This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for November, 2013

View from Prague Castle

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 27, 2013

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The Prague Castle complex is on a high hill, with a wonderful view of the city. I love the red tile rooftops, Gothic gables, and dormer windows. This is looking towards the river, with the Charles Bridge on the right.

This is the path outside the castle complex, on the side of the entrances. The green building is the outside of the palace.

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Charles Bridge, from the viewpoint of the castle gardens. Look at all the people.

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Rooftops of buildings along the narrow streets leading up to the castle:

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The area outside Prague Castle is a “castle district,” with formal gardens and courtyards. The next two shots are views of the same courtyard, but from different angles. The first shot shows the horizon and buildings in the distance. The second shows the stairs descending to the courtyard. I don’t know whether they’re open to the public; if they were, some bride would probably be posing on the landing.

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People outside Prague Castle

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 27, 2013

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Karate on the terrace outside the castle complex. It must have been really difficult to shoot, because both photographers are using point & shoot camera and standing very close to the subjects. It went on for a long time. These two kicked and jumped, kicked and jumped, kicked and jumped, for about 20 minutes. I took this shot in passing. It would have been fun to capture the whole thing but we were on our way back to the hotel.

Bride and groom gazing into each other’s eyes while their photographer checks his shot. Did you know that weddings are one of Prague’s major industries? Everywhere you look, there are beautiful gardens and chilly brides. You’ll notice the photographer is wearing a jacket, so it wasn’t very warm that day. A lot of the couples seemed to be Russian (“Oksana, look this way!” ).

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Two musicians on the steps leading down from the castle complex. The light was beautiful that day. If I’d known how hazy the weather would soon become I would have taken more outdoor photos.

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Scotland the Brave in Old Prague

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 26, 2013

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Bagpiper playing “Scotland the Brave” with variations in Prague’s Old Town Square. I recorded a brief clip of one of the variations.

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St. Wenceslas Chapel, St. Vitus Cathedral

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 21, 2013

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The St. Wenceslas Chapel, where the kings of Bohemia prayed before the coronation, was difficult to photograph. First, you can’t go inside (the fact that the walls are covered with 1,300 semi-precious stones might have something to do with it), so you can only photograph from the doorways. Second, the chapel is very dark and tripods are not allowed. Third, the chapel is small but richly decorated, so a wide angle lens is very useful. Did I mention the crowds? You can’t stand in one spot for very long. If I’d had more time I would have tried using a telephoto lens to get better shots of the walls, although I’m not sure I could have held the camera steady for such a long exposure.

The upper walls are decorated with paintings of scenes from the life of St. Wenceslas, who was murdered by his younger brother’s men in 935. This is the same Good King Wenceslas commemorated in the St Stephen’s Day carol, but he was actually a duke and wasn’t all that good. I know–you thought “Good King Wenceslas” was a Christmas carol, right? Listen to the words again.

Beautiful gilded vaulting in the ceiling: The paintings are part of the original 14th century decoration. These photos were taken from the western door. Wenceslas’s tomb is on the right.

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Geometric marble floor:

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This photo was taken from the northern doorway. The door in the opposite corner of the room leads to the Bohemian crown jewels, but it was not open to the public. The Crown Chamber is the most guarded part of the cathedral, with seven locks that can only be opened if all seven key holders are present. Check out the magnificent strapping and imperial eagle on the western door. If you want to see a photo at a higher resolution, click it to go to the Flickr page.

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Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 21, 2013

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Above: Polychrome decorated choir in the south transcept. The vaulting is much less elaborate than in the nave.

Below: Wohlmut’s choir (organ gallery) on the north transcept.

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Carved wooden map of Prague, dated 1620.

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Tomb of St. John of Nepomuch (1345-93), a national Czech saint and considered the first martyr of the seal of the confessional. This monument is cast silver and silver gilt, designed by the Austrian sculptor Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach  (1656-1723).

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Altarpiece of Lady Chapel with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. The main section depicts the Visitation.

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Polychrome Gothic altar. I don’t recall which chapel.

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Altarpiece of the St. Anne chapel. The neoclassical style of the figures is unusual because most of the altarpieces in the cathedral seem to be gothic (I admit I didn’t do a survey and I’m relying on my memory).

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St. Vitus Cathedral

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 21, 2013

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St. Vitus Cathedral, located in the Prague Castle complex, could be called the Altneu cathedral. Although it was founded in 1344, much of the building was constructed later. The neo-gothic facade (above) was designed around the turn of the 20th century by Josef Mocker and finished in the 1950s. Construction was rather slow for 600 years. The St. Wenceslas Jubilee in 1929 provided the final push in the 1920s. The entire western half (i.e., the entrance, above) of the cathedral is neo-Gothic (Victorian period), but the elements blend together well. The cathedral is the largest church in the country (124 x 60 meters) and contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. The photo above doesn’t really do it justice. The courtyard in front of the cathedral is rather small, so I had to use a wide angle lens and stand directly in front.

View of the nave, looking towards the west. The rose window, which doesn’t show up very well in this photo, was designed by Frantisek Kysela in 1925-27.

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View towards the eastern end of the nave, taken in the transcept.

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Peter Parler’s splendid net vaults were possibly inspired by English Gothic architecture. Parler was the master builder who took over construction in 1352, when he was only 23 years old. The vault style is characterized by the doubled diagonal ribs and are not merely decorative. They provide additional support for the ceiling. (I took this photo with a wide angle lens in the transcept, looking straight up. That always makes me a bit dizzy.)

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Southern portal, also called the Golden Gate, because of the gold mosaic of the Last Judgment.

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South portal,  showing the Last Judgement mosaic, below the windows of the St. Wenceslas chapel. Kings entered through this doorway for coronation in the chapel.

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Last Judgment mosaic

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Gilded ironwork on south side.

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View from the Top

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 7, 2013

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By now, this cathedral and palace must look rather familiar. 🙂 At the top of the Old Town Hall tower, you can walk all the way around. The view on a clear day is superb. I should have realised at the time how lucky I was because the following week the skies were very hazy.

The twin towers of Church of Our Lady before Tyn.

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Close-up of the gable between the towers.

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At first I thought that these buildings at the edge of the square were built in front of the entrance of the church. Nope. You enter the Tyn church by walking along the alley narrow beside the pink building, through a tiny courtyard, and into the nave itself. Apparently there were fewer building restrictions in the 16th century.

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View of the Old Town Square with the monument to Jan Hus on the circular base.

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View towards the cathedral, showing the rooftops of the Old Town on this side of the river and the Lesser Town on the opposite side.

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Inside the Astronomical Clock Tower

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 7, 2013

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I’ve always loved climbing towers, long before I took up photography as a hobby. When I was in Greece, I scaled acro-everything. That’s one of the reasons I adore Europe–so many things to climb! These photos show the ramp up to the top of the Old Town Hall tower. The curvy double-helix structure in the middle is the elevator. I’m glad that our visit post-dated the stairs, which had a bad reputation in guide books. They were described as rickety and very hard on the knees. The ramp made this tower one of the easiest I’ve ever climbed.

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These photos are somewhat out of order chronologically. Here’s the ceiling of the entrance hall.

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Unfortunately, the Senate and Council chambers were not open when we visited the tower, but I photographed the magnificent doorways in passing.

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Detail of Senate door, showing date “1610.” (The Senate now meets in the Wallenstein Palace, across the river.)

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Our First Night in Prague

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 6, 2013

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I should probably qualify this posting by saying that these pictures were taken on our first ordinary night in Prague. We landed the previous night, dropped off our bags, and staggered out at 11 p.m. The following night we walked around and admired the buildings. Prague is so beautifully lit at night. Every corner has a gorgeous view of something old (or old in appearance). The photo above is a typical postcard shot of the St. Vitus Cathedral surrounded by the palace complex. I took it from the Charles Bridge.

The building below is the Rudolfinium, a concert hall and home of the Czech Philharmonic. It’s very close to the Jewish Quarter, between the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Manesov Bridge.

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This is the Gothic Male Strana (Lesser Town) tower at the end of the Charles Bridge. (I know I haven’t posted many photos of that bridge yet. Don’t worry–later I photographed it to death!) The Cathedral of St. Nicholas is between the two towers, in the background.

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It’s called “Prague’s narrowest street,” but I don’t think it has a real name. It’s a staircase between two buildings, which leads to a restaurant. The traffic lights are functional, since it’s not wide enough for people to pass comfortably in both directions. At the bottom of the stairs is another light and a switch for changing the light. The address is 24 U Luzickeho seminare, in the Lesser Town district, around the corner from the Kafka Museum.

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Another view of the Charles Bridge, this time showing the other side, with the Old Town Bridge. The lower building with the gold crown is the National Theater.

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This photo was taken near the Manosov Bridge. The Cathedral of St. Nicholas is on the left and St. Vitus Cathedral on the right.

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Kafka monument. You can’t walk more than a few blocks in any direction without encountering something connected to Kafka.

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Just so you know that Prague isn’t all Gothic spires and cobblestones…. Parizska Street, running between the Old Town Square and the Jewish Quarter, has a lot of high-end shopping. I really liked this Dolce & Gabbana window display. On this street you’ll find Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, the usual suspects.

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Prague’s Old Town Square

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 3, 2013

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There’s always a lot of action in the Old Town Square, besides the Astronomical clock, of course. Above, horse-drawn carriages wait in front of St. Nicholas’s Church.

A little girl drops a coin into the box of two “living statues” in front of St. Mary before Tyn church.

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Bubble-maker in front of St. Nicholas Church.

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For a few crowns, this pirate will let you hold one of his parrots and pose for a photo with you.

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Singer accompanying himself on the hurdy-gurdy. It’s hard to describe the sound, so I recorded a short video.

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