Prague, CZ

What a beautiful city! The historic Charles Bridge, St Vitus Cathedral and the Prague Castle create a beautiful backdrop to this bustling city.

With all its crazy little mazes of cobblestone streets and alleys, Prague has a lot to offer tourists from abroad.

Of course the summer season is particularly busy and many streets are just a sea of people! Great for people watching whilst drinking pivo! (Beer)

We started our few days with a full day guided tour of Prague. We caught a bus for part of it, walked miles for the most of it and finished with a boat cruise.

Old Prague and the castle grounds have been around since 1230 where it was rich with merchants houses from Romanesque times.

Prague clearly had a lot to offer for the likes of Mozart and other musicians and artists to come here.

Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge tower is one of the oldest pieces of gothic architecture. The bridge is the link between Old Town and Lesser Quarter.

Thirty statues serve as a gallery across the bridge. The originals are now being replaced with replicas and over the next few years will be exhibited inside the castle walls.

The bridge was named after Charles IV but he never saw it to completion having died 3 years earlier. The earlier Bridge had been destroyed during a flood in 1342. At 5.31am construction of the Charles Bridge took place on the 9th July 1357. It was done on completely odd numbers.(numerology significance) 971357531 as displayed above the gate.

Prague Castle

The castle, once home to the royal family of Schwarzenberg and other royal families, now serves as presidential suites for the Cžech President.

The flag is flying during our visit which means of course, the President is in the country.

This popular tourist destination features many castle rooms, small shops of handcrafts, museum, monuments, cafes and of course St Vitus Cathedral. Some areas are closed or heavily guarded due to the Presidential office.

We arrived at the castle in time for the changing of the guard at one of the 3? Main entrances. Guards perform their changing ceremony every 30minutes.

As you enter into the square there is a beautiful Baroque fountain and water well from the 17th century.

St Vitus Cathedral

This formidable piece of architecture was started in the 14th century with one section built in 1812-1929. Essentially 1004 years to build!

The beautiful big round window in one end of the cathedral was constructed in 1928 with 26,000 pieces of glass. I kid you not!

The stunning glass windows and other ornate features are truly stunning.

On the outside wall as you exit the cathedral is a massive mosaic made in 1371 of hundreds of thousands of Venetian glass and sandstone cubes.

It was the original entrance to the cathedral with the mosaic depicting heaven on the left and hell on the right.

What a fabulous visit into history, but wait, there's more!

Kat xo

Prague

Arrived in Prague today have had a nice lunch, checked into Old Prague Hotel and then made our way to parking.

Again streets are narrow and not much room for movement. Cobblestones and heaps of tourists.

The buildings are stunning, truly ornate works of art.

Walked across 'most legii' from the National Theatre to the hunger wall. Then back again and around looking for a place for dinner.

We ended up at Pivovar Národní Brewery. A great beer garden out back, so we found a spot to sit and had great steaks and salad.

Then a 15 minute meander back to the hotel. Checked out the strange moving sculpture and back to the 'couldn't swing a cat in it if you tried' room.

Thankfully this is only one night before we go in to a more suitable one tomorrow.

Tomorrow is rivercruise tour!

Na zdraví!

Kat xo

Kutná Hora

We arrived in Kutná Hora yesterday afternoon.

After a brief walk around we realized this was a larger town than expected and found familiar sounds of American accents. It now looked promising to find places and information centers where people would know some English besides their native Čeština.

A quick walk down more cobblestone streets to the main square we found the Hotel Medínek at the historical Centre of the old town.

We were also able to get a parking spot right outside the front doors!!??!!

Our room overlooked the square which was great for the spontaneous piano players as the sound carried and we could hear it clearly. Anything from chopsticks, classical to popular songs were being played by some very talented people.

There were many outdoor cafes as well which was great and many of the other historical sites are within walking distance.

Later that night however with the rowdy teens in the square from 11pm til about 3am was not so fun or sleep inducing.

Kutná Hora is about 70km's/40miles from Prague. Historically, it was the silver mining Centre and the location of the royal mint. (Today being Monday it is closed so we have missed out)

According to the brochure, It was one of the most influential cities of Bohemia being the second wealthiest city in the country after Prague. In respect to the architecture, Kutná Hora was a favored city to many rulers who came to royal residence known as the Vlašsky Dvur. The old town Centre has been preserved as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After dinner we walked the streets and went along past the Corpus Christi Chapel and around the St Barbara Church which was just spectacular with all its ornate sandstone fretwork, arches, spires and gargoyles.

There are little hidden restaurants and shops everywhere.

This morning, since we found out the Silver Mine was closed, we went to Sedlec Ossuary and the Sedlec Cathedral of the Assumption of our Lady and St John the Baptist.

Brochure states 'These are parts of the former oldest Cistercian Monastery in Bohemia founded in 1142 – the gate to the history of the royal city of Kutná Hora.

Thousands of people found their last place of rest here at the times of plague epidemics and religious Hussite wars in the Middle Ages. In 15th century the major part of the cemetery was abolished and relics from the graves (remains of 40,000 people) were brought to the church into its underground chapel.

In 1511 a half-blind monk piled them into pyramids. The Seslec Monastery was abolished by Joseph II. The present form of the bone decoration is a result of Baroque modifications carries out in early 18th century by J B Sabrina Aichel, completed by a wood carver František Rint in 1870.'

This is Memento Mori or remember the death associated with the Christian hope of resurrection, not a celebration of death but symbolizing the equality of people in front of the throne of god.

Hats removed, courtesy silence, photography allowed (no flash), heaps of tourists. A very interesting visit.

Kat xo

SASS European Championship Update

Okay seeing as I've been enjoying the time here and not blogging. I'll just give you a quick update between blogs.

So we did warm up the day before and started main match of the European Championships yesterday (Thursday). We did 6 stages, storm was supposed to come and didn't.

5 more were schedule for today…..note I said scheduled! It's been raining since 6am – two delays – but continued thunderstorms and inches of rain has put paid to any shooting for the day.

Yesterday's stages have been scrapped (lucky for me) and tomorrow will see a brand new set up of two posse's working together, 7 stages that everyone will shoot to produce an overall result.

With thunder, lightning and 20cm/10" deep of rain on the ranges (even though they were trying to pump it off) nothing is happening, was mission impossible for today.

So to everyone shooting the European Championships!

Good luck tomorrow!!!

Kat xo

Cžeski Krumlov

Česky Krumlov – a beautiful old Czech city filled with ornate buildings, fresco', and of course a 14th century castle.

We were lucky enough to have exceptional weather when we arrived there Saturday afternoon.

Once checked in to our 2nd floor room which ended up being 3 flights of stone stairs we were free to wander the cobblestone streets.

My eyes just kept moving from one building to the next trying to take in all the architecture, painting and signs.

The centre of the town is almost on an island, the river flows around in a horseshoe shape and today there are plenty of people rafting down it.

We found an outdoor seat at a restaurant, enjoyed a few beers before dinner and watched as they went past.

We took a stroll through the castle grounds later and got a sensational sunset backdrop to the castle tower.

A late coffee and ice cream in the thoroughfare before we turned in for the night, it was still hot but a thunderstorm in the early hours of the morning fixed that mostly.

Sunday morning and it's grey skies and then rain on and off. That was okay though as we were going inside the castle today.

There is no photography allowed to be taken inside the main castle buildings 😦 the Rosenberg family held title over the castle in 1302.
Later it went back to the Eggenberg family and then to The House of Schwarzenberg from 1719 to 1945.

Most of the town and castle dates in 14th to 17th centuries. First stop on the tour was the chapel with its baroque organ, this is an extremely ornate room. Like other areas and other countries, painted techniques were used to make timber fabrications look like marble or exotic wood.
There are a lot of carvings and beautiful paintings. Back then, during the renaissance period, the artificial marble was more expensive than actual marble.
Even the ceilings are painted with decorative surrounds and faux finials.

The property was originally divided between the 5 sons. One was an illegitimate son and only the 4 were given titles and therefore ties in with the four roses in the painting of the forming of these entities, the fifth however was not included in one of these works despite being displayed as a colour later in other works, coat of arms etc.

Most of the rooms were covered in wall carpets that are about 2" thick and woven in beautiful scenes. They were hung against the stone walls and to keep the rooms warm.

The dining room was used for entertaining and often had musicians play there for them as well.

The next room is virtually covered in frescos from floor to ceiling. They are stories from the Bible. It was used as a games room.

I could go on and on about the next few rooms but would probably bore most without a vivid imagination! I will however add the photos that are displayed on the tour price board.

In any case I could visit this city every time if I had a choice to come here I would keep coming back because there is so much to see and take in.

Na zdravi!
Kat xo

Berchtesgaden – Cžeskí Krumlov

Before leaving Berchtesgaden this morning, we headed up into the old town area.

Finding first the Information Centre and a short walking tour map. The Old Berchtesgaden cemetery is next door, having been there since 1685.

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Next is the Franciscan church (which I only got a partial photo of), a gothic church built in 1480, it was first a convent and then from 1695 til present day as a Franciscan monastery.

Many of the guest houses and buildings through here have been built anywhere from the mid 1700's to late 1800's.

Moving through to the Schlossplatz and the Royal Castle with Museum that we couldn't wait for it to open, as we had to keep moving. The brochure says 'houses a collection unparalleled in southern Bavaria.'

Across from the palace is the 'Arcades' featuring fresco's from Josef Hengge 1929 and 1952 as a reminder of the fallen soldiers of both world wars.

Back up through the main Marktplatz, it's Saturday morning and people are setting up stalls for the day. The streets are all cobblestone through here with beautiful buildings, colour and fresco's aplenty.

Onto Tittmoning, seit 1134 (I guess without looking, that means established?) through an archway into a quaint little cobblestone town square, surrounded with buildings in the square and one way out the other end.

Now it's move on to Cžeská Republika and the town of Cžesky Krumlov. Changes of scenery now (sort of) as we crossed the border.

Na Zdraví!

Kat xo

Kehlsteinhaus – Eagles Nest

After breakfast this morning we caught the bus up to Dokumentation Obersalberg then transferred to another bus that would take us up the rest of the way to Kehlsteinhaus. In other words, Eagles Nest or 'Hitler's lair'

Talk about take a run up the hill! A winding one lane road that the bus driver virtually took a running start at flinging us up the mountain.

 

The weather is spectacular today with clear blue skies, sunshine and warm temperatures. Jack said the last time he came here with his Dad it was misty and couldn't see much of a view at all so he is very pleased today.

The views from the bus to the mountains is just spectacular and think we have been blessed with the great weather.

 

Once here you have to check in a return trip time and we booked an English speaking tour (35minutes with Stephen) which was well and truly worth it. So my next lot of ramblings on here are furious fingers typing during the tour. Well, with some touch ups after the fact.

 

Kehlsteinhaus along with its 124m access tunnel and then a vertical 124m vertical lift shaft was built in just 13 months with some 3000 men (on tour we were told 8 men perished during the construction, other sites say up to 12) and about $150M. A pretty impressive effort for its completion in 1938.

Obersalzberg meaning 'Above the salt mountain' was in 1923 where Hitler spent most of his time. A small hut later he called his 'struggle house' was where he wrote 'Mein Kampf' in 1925. In 1928 he rented Wachenfeld House and when he purchased it in 1933 it was transformed, 50 rooms added converting it into the Berghof. This would later be instrumental in its use for diplomatic functions and where many of his decisions were made.

Buildings were later erected for SS guards.

At Kehlsteinhaus, the great hall had a huge picturesque window made up of 90 panels of glass with a marble desk across the full window. The window was also hydraulically lowered into the basement (and raised) for uninterrupted views to the mountains. Half of the mountain range is in Germany and the other half in Austria.

Hitler himself was in fact an Austrian who later became Chancellor in charge of of Germany.

The Obersalzberg area was bombed by the British but Kehlsteinhaus was the only one not affected and therefore remains today. Whether that was strategic or not is a question for others from that time period.

The project was to be a political meeting point and tea house.

The building is 80% concrete finished in granite and sandstone with the 'palace' entrance consisting of 2 sets of brass doors. These brass doors, if you look carefully, have inscriptions of the past in them. Soldiers, allied forces and others names and dates, before it was made a historical site can be found – in the right light – scratched into the brass.

It's around 30C/86F and humid outside today but as you move into the tunnel it drops dramatically to a cool 7C as it cuts back into the centre of the mountain. The lift entrance is in a domed room called the waiting room.

In a separate tunnel that runs parallel to this one is the 8hp submarine diesel engine, still original as it was put in in 1940 with her original tools and spare parts, she is maintained to meet German guidelines every year and still operates the lift and everything else.

The full brass lift is original to the building. It used to be two levels with a lower deck carrying workers, tools and supplies as needed. The lift goes around 40ft per second so was no time at all to go the 124m to the top.

 

Coming through the dining hall the cedar panelling is still original. It was more a banquet hall back then with the great hall having cosier round table and seating.

The marble fire place, like the brass doors, now has its own battle scars. Some troops inscribed their names in the table and fireplace while others used their bayonets to chip pieces off the fireplace to take home as a souvenir.

 

In the tea room it also had windows that lowered down to give uninterrupted views known today as the Eva Brauhn tea room it also had in floor heating, very high tech for 1938.

 

There were only 14 official visits made by Hitler and Eva Brauhn to the house, most of the dealings were done at the property in Obersalzberg.

After the 3rd infantry of US moved into Berchestgarden in May 1945. The house became US controlled until 1952. You could pay 50c and come up by army jeep to have a visit.

The first photo of the Kehlsteinhaus by an Allied, was shown in the movie Band of Brothers.

Once the tour was finished we went onto the sun porch and further information boards, then making way through the outdoor restaurant and trekked up to the cross at the top of the summit. The views are truly spectacular!

 

As we sat on the deck for lunch we watched as cloud rolled in and left again, truly in awe of this scenic site. It was literally covered in tourists from all nations.

 

We caught the bus back down to Obersalzberg, then alighted and found the museum. A small price to pay to see a lot of photographs and information (albeit in German, with only brochures in English) but the true highlight was the bunker!

 

Now I don't condone what went on during that period of history but he was a very clever and forward thinking man and I'll leave it at that.

This was a great day. I'm glad Jack got to go again and see where his Dad had been in the war as an allied airman. His visit to the Dokumentation Obersalzberg was successful too when he got to speak with a curator about pieces his Dad had in his possession from Hitlers office when there on an R and R break in May, 1945.

Thanks Berchestgarden for having us, tomorrow we move on to Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic.

Kat xo