castle and Prague panoramic view.

We started the tour with St. Vitus Cathedral. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert (Czech: metropolitní katedrála svatého Víta, Václava a Vojtěcha) is a Roman Catholicmetropolitan cathedral in Prague, the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. Until 1997, the cathedral was dedicated only to Saint Vitus, and is still commonly named only as St. Vitus Cathedral. This cathedral is a prominent example of Gothic architecture and is the largest and most important church in the country. Located within Prague Castle and containing the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors, the cathedral is under the ownership of the Czech government as part of the Prague Castlecomplex. Cathedral dimensions are 124 by 60 metres (407 ft × 197 ft), the main tower is 102.8 metres (337 ft) high, front towers 82 metres (269 ft), arch height 33.2 metres (109 ft). The current cathedral is the third of a series of religious buildings at the site, all dedicated to St. Vitus. The first church was an early Romanesque rotunda founded by Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia in 930. This patron saint was chosen because Wenceslaus had acquired a holy relic – the arm of St. Vitus – from Emperor Henry I. It is also possible that Wenceslaus, wanting to convert his subjects to Christianity more easily, chose a saint whose name (Svatý Vít in Czech) sounds very much like the name of Slavic solar deity Svantevit. Two religious populations, the increasing Christian and decreasing pagan community, lived simultaneously in Prague castle at least until the 11th century. In the year 1060, as the bishopric of Prague was founded, prince Spytihněv II embarked on building a more spacious church, as it became clear the existing rotunda was too small to accommodate the faithful. A much larger and more representative Romanesque basilica was built in its spot. Though still not completely reconstructed, most experts agree it was a triple-aisled basilica with two choirs and a pair of towers connected to the western transept. The design of the cathedral nods to Romanesque architecture of the Holy Roman Empire, most notably to the abbey church in Hildesheim and the Speyer Cathedral. The southern apse of the rotunda was incorporated into the eastern transept of the new church because it housed the tomb of St. Wenceslaus, who had by now become the patron saint of the Czech princes. A bishop’s mansion was also built south of the new church, and was considerably enlarged and extended in the mid 12th-century. The Gothic Cathedral: Construction of the present-day Gothic Cathedral began on 21 November 1344, when the see of Prague was elevated to an archbishopric. King John of Bohemia laid the foundation stone for the new building. The patrons were the chapter of cathedral (led by a Dean), the Archbishop Arnost of Pardubice, and, above all, Charles IV, King of Bohemia and a soon-to-be Holy Roman Emperor, who intended the new cathedral to be a coronation church, family crypt, treasury for the most precious relics of the kingdom, and the last resting place cum pilgrimage site of patron saint Wenceslaus. The first master builder was a Frenchman Matthias of Arras, summoned from the Papal Palace in Avignon. Matthias designed the overall layout of the building as, basically, an import of French Gothic: a triple-naved basilica with flying buttresses, short transept, five-bayed choir and decagon apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. However, he lived to build only the easternmost parts of the choir: the arcades and the ambulatory. The slender verticality of Late French Gothic and clear, almost rigid respect of proportions distinguish his work today. After Matthias’ death in 1352, 23-year-old Peter Parler assumed control of the cathedral workshop as master builder. He was son of the architect of the Heilig-Kreuz-Münster in Schwäbisch Gmünd. Initially, Parler only worked on plans left by his predecessor, building the sacristy on the north side of the choir and the chapel on the south. Once he finished all that Matthias left unfinished, he continued according to his own ideas. Parler’s bold and innovative design brought in a unique new synthesis of Gothic elements in architecture. This is best exemplified in the vaults he designed for the choir. The so-called Parler’s vaults or net-vaults have double (not single, as in classic High Gothic groin vaults) diagonal ribs that span the width of the choir-bay. The crossing pairs of ribs create a net-like construction (hence the name), which considerably strengthens the vault. They also give a lively ornamentation to the ceiling, as the interlocking vaulted bays create a dynamic zigzag pattern the length of the cathedral. While Matthias of Arras was schooled as a geometer, thus putting an emphasis on rigid systems of proportions and clear, mathematical compositions in his design, Parler was trained as a sculptor and woodcarver. He treated architecture as a sculpture, almost as if playing with structural forms in stone. Aside from his bold vaults, the peculiarities of his work can also be seen in the design of pillars (with classic, bell-shaped columns which were almost forgotten by High Gothic), the ingenious dome vault of new St Wenceslaus chapel, the undulating clerestory walls, the original window tracery (no two of his windows are the same, the ornamentation is always different) and the blind tracery panels of the buttresses. Architectural sculpture was given a considerable role while Parler was in charge of construction, as can be seen in the corbels, the passageway lintels, and, particularly, in the busts on the triforium, which depict faces of the royal family, saints, Prague bishops, and the two master builders, including Parler himself. Work on the cathedral, however, proceeded slowly, because the Emperor commissioned Parler with many other projects, such as the construction of the new Charles Bridge in Prague and many churches throughout the Czech realm. By 1397, when Peter Parler died, only the choir and parts of the transept were finished. After Peter Parler’s death in 1399 his sons, Wenzel Parler and particularly Johannes Parler, continued his work; they in turn were succeeded by a certain Master Petrilk, who by all accounts was also a member of Parler’s workshop. Under these three masters, the transept and the great tower on its south side were finished. So was the gable which connects the tower with the south transept. Nicknamed ‘Golden Gate’ (likely because of the golden mosaic of Last Judgment depicted on it), it is through this portal that the kings entered the cathedral for coronation ceremonies. The entire building process came to a halt with the beginning of Hussite War in the first half of 15th century. The war brought an end to the workshop that operated steadily over for almost a century, and the furnishings of cathedral, dozens of pictures and sculptures, suffered heavily from the ravages of Hussite iconoclasm. As if this was not enough, a great fire in 1541 heavily damaged the cathedral. St. Wenceslas Chapel: Perhaps the most outstanding place in the cathedral is the Chapel of St. Wenceslas, which houses relics of the saint. Peter Parler constructed the room between 1344 and 1364 with a ribbed vault. The lower portions of the walls are decorated with over 1300 semi-precious stones and paintings depicting the Passion of Christ dating from the original decoration of the chapel in 1372–1373. The upper area of the walls have paintings depicting the life of St. Wenceslas, by the Master of the Litoměřice Altarpiece between 1506 and 1509. Above the altar, is a Gothic statue of St. Wenceslas created by Jindrich Parler (Peter’s nephew) in 1373. The Chapel is not open to the public, but it can be viewed from the doorways. A small door with seven locks, in the southwest corner of the chapel, leads to the Crown Chamber containing the Czech Crown Jewels, which are displayed to the public only once every (circa) eight years. Renaissance & Baroque: Through most of the following centuries, the cathedral stood only half-finished. It was built to the great tower and a transept, which was closed by a provisional wall. In the place of a three-aisled nave-to-be-built, a timber-roofed construction stood, and services were held separately there from the interior of the choir. Several attempts to continue the work on cathedral were mostly unsuccessful. In the latter half of 15th century, king Vladislav Jagiellon commissioned the great Renaissance-Gothic architect Benedict Ried to continue the work on the cathedral, but almost as soon as the work began, it was cut short because of lack of funds. Later attempts to finish the cathedral only brought some Renaissance and Baroque elements into the Gothic building, most notably the obviously different Baroque spire of the south tower and the great organ in the northern wing of transept. Completion in 19th & 20th Century: In 1844, Václav Pešina, an energetic St. Vitus canon, together with Neo-Gothic architect Josef Kranner presented a program for renovation and completion of the great cathedral at the gathering of German architects in Prague. The same year a society under the full name “Union for Completion of the Cathedral of St. Vitus in Prague” was formed, whose aim was to repair, complete and rid the structure of everything mutilated and stylistically inimical. Josef Kranner headed the work from 1861 to 1866 which consisted mostly of repairs, removing Baroque decorations deemed unnecessary and restoring the interior. In 1870 workers finally laid the foundations of the new nave, and in 1873, after Kramer’s death, architect Josef Mocker assumed control of the reconstruction. He designed the west façade in a typical classic Gothic manner with two towers, and the same design was adopted, after his death, by the third and final architect of restoration, Kamil Hilbert. In the 1920s the sculptor Vojtěch Sucharda worked on the façade, and the famous Czech Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha decorated the new windows in the north part of nave. Frantisek Kysela designed the Rose Window 1925-7 which depicts scenes from the Biblical story of creation. By the time of St. Wenceslas jubilee in 1929, the St. Vitus cathedral was finally finished, nearly 600 years after it was begun. Despite the fact that entire western half of Cathedral is a Neo-Gothic addition, much of the design and elements developed by Peter Parler were used in the restoration, giving the Cathedral as a whole a harmonious, unified look.

After St. Vitus Cathedral we headed to the old royal palace. It is part of the Prague Castle, Czech Republic. Its history dates back to the 12th century and it is designed in the Gothic and Renaissance styles. Its Vladislav Hall is used for inaugurations, being the most important representative hall in the country. It is also home to a copy of the Czech crown. we could not took pictures inside due to site protection. Then we took a walk to get to St. Georges Basilica and convent. St. George’s Basilica (Czech: Bazilika Sv. Jiří) is the oldest surviving church building within Prague Castle, Prague, Czech Republic. The basilica was founded by Vratislaus I of Bohemia in 920. It is dedicated to Saint George. The basilica was substantially enlarged in 973 with the addition of the Benedictine St. George’s Abbey. It was rebuilt following a major fire in 1142. The Baroque façade dates from the late 17th century. A Gothic style chapel dedicated to Ludmila of Bohemia holds the tomb of the saint. The shrines of Vratislav and Boleslaus II of Bohemia are also in the basilica. The abbess of this community had the right to crown the Bohemian queens consort. The building now houses the 19th century Bohemian Art Collection of National Gallery in Prague. It also serves as a concert hall. The Convent of Saint George was a Benedictine convent located in the Prague Castle in the Czech Republic between 973 and 1782. Founded in 973, the convent was next to the seat of ecclesiastical and state power in Bohemia and occasionally the entire Holy Roman Empire, and played an important historical role. Although no longer active, the convent’s building and the attached Bascilica dedicated to Saint George still exist and the building houses the Czech National Gallery’s collection of 19th-century Bohemian art.

The last part of the tour before the castle gardens is the Golden Lane. Golden Lane (Czech: Zlatá ulička) is a street situated in Prague Castle, Czech Republic. Originally built in the 16th century, to house Rudolf II’s castle guards, it takes its name from the goldsmiths that lived there in the 17th century. Although the lane was temporarily called the Street of Alchemists or Alchemists’ Alley, alchemists have never worked or lived there. Golden Lane consists of small houses, painted in bright colours in the 1950s. The street originally had houses on both sides, but one side was demolished in the 19th century. Today the lane is a part of the small and big castle rings (i.e. a fee must be paid to enter), while there is free entry after the Prague Castle interiors close. Many of the houses are now souvenir shops, and there is a museum of medieval armoury within the former 14th-century fortification accessible from Golden Lane. House number 22 used to belong to the sister of writer Franz Kafka, who used this house to write for approximately two years between 1916 and 1917. Jaroslav Seifert, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984 and who was one of the signatories of Charter 77, lived there in 1929. Golden Lane is connected with Dalibor Tower, which used to be a dungeon. At the eastern end of the Golden Lane stands a round tower, shrouded in legend. Dating back to 1496, the tower, which served as a prison until 1781, is named after its first inmate – Dalibor of Kozojedy. In addition to the dungeon with its monumental vaults, there is a circular opening in the floor through which offenders were lowered into the oubliette with the help of a pulley.

It was time to go back down for our one hour cruise on Vltava river for a relaxing afternoon. but before that we treated ourselves with a delicious donut cone with ice cream and headed back to Charles Bridge to get to our pier waiting for our boat.

Our Boat trip was nice. I enjoyed it sipping a glass of wine and enjoying the views ahead of us. it was short overlooking main highlights of Prague buildings and we crossed under 4 bridges including Charles Bridge. It was great to end our long day that way before heading back to our hotel for some rest. The night time was dedicated for bying souvenirs. It was cold at that time and it was raining a bit so we called the night off at around 10 to go back to the hotel.

22 SEP 2018:

The third day of our trip was a tour guided day to Cesky Krumlov city. After our usual morning breakfast at the hotel, we got dressed and waited for our driver to take us to the meeting point at Wenceslas Square to begin our trip.

Our group was around 8 Canadian people in their fifties i guess and another Lebanese group of around 10 people younger. As expected the Lebanese group were a little annoying, or more, for the other group but sometimes funny. Our guide was a nice woman also in her fifties which was good for me considering i was havin some pain while walking. A little tip for me for next time: don’t buy a hiking shoes that is exactly the same size of your feet and wear it for the first time in a trip like mine. The road scenery were very nice driving to the South Bohemian side of the country.

Ater around 2 and a half hours of driving because of some traffic on the road due to some road maintenance, we reached our destination. the weather was cold but no rain or fog which was perfect for our day. a little walk in the medieval old town was waiting for us, then we had a one hour of free time on our own which we benefit from it my friend and i to discover the town and had w to o pizza for quick lunch before heading to the castle and the Rococo style Garden, before heading to our one hour guided tour inide the castle with a very funny guide.

Cesky Krumlov old town streets reminded me of a fairytale location. The town is so calm and peaceful with a river passing through and houses from medieval era. It was so magical that u forget for a while the reality.

Cesky Krumlov is a town in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. Its historic centre, centred around the Český Krumlov Castle, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992 and was given this status along with the historic Prague castle district. The settlement arose beneath the castle, which was erected from about 1240 onwards by a local branch of the noble Vítkovci family, descendants of Witiko of Prčice. The fortress was first mentioned in a 1253 deed as Chrumbenowe. According to local legend, the name derives from Middle High German krumbe ouwe which can be translated as “crooked meadow”, after a bend of the Vltava River. It was also mentioned in the 1255 Frauendienst poem by minnesinger Ulrich von Liechtenstein. Located at a ford of an important trade route in the Kingdom of Bohemia, a settlement arose soon after beneath the castle. The Czech name Krumlov is documented as early as in 1259. In 1302 the Vítkovci line became extinct and King Wenceslaus II ceded the town and castle to the Rosenberg family (Rožmberkové). Peter I of Rosenberg (d. 1347), the Lord Chamberlain of King John of Bohemia, resided here and had the present upper castle erected in the early 14th century. The majority of inhabitants were German-speaking at that time, immigrating from neighbouring Austria and Bavaria in the course of the Ostsiedlung. A Jewish community is documented since 1334. By 1336, it can be expected that Czechs formed a small minority, which had its own priest. The Rosenbergs strongly promoted trade and crafts within the town walls. In the late 15th century, when gold was found next to the town, German miners came to settle, which shifted the ethnic balance even more. In one of the churches the sermons were preached in Czech until 1788, when St. Jošt Church was closed. William of Rosenberg (1535–1592), High Treasurer and High Burgrave of Bohemia, had the castle rebuilt in a Renaissance style. In 1602 William’s brother Peter Vok of Rosenberg (1539–1611) sold Krumlov to the Habsburg emperor Rudolf II, who gave it to his natural son Julius d’Austria. After the Bohemian Revolt and the 1620 Battle of White Mountain, Emperor Ferdinand II gave Krumlov to the noble House of Eggenberg and the town became seat of the mediate Duchy of Krumlov. From 1719 until 1947 the castle belonged to the House of Schwarzenberg. There were 8,662 inhabitants in Krummau an der Moldau in 1910, including 7,367 Germans and 1,295 Czechs. After the First World War, the city was part of the Bohemian Forest Region which was initially declared to be part of German-Austria. By the end of 1918 the Czechoslovak army had occupied the region, which became part of Czechoslovakia. In 1938 it was annexed by Nazi Germany, as part of the Reichsgau Oberdonau unit of Sudetenland under the Munich agreement. After World War II the town’s longstanding German-speaking population was expelled and it was returned to Czechoslovakia. During the Communist era of Czechoslovakia, historic Krumlov fell into disrepair, but since the Velvet Revolution of 1989 much of the town’s former beauty has been restored, and it is now a major holiday destination popular, with high numbers of tourists from Europe and from Asian countries such as China and Japan. In August 2002, the town suffered from damage in a great flood of the Vltava River. Most of the architecture of the old town and castle dates from the 14th through 17th centuries; the town’s structures are mostly in Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroquestyles. The core of the old town is within a horseshoe bend of the river, with the old Latrán neighborhood and castle on the other side of the Vltava. Český Krumlov has a museum dedicated to the painter Egon Schiele, who lived in the town. About 10 kilometres (6 miles) from Krumlov is one of Bohemia’s oldest monasteries, Zlatá Koruna (“The Golden Crown”). About 30 km (19 mi) from Krumlov is the Hluboka Castle, established in the twelfth century and later remodelled in imitation of Windsor Castle. Český Krumlov is close to the Šumava National Park, the Czech Republic’s largest national park. The Šumava mountains lie along the border with Austria and Germany and offer a range of natural habitats – peat bogs, Alpine meadows, old-growth forest, lakes, and rivers. The area is popular with walkers, cyclists, and canoeists on the Vltava. Cesky Krumlov is a short distance from the man-made Lake Lipno, on which many people take boat trips to various small towns and to the dam, with its Hydro power plant. Český Krumlov is home to the Pivovar Eggenberg brewery. It has been used for locations in movies such as The Illusionist (2006) and Hostel (2005), as well as the 1973 German movie Traumstadt (Dream City). Český Krumlov hosts a number of festivals and other events each year including the Five-Petaled Rose Festival (a reference to the rose of the Rožmberk crest), which is held on the summer solstice weekend. The downtown area is turned into a medieval town with craftsmen, artists, musicians, and local people in medieval costume. Activities include jousting, fencing, historical dance performances, and folk theater, in the Castle precincts and along the river. It concludes with a fireworks display. The International Music Festival Cesky Krumlov begins in July and ends in August, and features international music of various genres. Other such events are held throughout the year. The summer music festivals include the blues, rock, and soul festival Open Air Krumlov, held in late June at Eggenberg Brewery Garden. Since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, over eighty restaurants have been established in the area. Many restaurants are located along the river and near the castle. There is a museum dedicated to the semi-precious gemstone Moldavite in the city center. 

After our short break, we headed up to the castle. The view from there was wonderful and epic. We could get a view of the whole town from another perspective that you wish you can actually live there and never leave the site.

Český Krumlov Castle is a castle located in the city of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic. It dates back to 1240 when the first castle was built by the Witigonen family, the main branch of the powerful Rosenberg family. Currently the castle is listed as a national heritage site and thus serves as a major tourist attraction. By the 17th century the Rosenbergs had died out, and Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II gave the dominion of Krumau to Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg, naming him Dukeof Krumau. After the death of Hans Ulrich’s son, Johann Anton I von Eggenberg, the castle was administered for the period between 1649 and 1664 by his widow, Anna Maria. One of her two sons, Johann Christian I von Eggenberg, was responsible for the Baroque renovations and expansions to the castle, including the castle theatre now called the Eggenberg Theatre. When the male line of the Eggenbergs died out in 1717, the castle and duchy passed into the possession of the Schwarzenbergs. In 1947, the Schwarzenberg property, including Český Krumlov, was transferred to the Czech provincial properties and in 1950 it became the property of the Czechoslovak State. The entire area was declared a national monument in 1989 and in 1992 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The castle houses the Český Krumlov Baroque Theatre, which is situated on the Vth Castle Courtyard. It is one of the world’s most completely preserved Baroque theatres with its original theatre building, auditorium, orchestra pit, stage, stage technology, machinery, coulisses (stage curtains), librettos, costumes etc. At the day of our visit, there was a musical concert held that occurs once or twice a year at the Castle Theatre lighted only by candles to protect the inside of the theatre. 

Before our one hour visit to some of the inside rooms of the castle scheduled at 4.00 PM, we had around 45 minutes to stroll the Rococo style garden of the castle. there were greenery and flowers all over the garden with a nice fountain surrounded by royal stairs. the place is perdect for a romantic afternoon that is why we spotted a couple sitting on the grass having their own picnic.

Our one hour visit inside the castle was well informative with a funny storytelling guide. we visited around 10 rooms, from bedrooms to conferences rooms, passing by dinner rooms and ball room. the decoration and style was well preserved since the time of actual inhabitants of the castle. Even there were some stories for few rooms about spirit haunting of the last female ruler of the castle which husband was so cruel to her due to her beauty and his jealosusy, so legend tells that her spirit still fly around the rooms of the castle. the ball room was full of paintings for a masquerade party that was a tradition at the time. Pictures were not allowed inside the rooms also to protect them from flashes of the cameras.

Around 5.30 we headed back down where the bus was waiting for us and returned to Prague after a wonderful day well spent in this magical town.

At night, we went out for a nice walk to the Old Town and charles Bridge. Exploring the streets and Vhatles Bridge at night was perfect to an end of a day. Of course we stopped for a while to get some delicious Prague donuts while heading to Charles Bridge. The lights and people were everywhere as if no one sleeps in this busy city. Tyn Church was like a fairytale castle lighted up with nice colors, the shadow of the lights reflected on the Vltava river created a very nice view from Charles Bridge. I was glad that I had to experience the night just walking and being amazed.

23 SEP 2018:

Our last day was dedicated to Petrin Hill. There were some rain so we decided to order Uber to go up there.

Petřín (327 m) is a hill in the center of Prague, Czech Republic. It rises some 130 m above the left bank of the Vltava River. The hill, almost entirely covered with parks, is a favorite recreational area for the inhabitants of Prague. The hill (in German known as Laurenziberg) is featured prominently in Franz Kafka’s early short story “Description of a Struggle” and briefly in Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The chronicler Cosmas describes Petřín as a very rocky place, the hill is allegedly called Petřín because of the large number of rocks (Latin: petra). Since ancient times, stones were dug and were used to construct buildings in Prague. Medieval defence wall, the Hunger Wall was built on Petřín Hill during 1360 – 1362, by the order of Czech King Charles IV. The Petřín Lookout Tower, which strongly resembles the Eiffel Tower, was built atop a hill in 1891. Other sights include the Rose Garden, Mirror Maze, Cathedral of Saint Lawrence, and St Michael Church. The summit of the hill is linked to Prague’s Malá Strana district by the Petřín funicular, a funicular railway that first operated in 1891.

Before heading to Petrin Tower, we had a nice morning walk in the park. It was so peaceful, cold and nice with very few people there since it was still early morning. The greenery and flowers were scattered all around just like a beautiful painting.

Then we headed up to Petrin Lookout Tower. The Petřín Lookout Tower (Czech: Petřínská rozhledna) is a 63.5-metre-tall steel-framework tower in Prague, which strongly resembles the Eiffel Tower. The Petřínská rozhledna was built in 1891 and was used as an observation tower as well as a transmission tower. Today the Petřínská rozhledna is a major tourist attraction. The hill is roughly a half-hour walk up paths (which gets quite slippery in the snow) and the tower is a shorter but fairly tiring climb; however, the hill is served by a frequent funicular and the tower has an elevator for disabled people. In 2014 the tower was visited by more than 557,000 visitors, with foreigners accounting for over 70% of said visitors. The two observation platforms are accessible via 299 stairs in sections of 13 per flight running around the inside of the structure. A pair of staircases form a double-helix structure allowing visitors travelling up and down concurrently. Petřínská rozhledna is often described as small version of the Eiffel Tower. In contrast to the Eiffel Tower, Petřínská rozhledna has an octagonal, not square, cross-section. Further, it does not stand, as does the Eiffel Tower, on four columns of lattice steel. The whole area under its legs is covered with the entrance hall. A similarity between the Eiffel Tower and Petřínská rozhledna is the design of the lowest cross beams in the form of round bones. In 1889, members of the Club of Czech Tourists visited the world exposition in Paris and were inspired by the Eiffel Tower. They collected a sufficient amount of money and in March 1891 the building of the tower started for the General Land Centennial Exhibition. It was finished in only four months. In 1953, a television broadcasting antenna was installed on Petřínská rozhledna, the program feed performed by a directional radio antenna. This served as Prague’s main television signal provider until the opening of the Žižkov Television Tower in late 1992. In 1999, the tower was completely renovated.

We then passed near the cathedral of Saint Lawrence and went inside the Mirror maze and passed under the Hunger Wall.

The Church of Saint Lawrence in Prague is a church of the Old Catholic Church of the Czech Republic. It is located on Petřín hill, next to Petřín Lookout Tower and the Hunger Wall. It was originally a Romanesque church, later rebuilt in the Baroque style by Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer.

The mirror maze is a favourite spot for children and adults alike. From the outside, this building resembles a small castle, but inside, instead of a labyrinth with mysterious stone hallways, you’ll find one made of mirrors. First you’ll make your way through the maze to the diorama of the battle of the Praguers against the Swedes at Charles Bridge in 1648 and then through the “hall of laughter” where warped and twisted mirrors will change your appearance in crazy ways.

The Hunger Wall (Czech: Hladová zeď) is a medieval defensive wall of the Lesser Town of Prague, today’s Czech Republic. It was built on Petřín Hill between 1360 and 1362 by order of Charles IV. Marl from quarries on Petřín Hill was used as construction material. The purpose of the construction was to strengthen the fortifications of Prague Castle and Malá Strana against any attack from the west or south. Originally the wall was 4 to 4.5 metres high and 1.8 metres wide and was equipped with battlements and (probably) eight bastions. The wall was repaired in 1624, further strengthened in the middle of 18th century and repaired or modified several times later (in modern era in 1923-25 and 1975). One of preserved bastions serves as a base for the dome of Štefánik Observatory. A well preserved part of the wall may also be found in the interior yard of the 19th-century house in Plaská Street No.8. The wall was originally called Zubatá (toothed) or Chlebová (built for bread). The adjective Hladová (hungry) appeared after a 1361 famine, when the construction works on the wall provided livelihood for the city’s poor. According to myth, the purpose of the wall was not strategic but to employ and thus feed the poor. Another myth, recorded in writings of Václav Hájek z Libočan or Bohuslav Balbín, is that the Emperor Charles IV himself worked on the wall several hours every day “to help his beloved people”. The term hladová zeď has become a Czech euphemism for useless public works.

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We went then to the other part of the park , “The Rose Garden” where there was many species of flowers from different colors, Štefánik’s Observatory but it was closed since we were on a Sunday, and Polibek statue. Polibek (“Kiss”) is a protected statue by Josef Mařatka, installed on the hill of Petřín in Prague, Czech Republic.

The only thing i do regret is not seeing the Memorial of the Victims of Communism which were on the way of the road we took down walking but could not locate them. We returned to Charles Bridge passing through an apple field on the way down of Petrin Hill which was nice for a picture break.

Before heading to our lunch break, we sat down at the bank of Vltava River for a short break enjoying the view and the weather, Then we had lunch with a nice cold local beer before heading back to the hotel because it was starting to rain.

When I arrived to the hotel, it was about 3.30 PM, I was so tired and my feet were hurting so bad from the shoes and all the walking. So i decided to stay at the lobby since we checked out the morning. My friend was still shopping so i spent my time reading for some time, and watching people around me for the other till it was 6.00 PM and our driver arrived to take us to the airport. it lasted around 3 hours before my take off back home. I enjoyed it getting to know some people there since the plane was full with Lebanese people. The flight was nice, and arrived home happy filled with beautiful memories, adventure and pictures from a magical 4 days well spent in a fairyland.

Until the next trip, Cheers !

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