We’ll continue on the Royal Road that we started the last blog. The Royal Road was the Baroque era coronation route of Bohemian Kings and Queens, starting at what once was the old palace and ending at the main seat of Bohemian power, the Castle.
Now arriving at the Charles’ Bridge, if you’re not tired of the tourists yet, then good. The crowd only grows, but soon there will be a relief, don’t fear!
There’s some guys there in sailor costumes trying to sell boat rides for Prague Venice. It's actually a pretty decent deal at 340 crowns: you get some beer, hot wine, an intimate tour on one of the cute small boats that goes up the canals, and a ticket to the Charles Bridge Museum. Actually quite worth the hour and about 14 euro you’ll spend. It’s not a sail boat or big naval vessel, so don’t be fooled by their funny Village People outfits.
chatting with fam while waiting for tourists
Past the sailor boys, you go up on the bridge. The statues look quite medieval, but most of them are copies. The real ones are hidden away in the what-seems-to-be-permanently-under-renovation National Museum. The copies were made and placed there in the 19th century, so they’re actually kind of historic themselves.
If you look over the right side, really really carefully, you can find a face etched into the water wall. That guy marks when it will flood. If it comes up to his nose, don’t go to old town, because the streets will soon be underwater. He was put there and used as a prediction device to tell when the Vltava was getting too high.
View from Charles Bridge
Further down, you’ll find the statue of Saint John Nepomuk. He was a famous guy who got into a bit of a spat with the King. He was the confessor priest to the Queen, and as the King suspected the Queen was cheating on him—don’t they all think that—he demanded that Nepomuk tell him the sins that the Queen had confessed. Nepomuk refused and was thrown off the bridge—throwing people off of stuff is just about a favorite Czech pastime. That of course, might not be the actual story, which might have had something more to do with some shady land deals the Church wouldn’t let the King in on down in the countryside.
The exact spot where he was thrown off is marked by a little icon on the right-hand side of the bridge. The next statue is a dedication to the saint, and if you rub it, you get a blessing of Holy Strength, which is a +5 Stamina for the next three hours. You'll need it to get to the Castle.
St. Nepomuk and the Castle
Finally off the bridge you’re onto one of my favorite streets. There’s not much to do on it outside of getting ice cream, having piranhas eat the dead skin off your feet, or go to McDonald’s, but it really is a nice street to walk down. The street you pass on the left leads to the Order of Malta Church, they're kind of like a modern day mafia group, and then onward to the Lennon Wall (which they own).
the Lennon Wall is great for selfies
The street ends behind the enchanting and captivating Saint Nicholas Church.
If there’s one church you go inside on your visit, this is the one. Seriously.
Inside the Baroque era Saint Nicholas is the most incredible illusionist murals that you’ll ever see. When you’re standing in the middle of the church and look up at the ceiling, it’s painted so that it seems to keep going up and up and up. But when you walk up to the galleries, you can see the skewed perspective of it all.
the backside of St. Nicholas
Rumor has it, that when the Viennese painter, Johann Lucas Kracker, agreed to paint the ceiling, he did so on the condition that no one would watch him do it. But a certain friar kept spying on him, so he painted the friar’s image into the ceiling. When he later brought his accusation before the Jesuits, he was able to show them which friar it was that was spying on his work.
Last I was there it cost 60 crowns to go in and wonder around while there was no mass going on. If you pretend to be a Czech Catholic, then you can get in for free during mass, but they won't be too happy about you walking around. And it's really noticeable, since there are about 3 Czech Catholics in the country.
The belltower, which you can also climb for a fee, has the perfect view of the US Embassy. This was not lost on the Czech government during the Communist times, and they would regularly place their spies in the tower to keep a watch over the Imperialist Capitalist pigs.
Behind the church is a plague column. You see these things all over Europe, and they’re made as a dedication to the lives lost to one plague or another. Plague was always a big thing throughout history, and was the number one killer of Europeans until the two World Wars, when Europeans became the number one killer of Europeans. Now it’s heart disease.
looking up Nerodova
Past the plague column, we’re on Nerudova. Notice how the crowds seemed to have lessened? No worries though, because the beauty of the city certainly hasn’t. Keep going up this street and you’ll see all these beautiful and overpriced little cafes. Why not have a beer there? The most price-normal place is the first café on the right, almost directly on the square with the plague column. Further up they get more and more expensive, but the street-served mulled wines in the area in winter are always a fair price.
looking down Nerodova
It’s quite a steep haul, and then you get to go up an even steeper ramp to the Castle. If you don’t turn off Nerudova, you’ll end up at Strahov Monastery, a really breathtaking monastic area complete with a medieval library, and three restaurants serving local brews. Actually, those are all great places for lunch, and then you can stroll downhill for the Castle. Likewise, you can also stroll across the hill to Petrin and get a really remarkable view of the city from the top of Prague's very own miniature Eiffel Tower!
almost to the Castle!
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