Postcard from Highway One #81: Praha and Palaces

21 September 2008

Exploring Europe has been an amazing, once in a lifetime experience, but sometimes, as with this last weekend with a headcold, I just want to relax. Sightseeing seems a chore. Though this 'burnout' is partly due to our intensive schedule (an international trip every two weeks between now and Christmas), l still feel very guilty.

Prague, Praha to the locals, certainly doesn't deserve my apathy. It's an amazing, architecturally stunning city with a rich history (or if you believe the brochures, architectonically!). The Czech Republic is also my first visit to a former Eastern bloc, former communist country.

Brussels, and New Zealand's south island, will always hold special significance for me, as both were first time experiences. My first experience of real mountains in New Zealand, the rugged drama that is the Fjordland National Park, was simply breathtaking, as was Brussels' beautiful Grote Market and her warren of intertwining, cobbled streets, my first taste of old Europe.

In Prague, though, I made the effort and was well rewarded. All the while, the Castle looking on from its elevated perch. During our quick visit, we squeezed in a cruise on the Vlatva, a wander through the old town to Wenceslas Square and on, across the medieval Charles Bridge to Prague's Venetian (canal) quarter before tramming it back to the hotel.

And I won't even mention the irritating American woman we were forced to sit with for the convenience of the English language cruise guide, who tried to tell me that the Sydney Opera House was designed by an American architect!

Sunday morning, I planned a jam-packed itinerary before an early afternoon flight, and we 'sort of' got through it. We abandoned the first two stops:

From there, after a fun funicular ride up Petrin hill, to no view in particular, our visit to Prague appropriately wound up at the grand Prague Castle. I tend to think of a castle as one contiguous, fortified building. But both Edinburgh and Prague Castles have appeared to me much more like fortified towns/enclaves than castles. Maybe it's just a convenient tag, or maybe I have it all wrong.


26 September 2008

If I was wrong with regard to preconceptions about Betty Windsor's place though, it was in thoroughly underestimating its opulence. Nash's stunning achievements with the interiors of Buckingham Palace are like nothing I've ever seen.

And, taken in context in central London, the gardens are similarly stunning in how well manicured they are. Though in Oz, I've seen many a suburban garden looking similarly manicured, if somewhat smaller!

As a kid in Australia, I never understood quite why my English school friend, Adrian, often talked about the lack of space in London. Though there are many parks in the capital, there's a stunning contrast between the huge expanse of beautifully tended gardens and the, frankly, dirty city beyond the palace walls and razor wire as you exit to Gloucester Place.

Ahh, reminds me of home... the gardens, not the dirty city!

*HUGZ*

Rob


Prague Castle oversees the city
River Vlatva from the Charles Bridge
Prague Castle
Prague Castle
Prague Castle
Prague Castle
Who's unhappier about this photo???
The Old Town
The Old Town
The Old Town
The Old Town

P.S. There are no images of palace interiors due to photography bans.

Betty Windsor's place
An oasis in central London
An oasis in central London


Ascend


© Rob Morgan 2008