Welcome to my travel blog! Over the next 10 weeks I will be travelling throughout Europe and will share my adventure here. The name of this blog is a Latin phrase which translates roughly to mean 'to gain, understand, perceive'. It explains perfectly what I hope to experience in this trip; a sense of understanding and appreciation for life all around the world.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Unfortunately I've been sick for the past few days - I get sinusitis quite often (especially during winter) and the symptoms are the same, so I have been feeling quite a bit worse for wear!

Yesterday I didn't make it out of my hostel room until dinner time. I didn't want to spend my first day in Prague in bed but sometimes your body doesn't care about what you want to do and only wants to curl up under the covers. Such was yesterday. I basically slept most of the day away but I was also really hungry - the only food I had with me was the chocolate I had bought in Germany, so let's just say there's less chocolate now to give as gifts!

I had tickets to see Swan Lake the ballet but just going to dinner for an hour was enough to send me crawling back under the covers. I am bummed I missed out on it but hey, what can you do?

The place I had dinner last night was really funky though so I had to get a few shots.

Somethin I've found funny along the way is the music that the restaurants I've been to play - here in Prague they play lovey-dovey songs or Barry White, which can be quite distracting when you're trying to eat your dinner and the couple at the next table are getting frisky from the music. Reminds me of a scene from European Vacation...! In Berlin they loved Jamaican music - it was at the train station, shops, on the street - everywhere! I really wasn't expecting that.

Anyway, after getting about 24 hours sleep, I woke up today feeling a lot better - my face still feels like someone is repeatedly punching me in the cheekbones and I'm sniffling a lot, but it's an improvement. And the painkillers I have are quite strong so I was able to spend most of the day out.

I first went to St Nicholas Church, which is quite close to my hostel. This is what it looks like from outside.

The inside is magnificent - it's a Baroque church so it's full of ornamentation. I can never get any good photos as the light is so dim so I always buy the postcards they sell so to get good shots of the various Altars.

St Nicholas is also famous in Prague for its bell-tower. I paid extra and got to climb right to the top where the bells used to ring - many hundreds of steps up! The views from the top were breathtaking though - during Summer you would be able to see more but still it was incredible. A few shots of what I saw are below.

Prague is absolutely stunning - definitely the most beautiful European city I've seen. The streets have cobble-stone as the pavement and are so small and windy - it's amazing that people drive through them but they somehow manage to make it work!

I also learnt some fascinating history today too about St Nicholas Church - after the war when the Soviets took over the Czech Republic, one of the main places that members of the Secret Police worked was at the church, in surveillance operations. Becuase of the height of the Church, it has fantastic clear views of the Western democracies' embassies. So up in the bell towers there was a little museum showing the various shots that these secret police would take of the people entering and coming out of the embassies. I got a photo of a room that was left the way it would have been set up 50 years ago when the secret police would camp out and watch Americans for instance.

The window on the left gives a perfect view down to the French Embassy. It was really interesting to read about the effect of Communism on the city -  to be honest I was surprised that more churches and religious monuments were not desroyed.

That is one of the things that really struck me about Prague – the amount of churches around! I did not realise so many had survived Communism during the 20th century. As you walk across Charles Bridge, one of the main bridges in Prague, it is amazing to see the amount of figures of the Saint and Christ at each of the posts. Great stuff.

After visiting St Nicholas I made a stop at another very important church. Prague is very special to Catholics for it houses the famous Infant Jesus. I could not come as a pilgrim to Europe and Prague without seeing it. This church had a far more solemn atmosphere than St Nicholas and on the right of the church is where the Infant Jesus is housed. It's so full of splendour it kinds of blinds you for a few seconds. However, I was glad that the atmosphere there was kept prayerful so it was possible to have some quiet moments in front of the statue. There was a museum at the back of the church where it showed the different vestments made along the centuries for the statue (they are stunning!) and there was a lovely video showing the Carmelite nuns (who have a particularly strong devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague), changing its vestments to suit the colours of the liturgical year changes seasons. For instance, today it was in purple vestment as it is currently Advent.

I bought some little medals of the Infant Child for friends back at home and left the church feeling quite wonderful. It has always been a dream of mine to visit the Infant Child – I have always found that the novena to the Infant is particularly powerful.

This afternoon I mainly just followed along the winding streets to see where they would take me. I went through the artists' corner, where there was a lot of contemporary art on display and into the Old Town Square, where there is the old astronomical clock (I don't know how it works!)

There was a little Christmas market set up in the Old Town Square and a huge Christmas tree too. There was also a petting zoo! A friendly goat came up and had a chat to myself and another little boy - and then tried to eat his hand which was pretty funny.

I must say I am finding it soooo hard to restrain myself from buying everything – Prague has the most beautiful glass works and religious art work! I just want to buy everything! Plus every second shop is a jewellery store selling amber or garnets – apparently these stones are found in abundance in the Czech Republic. I have managed to resist the temptation so far – to be honest if I am going to buy any jewellery I think it will be in Turkey. Prague is really really cheap though – I don't understand it.

By 3pm the sun had set and we were rapidly losing light so I whiled away the latter hours of the afternoon at a coffee shop reading Middlemarch – I am making very good progress through it. I must say Dorothea Brooke really is a fool!

A few more pictures out and about in Prague - it really is breathtakingly beautiful!

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