Monday, May 31, 2010
It was nice to sleep late and relax today. I started later than usual since it was a weekend. I think I left the hotel at 10 am. I had checked the Mass schedule at the Church of Our Lady Victorious and found that the regular Czech Mass was at 10 and the English Mass was at noon. So I planned to go to English Mass and then go up the castle and look around.
The first challenge was finding the church. It's in my guidebook and there is a map, but I'm not that great with directions. Those math skills again. It was easy enough getting to the Charles Bridge and crossing it. It was early enough and raining just a bit that the tourists weren't out in force. It's been a busy weekend with the tourists. Prague is apparently a hot European weekend deal. I've noticed a lot of wheeled suitcases, and more horse drawn carriages since Friday.
The artists were just setting up on the bridge while I crossed it. I took my time walking along the river as well. I didn't have to hurry since I had plenty of time for the noon Mass. It was nice to stroll along the Vlatva in the morning. A few people were out walking their dogs(lots of dogs here in Prague) and some just walking.
I poked into a few shops, mostly window shopping, along the route. Saw some really ugly clocks and a massive antique vase that someone should have smashed years ago, but hey that's my taste....Had some cute antique dog figures and some highly tempting tea cups(handpainted)catch my interest, but luckily the place wasn't open.
I took the stairs down into the Kampa area, as the Church was right off the Kampa streets according to my reading of the map. I saw some signs and landmarks I recognized. The Lennon Wall for one, and a few European embassies. As well as a restaurant. I knew I wasn't lost, exactly. And quite by accident I found both the Mandarin Oriental Hotel of Prague and the church I was looking for.
The Kampa park is a really nice place to spend some time. There was a very cute terrier mix running around with his owners. Had to be a West Highland terrier crossed with a larger terrier somewhere. Was way too big for a pure Westie, but very friendly. Came up to me and grinned at me. Like dogs sometimes do. Then ran off and caught up to his/her owners. Not a lot of leashing here. But the dogs are extremely well behaved. So far.
Kampa is also known as Prague's Venice because of the small canal off the river. It's a nice ritzy, but not snooty area. There are places to sit and think and look at the river and flowers.
I found the Church and caught the tail end of the Czech Mass. So about 10:45. The organist was pulling out all the stops. The first thing that hits you about this church is Baroque. Even if you don't know the style you know exactly what it is. The pictures over the mini altars weren't just pictures, they were oil paintings. Every place had gilt. Very ornate. The main altar had 2 twisted gold pillars. The ceiling had coats of arms on it and the altar rails were all marble. But the shrine for the Infant of Prague took it to another level. Silver and gilt statues flanking the case. Orchids and roses, lilies and carnations in glass vases were ranged around the altar. A crowned angel(?) at the top of the altar guarding the case this tiny wax statue was in.
It's a big deal. Photos were being taken, which I kinda have a problem with....seems wrong to take pictures in a church. The church tries to limit what can and can't be done while services are going on, but it's hard. Since the shrine is on the right hand side of the church and not tucked away in a nook somewhere there's a lot of traffic. And the little museum and shop is carved out of the sacristy. They are fundraising to fix that. But they emphasize that it is first and foremost a place of worship. Not a tourist place only.
English mass took me back to my childhood. The full deal with the organ and choir. They sang some of the prayers and chants. Even heard (for the first time) the Kyrie elesion in a Mass. I mean they did it in Greek as well as English. Very cool. Plus they killed on How Great thou art for the Eucharistic hymn. Czech music! They had all parts of the Mass. Which I remembered from being a kid. It was the feast of the Trinity so we heard how we are finite and how the important things we can't understand will be explained. (cause the Trinity isn't easy to understand)
Then the religious tourists came in. Photos and crowds. Crammed up the aisle right before communion. The most interesting guy was the American in shorts and a David Ortiz Red Sox shirt. He could have at least saved the shirt for another day. Nothing like screaming out American tourist in a Baroque European church. He didn't stay long. I don't believe he even said a prayer. Just looked and left.
After services ended I headed up the hill. To get to the castle there's only one way to go. Up. No matter which route you take you go up. I walked up a side street and halfway up there were stairs. I really don't like stairs anymore. My knees hurt. But the cardio is great. I think they are getting easier. Our hotel has stairs. And while the number says 4, it's really the 5th floor.
To explain Prague Castle, it's a complex, not just a building. There's galleries and gardens, the royal palace, the cathedral, churches, and now where the President of the Czech Republic lives. Probably administration too. So it takes longer than a few hours to see it all. I really wanted to see Golden Lane, but it's closed for renovations. : (. As you can imagine there are guards. Real ones. With guns and military orders. Not just police and tourist security.
I checked out the line at St. Vitus and skipped it. Saw the Royal Palace and St. George's. Had lunch in the garden and then walked back down. Stopped at a gelato shop along the way and I saw a print in an old book store that I think I want.