Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Postcard from Berlin and Prague...Part Two

A view of Prague from the castle area.  Charles Bridge can be seen. 

16th-22nd Aug.  …and so we were up bright and early and at Hauptbahnhof (railway station) well before our train to Prague was due to leave.  Hauptbahnhof is quite a sight, with several floors and a shopping/eating centre giving it more of the appearance of a major airport.  It was opened for use at the 2006 football World Cup.  The train ran on time, but getting onto it was a bit of a rugby scrum and I had to ask folk to move from our seats.  It was a four and a half hour journey to Prague stopping at Dresden and passing some very nice scenery near the border and along the River Elbe.  It wasn’t long out of Berlin when we spotted a Marsh Harrier and later whilst I was dozing Sam found a Common Buzzard.  Sam later reflected that of course we probably travelled on the line that would have taken Czech Jews to what would so often be their final destination!  We arrived at our very nice hotel in the old town and we were soon out taking in the city sites.  Our first major port of call was the famous square in the old town where we looked at amongst many other things the Astronomical Clock.  We were to pass the clock on several occasions.  A Kestrel flew overhead and perched on top of the high buildings.  We eventually counted five Kestrels here.

An early morning view of part of the old town square, here amongst other things the famous astronomical clock attracts the crowds.

The astronomical clock.   I'm still trying to work it all out so may stick to my wrist watch for the time being..

Prague is a compact and beautiful city, but its compactness makes for crowding.  Imagine St Marks Square in Venice and you get the picture of parts of Prague.  Perhaps it was in part the crowded feel that ensured that my expectation that Prague would be the high spot of this trip proved to be wrong.  My feeling is that I would return to Berlin if given the opportunity, as there is so much to see, but as far as Prague is concerned then I feel ‘I’ve been there and done that now’, so would not expect to return.  Certainly Sam and I both felt unless you’re intending making tours outside of the city two, days is enough to ensure you get to see the main areas of the city.  Don’t get me wrong though, it is a beautiful place with lots of history.  I felt that the place had a feel of the Italian about it, but perhaps that is because in the main we dined at Italian restraunts.

Crossing a quiet Charles Bridge and heading for the castle area.  St Vitus Cathedral can be seen in the castle area to the right.

We watched the changing of the guard as we had done earlier this year in Budapest.  My guide book suggests that the guards look 'camp'.  I wasn't going to be the one to tell that to this bloke!

Still no crowds meant that these musicians could be enjoyed.  Not many places you can go to in Prague without street entertainment, but little as classy as this group.

I got some nice images of each musician.

We were up at 6.00am and after a quick breakfast we were out to see the Charles Bridge (which crosses the Vltava River) before any crowds built up.  We reached the Castle area well before numbers of folk began to arrive and believe me they do arrive in numbers!  The Charles Bridge area becomes a crowded mass of people later in the day.  If you visit Prague one simple piece of advice is get up early and miss the crowds and have a break in the afternoon.  This is what we did and it worked out pretty well.  Birds on or over the Vltava River included Mute Swan (thankfully no Swanbusters about:-) ), Cormorant, Mallard, Tufted Duck and hirundines in number.

St Vitus Cathedral.

There's some fine stained glass in the cathedral.
The images reflect the fact that we visited all of the main areas within Prague.  With CNN continually reporting that a volcano was about to erupt in Iceland and possibly going to bring havoc to airline travel I wondered if we would be forced to revisit over the next week!  Thankfully we got home as expected and I have to say I was impressed by Easy Jet service.

More moving moments going around the Jewish section of Prague.  One of the synagogues has the names inscribed on walls of individual Jews lost in the Holocaust and it is the longest epitaph in the world.  There was also a large collection of  drawings and art which had been done by Jewish children in the Terezin Ghetto.  Getting the children involved with the art work had been an attempt to help them psychologically overcome some of the terrors around them.  The ages of the children were shown, as was the age at which they died usually at the hands of the Nazis.  Few lived past their very early teens and many didn't even reach that age!  Looking at the densely crowded gave-stones in the Jewish cemetery helps one far better understand the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. I've read a lot recently about the evil behaviour from fanatical Islamists.  It seems to me that all religions/communities have in their number, those capable of evil and we best not forget that! 

Castle area from the funicular railway.  Having taken the funicular railway up to the park area we found several Pied Flycatchers, Willow Warblers and tits including Willow TitsGreat Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch were heard and we think we heard another Goshawk.

Crossing the Vltava with Charles Bridge in the distance.

Yours truly in Wenceslas  Square.  Not a square at all but so much history here occurring even during my lifetime.  You could almost feel those Soviet tanks approaching.

There will be those who remember very well these two guys who set themselves alight in Wenceslas Square and died in protest to Soviet occupation of their country.  This is the spot where it occurred.

Another memorial in the square dedicated to those who suffered and died under soviet occupation.

Our last evening was spent down at the Vltava enjoying the scene.  I can't quite remember if this image was taken before or after a drunken gent collapsed onto the pavement and puked up a couple of feet away from me!  Heavy drinkers in the Czech Republic I believe but you see little of it on the streets.  From the locals anyway!  You do see lots of begging.

Another evening image of the castle area, this time with the Charles Bridge in the foreground.

.............and so our trip was almost over.  It had been a great, interesting and informative week.  We flew back to Edinburgh the next day and enjoyed the landing as we flew over the Firth of Forth and had good sightings of the Forth Bridges.


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