Pictures here: Prague
What a city!
After the muck-up on the way to Prague, both Tim and I were feeling a bit wary about what kind of experience we'd have in Prague. Turns out that our fears were unfounded. The language barrier that had caused us much grief on the train was much less of a problem in the city. This was because a) we didn't need to ask as many questions, and b) being a place of tourism, many more people spoke at least a little bit of English.
Once we'd arrived, we both crashed until the early afternoon. Sleep is my friend, let me tell you! Around 2, we decided it was time to go out into the city and see what we could see, specifically in the Old Town - we started out at what is known as the Astronomical Clock - not really sure if I can explain this one in entirety - it had two different face, neither of which seemed to show time. I'm guessing that one showed the phases of the moon, and the other, Earth's position around the sun (the date), but I'm not sure at the moment - more reading needs to be done! We just so happened to be there when the clock struck an hour and there were some little animatronic saints (I think) who came out of doors on the tower and blessed the crowd. The onlookers were impressed. This clock was built likely in the 1600s...
We visited a number of churches around the old square as well - many were hosting concerts in the evening, frequently based around Mozart and Handel. Cool stuff. The decoration and ornamentation inside the churches in Prague is decidedly different than those of Germany or Austria. Where in those countries everything seemed to be coated in gold leaf, here things were a bit more toned down - wood and [Bohemian?] crystal were the biggest decorative materials (lots of big chandeliers!).
Later we walked across the Charles Bridge - probably Prague's most famous attraction. There are statues of saints on either side of the bridge, an also statues of moments in the life of Christ. Very beautiful stuff here. Also, the bridge was chock full of tourists and salesmen hocking everything from portraits of the tourists themselves to buskers playing music to jewelery.
From here on the bridge we went to one of the towers that are on either end (fortifications at some point, no doubt) and there was a tourist office in the lowest level... and stairs going to the top! It seems that these towers are not as popular as some of the other attractions, or they just plain get missed when walking by, so we paid the small entrance fee to climb to the top and see the view. Totally worth it. The view from up top gives a close-up view of the entire Old Town, and you can watch all the action around the area.
I think it was at this point that we made our way back towards the Old Town Hall Square (where the clock was, as well as a huge church with gigantic black spires) where there was a "Fan Station" set up for people to watch the Euro Cup together - two giant screens as well as a stage for musical acts to perform. We had a couple of sausages for dinner, and leaned against the old town hall for a while and listened to the three musical acts that performed before the main event. The first was a kind of emo-punk-alternative band (they reminded me of Three Days Grace or maybe Relient K) who sang in English and Czech. They were very good. The second was two guys who played guitars over top of pre-recorded bass and drums while one of them sang in Czech... not great, but not bad either. The singer/guitarist was enthusiastic at least! The final act was a burly, blonde muscular dude alone on the stage in leather pants singing to some very cheesy pre-recorded anthem rock. Blech. I highly suspect he was lip-synching. There's just something that seems illegitimate to me about singing or playing to recorded music... But I digress!
After the third act, the semi-final game between Russia and Spain began. The square filled up gradually, and near the front was a large contingent of Russia fans waving flags that sometimes blotted out a large portion of the screen we were watching from our vantage point at the rear of the crowd. It was a pretty intense first half, with both sides getting close shots but no goals. The crowd was excited, but not violent by any stretch. Cheering for Spain, I didn't feel like I'd get beat up for liking the wrong team ;) Partway through the half, a group of about 40 school kids from Spain gathered near where we were and began chanting in Spanish different songs to cheer the team on. It reminded me how much I enjoyed visiting Spain on our last trip... gonna have to go back there someday.
So, after the first half ended it was getting close to 10:00, thus Tim and I headed back towards the metro and our hotel to avoid the crowds that would doubtless form later, and because, well, we were tired after the last night's adventure.
When we got back to the hotel, we watched the last half from the common-room. Spain won 3-0, by the way! WOO!
And that's how our day ended. It was a good one!
More stories to come about our second day in Prague - later tonight. I'm heading out for dinner now (I'm in Dresden, Tim flew home this morning)