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Czech Republic: Prague Castle

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Prague Castle | Czech Republic | Europe

[Visited: December 2011 and many times before]

From most parts of the city, it is always there, dominating the skyline: Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle of the world. Especially from the Old Town, the most striking characteristic are the twin bell towers f St. Vitus Cathedral, the highest point of the castle and, indeed, the entire hill. But the cathedral is only part of the large complex that makes Prague Castle: the fortified settlement holds other, smaller churches, alleys, defensive towers, gardens, fountains, statues, squares, and more. Originally, a first settlement was founded here in the 9th century, and Prague Castle grew and developed through good and bad times, resulting in the many styles we can see today. It has been the residence of the head of state, but for instance late president Havel chose to continue living in his own house during his presidency.

Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Bell towers of St. Vitus Cathedral: side view

When we turned the corner of St. Nicholas church, Prague Castle appeared high above us, on our right; we took the classical way up using the Castle Steps. Cobble stone streets and steps allowed us to follow this approach, which took us to the western entrance. From here, we had fantastic views over the city which was now basking in full morning sunlight, and once again realized that Prague is choke full of spires and towers that were glistening in the sun. After casting a glance at the poor guards who were constantly being photographed, we went through the main gate, and found the first and second courtyard of Prague Castle full of people. We had to squeeze through the passage under a building to get to the third courtyard where we found ourselves directly under the tall towers of the St. Vitus Cathedral that we had seen from Charles Bridge. While looking very Gothic, the towers were actually finished in the mid-20th century: the cathedral in honour of the patron saint of Prague, St. Vitus, had a lengthy period of construction, started in the 14th century but finished only in the 20th. One of the early architects was Peter Parler, the same who was involved also in the design of Charles Bridge.

Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): St. George slaying the dragon: statue on the third courtyard of Prague Castle

At this point, we decided to walk around the cathedral, enjoying the views of the Golden Gate, the statue of St. George slaying the dragon, zodiac signs sculpted out in a grille, until we reached small St. George square with the Basilica of St. George, completely dwarfed by the massive St. Vitus Cathedral, but nonetheless, its modest dimensions give it much character, further underlined by the statues on its facade, and the white towers slightly behind the facade. From here, we walked the shadowy alley on the northern side of the cathedral, had a look at the powder tower, before entering St. Vitus Cathedral. Especially the stained glass windows are fantastic, especially on a sunny winter morning like we had, when the low sunlight shines directly through the brightly coloured artwork. However, the crowds were too much, and we had to struggle our way out of the cathedral, where we could admire the intricately decorated facade of this majestic building. Yes, I had been here in the 1980s when I was virtually alone; I promised myself to make sure that next time, I would arrive very early.

Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Close-up of St. George Basilica with statue of saint
Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Sun shining on one side of St. Vitus Cathedral
Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Religious scene depicted on stained glass window inside St. Vitus Cathedral
Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Head sculpted on St. Vitus Cathedral
Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Basilica of St. George with white towers
Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Heads sculpted on water guiders at St. Vitus Cathedral
Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Side alley of St. Vitus Cathedral with medieval buildings
Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Scorpio zodiac sign sculpture outside St. Vitus Cathedral
Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Detail of fountain in the second courtyard of Prague Castle
Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Golden Gate of St. Vitus Cathedral
Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Stained glass windows in St. Vitus Cathedral
Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Detail of the Gothic portal of St. Vitus Cathedral
Picture of Prague Castle (Czech Republic): Close-up of St. Vitus Cathedral

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