A quick note before we get to today’s blog, I am writing this in the shadow of “Europe’s Super Bowl”, the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Athletico Madrid in Lisbon. Like the Super Bowl, it is the biggest game for the biggest club sport on this continent, soccer. However, unlike the Super Bowl, people don’t watch just for the commercials (though if you do, you got extra today as the match goes to extra time). While two Spanish teams are playing in the match, the buzz around Prague for the match is still palpable. There were lots of people walking around with shirts of the two squads, and many of the restaurants, bars and pubs were promoting specials for during the match. This does bring up an interesting cultural study as European soccer in the U.S. is a morning sport, its fans are early birds on the weekends. It is nearly 11 p.m. in Prague and the match has at least 30 minutes to go.
Anyway, the first half of today was dedicated to heading to Prague’s biggest tourist attraction, the Prague Castle. To get there, we took the scenic route through Petřín Park, which started right across the road from our hotel. Though the journey was not the easiest (one word: hills), it did provide some of the best views overlooking Prague. Among the attractions we encountered was the Petřín Tower, a TV tower that was designed to look similar to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Once we left the lush greens of the forest, we quickly cut through the Strahov Monestary, a 12th century abbey. Once you exited to street level the journey began to Prague Castle. There were two enjoyable parts of the walk from this point. The first is the culture you experience on the walk to the castle. The people running the business on the road know it is a tourist attraction and though it was just past 10 a.m., they were in full swing with the businesses and shops being open. The second most exciting part is that the entire way you can see the towers of Prague Castle, making the journey that much more incentivizing.
There is so much to say about Prague Castle. The first is that it is old. Parts of the structure began being built in the ninth century, and there are signs of many eras of architecture in and around the buildings. The second is how big it is. There are many different buildings in and around the “Castle” area. It is centered around the massive St. Vitus Cathedral. A Gothic-era church, St. Vitus doesn’t hold much in terms of an area for service, but it makes up for it in the vast amount of artifacts and religious relics. Among them were some enormous stain glass windows, the tomb of St. John of Nepomuk and the gargoyles that decorate the outside of the church.
Though the cathedral is the big attention drawer of Prague Castle, there are almost half a dozen other buildings that feature attractions. Among them are more basilicas and chapels, multiple palaces (including one that keeps the replica of the Bohemian Crown Jewels), a treasury that features many more relics and manuscripts from the church and both the office and home of the President of the Czech Republic.
To finish out our Prague Castle tour, we got to see the changing of the guard. Like at Buckingham Palace in London, there are guards that stand at attention outside the gates of Prague Castle. At noon, a fascinating ceremony took place that involved a seven-piece band, multiple soldiers with guns, swords, etc.
This afternoon we finally got in some volleyball. A switch was made at the last-minute of the team we were going to play and we took a team of members from the Czech Republic World University Games team. You can read the full recap of the match here.
Tomorrow we are headed to the Old Town district of Prague. It is across the Charles Bridge, which we have already visited, but we have not had a chance to check out that area yet. Then tomorrow afternoon we will play our second match in Prague against the Czech Republic Junior National Team.