Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sites : Prague Castle (Pražský hrad)

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Prague Castle (Pražský hrad)
A Unesco Heritage Site
Prague, Czech Republic - September 2015
With three courtyards and several grand buildings and with a total built-up area of 70,000 sq. metres  on grounds covering 18 acres, Prague Castle is considered to be the largest castle in the world. It is not just the sheer size of the building and grounds that impress visitors; it is also the intricate and varied architecture of the buildings, and the green landscaped grounds that awes them too. We had a chance to admire all this during a holiday trip to Europe.

Above is a plan of the castle from Frommer's website, do visit their site in planning your trip to the castle and other locations in Prague.
This plan will gives bearings of one's location in this large castle as to which building is being viewed.

Above is a 3-D plan of the castle that was pinned at a notice board at the 2nd courtyard (click on photo for an enlarged view). Note that it indicates that there audio guides for rent.


We entered through a garden at the west. This is called the Orangery of Prague Castle; it's a place for growing exotic plants especially citrus plants.

From here I espied a large dark building with two jagged Gothic towers.
It's an imposing structure, is this the castle were the king used to live in? As I later explored further in, I was to found out that I was wrong; the king did not stay there, another more important person did!

Going through the garden, we missed the First Courtyard and entered through some corridors which led us directly to the second courtyard. The second courtyard is huge, and above is a view to show its size, apologies though I took this photo with the panoramic mode of my camera and somehow the stitching did not turn out well and the buildings ended up a bit distorted.
We entered from the archway at the right.

Okay, this is a better photo. Within the buildings surrounding this courtyard are staterooms, one of them is the largest in the castle. The white rounded building is the Holy Rood Chapel (or also called the Chapel of the Holy Cross). In front of the chapel is the Kohl's Fountain (also called the Lion Fountain).

A closer look at the Kohl's Fountain.

As we entered the third courtyard through an arched corridor, ahead was an imposing sight. the front of the St. Vitus Cathedral with its impressive arched doorways, the top of the arches seems jagged with studs. We saw people in front, most with their heads upturned, looking high as possible.

They were all craning their neck to look far up at the two tall spires at the front of the church.
This is the building that I saw from the Orangery, it's not the house of a king, it's the house of God!

Although of Gothic design, the spires differ from other similar churches as the tops looked jagged too.

Side view of the cathedral showing the Golden Gate with it's patina dome above. Some restoration to clean up the façade of the cathedral seems to be in progress. I do hope that the dark colour of the main spires will be maintained, as from afar their dark colour looked more imposing against the blue sky; and the darkish tone also adds some shades of mystery.

The intricate design of the golden window frame of the Golden Gate.

St. Vitus Cathedral seems to be a building of different architectural character. The main spires are Gothic, the lower part of the church baroque, and the Golden Gate have domes on top. Somehow these elements do not clash but meld to form a varied and interesting building.

If I had thought the front was impressive, the rear was even more fascinating. On both sides, each column extends up to be topped up by mini spires...

These mini spires continue on towards the back of the church where a lattice connect them like a spider web. All these elements seem to have jagged edges.

The jaggedness was not a flaw in design, in fact it was an excellent detailing. On closer look, the jagged edges are actually ornaments (such as flowery fleur-de-lis)!

At the rear section of the third courtyard are other buildings, such as:
A contrasting pastel pink coloured St. George's Basilica.

Inside the basilica, a beautiful shrine.

The Old Royal Palace.

St. Vitus Cathedral is not a very large church. This is probably because it was not opened to the public for ceremonies and was only used to served the royalty. Inside it looks narrow with a simplistic ceiling.

It has a small altar above which is this stained glass mosaic.

At the rear is a large arch above which is a mezzanine floor.

And at the rear wall of the mezzanine is an impressive segmented stained glass mosaic.

Midway up the columns at the front section of the nave are golden statues of saints.

And on one of the walls is this marble statue of a lady in a unique tilted head pose.

On the two sides, away from the nave, are alcoves with with chapels dedicated to different saints.

This plan from Frommer's indicates the names of the different chapels.

Above most of these chapels are beautiful stained glass mosaic windows:

Beyond the castle proper, but still within the castle walls is Jirska Street with houses which probably used to house the castle staff.

Right at the end of the street is the entrance to the Toy Museum ... young couples should probably go inside for a good reason.

Inside is a bronze statue of a young boy. It is believed that touching the penis of the boy will bring good luck (probably for fertility). Seeing how well polished the penis is, many probably believed in getting this fertile luck!

Nearby are viewing platforms where one can grab a 180 degrees bird's eye view of Prague.

And we have reached the guard post at end of the castle, but it's not the end yet... there's still more to be seen!

Turn round the corner and there is are very green landscaped gardens with footpaths to take a slow soothing walk as one recollects one's thoughts after viewing the impressive castle.

Or take a walk on the other side where the castle outer wall is...

... from here there is a closer view of the city, close enough to see the dome of St. Nicholas Church clearly.

The gardens are a favourite for bridal couples to come take their wedding photos.
It was a lovely end of my tour of Prague Castle.

Prague Castle
119 08, Castle District, Prague 1, Czech Republic

Opening Hours:
Prague Castle Courtyards:
Apr-Oct: Daily 05:00-24:00
Nov-Mar: Daily 06:00-23:00

Prague Castle Buildings (Interiors):

Apr-Oct: Daily 09:00-17:00

Nov-Mar: Daily 09:00-16:00

Prague Castle Gardens:

Apr & Oct: Daily 10:00-18:00

May & Sep: Daily 10:00-19:00

Jun-July: Daily 10:00-21:00

Aug: Daily 10:00-20:00

Changing of the Guard:

Apr-Oct: Hourly 07:00-20:00

Nov-Mar: Hourly 07:00-18:00

Midday ceremony includes a fanfare & banner exchange.

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