Monday, February 8, 2016

Your German Is Good, And I Hear Also Your French

The next morning we battled the cobblestone streets once more to catch the train to Berlin, which was our last stop on this epic adventure.  We sprang for first class seats so Taylor could have enough leg room and we would have ample window space to look at the beautiful countryside.  A few hours later, we arrived in Berlin.  After a Starbucks coffee and snack of donuts, we were refueled enough to figure out how to get to our apartment.  Like in Prague, the ticketing system was a little different (and all in German) so we asked a concierge for help.  Not only did we receive perfect directions, but we got to hear a German-English accent sounding like the SS Gestapo guys in all the WWII movies!

Our flat was pretty far out from the downtown center, but it was nice and clean.  The doors were all keypad operated, which was great because we didn't have to arrange a time to meet the owner and deal with that whole situation.  We got settled and found a nearby grocery store for sandwich-makings, which was tough because neither of us knows any German.  Trying to pick out the right kind of ham we were looking for included a lot of guessing and hoping that we wouldn't go home and open it to find pieces of fruit or something mixed in!

The next morning we made the cold journey to the metro station and rode the twenty-five minutes back into the town center.  Our plan was to go check out Museum Island, which is a really cool concept.  Rather than spreading all of the museums out around the city, they just put all of them together on one island in the middle!  Makes it easy to find them.

The island also happens to be home of the Berlin Cathedral.  It has a long and complicated history, but the current building was completed in 1905.  After damage from the wars, many parts have been refurbished and remodeled.  It was quite an impressive building, but the statues and the mosaic underneath the side entrance ceiling were the best parts.

Just beyond the church was what we were looking for; the Alte Nationalgalerie.  We read that it had some Romantic, Impressionist, and early Modernist works, which appealed to both of us.  The building itself looks like the Parthenon, with all its columns and triangular crown.  Again, it was a statue that grabbed my attention.  The female archer, by F. Lepcke, stands at perfect attention with the columns, guarding the Old National Gallery until the end of time.

 (photos by e.hunt)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Upper Castle

Our last stop in Prague was the Vyšehrad, a fortress built in the tenth century on top of a hill overlooking the river.  In these early years the leaders went back and forth between here and Prague Castle (which you can see on the horizon in the second picture down).  The Basilica of St Peter and St Paul was built on the grounds in 1080, then was rebuilt after a fire in the mid-1200s.

Because the fort is on top of a huge hill (it was quite the inclined hike to get up to it), you can see vast expanses of the city.  After it was abandoned as the royal residence, and taken over by the Austrian Monarchy in the mid-1600s, Vyšehrad was remodeled and became the training center for the Austrian Army.

This sculpture of an arrow-pierced man in the wall was quite beautiful.  To me, his facial expression looks more like sadness than pain from the arrows, which I assume would have been quite hard to get across in the stone medium; so, bravo to the sculptor.  

This hidden door led out to a viewing platform overlooking the river.  We were there right as the sun was setting, which meant that the skyline was just beginning to be lit up for the night.  As the sun was going down, it began to get colder and colder, and it was already freezing to begin with, so we decided to take the metro back to our apartment rather than walk.

(photos by e.hunt)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Fred and Ginger Go to Prague

The next day was kindof the same as before; we followed the path we were on but added a little more.  Today was the best lighting for the clock though.  The main clock was completed in 1410, with the lower calendar display added in 1490.  The astronomical dial represents the sun and moon positions, the calendar dial with medallions represents the months, and the figures surrounding the clock move on the hour.

The clock has been damaged and repaired many times.  The legend goes that the city will suffer if the clock is not well kept and running smoothly.  We also got a better look at the buildings and details around the clock.

After a while we decided we better work up our body heat by walking a little bit.  We took the curved road (with curved buildings!) to the bridge once more.  We hung out with King Charles before taking off down the bank.

The Dancing House, also known as Fred and Ginger (after famed dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), looked a little better during the afternoon lighting.  It was designed by Vlado Milunić along with the famous Frank Gehry in 1992 and was completed in 1996.  It caused a lot of controversy when it was built; its so modern compared the all the gothic buildings surrounding it, and really, all the rest of the buildings in Prague.  I think it works though, on the corner and with similar, Prague-like colors.  

(photos by e.hunt)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Pater Patriae, Otec Vlasti, Or Father of the Country

On the second day, we went back along the route we were on the day before, except this time, we added a little more.  First stop was the Astronomical clock.

But look at that really awesome door to the left!  It had the weirdest little goblins and rodents carved into the wood, not to mention the faces that were in the door itself.

After a quick stop at the Starbucks across the street, we moved on to the bridge terrace.  You could see it much better at this time of day, and the castle looked mighty and proud in the cloudy twilight.

The coolest part was this statue off to the right of the entrance gate.  King Charles IV stands atop a pedestal adorned with allegories of theology, medicine, law, and philosophy.  King Charles IV (of whom the bridge is also named after) is known as The Father of the Country, making Prague the capital of the Holy Roman Empire during medieval times, and had many building constructed there.

Taylor quite liked the statue as well.  After spending a good amount of time studying the monument, we continued our journey along the riverbank.  Our goal was to reach The Dancing House, which was quite a ways down, and it was getting colder and colder as the sun went down.

We fought through the cold and walked the entire way.  While the dancing buildings themselves were a little disappointing (with the traffic lights and wires, car and buses whipping by, and the interior lighting not regulated to show off the building), the view back towards the way we came was very pleasing.

And then we started the long trek back, crossing the bridge and going up the other side of the river, of course.  I thought it was prettier from this angle, with the lights reflecting off of the water and the silhouettes of the statues standing above.

And on the way back through Old Town we stopped in a little patisserie named Paul to find something for breakfast the next day.  We also got a little croissant boy for dessert!

(photos by e.hunt)