Tuesday March 27: Prague – Vienna

Another beautiful day today, clear and sunny, brisk but with a promise of warmer temps. This morning I explored another section of Prague. First conquered the subway system, having found a good map on the internet last night to help me along. I went to the section of Nove Mesto "New Town" around Charles Square.

First made an attempt to find the post-modern "Dancing House,’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancing_House a wildly designed highrise that looks unlikely in photos, but is a real building. Unfortunately, it was too difficult to find it, and I had to give up the idea. Had the right subway stop, but there are so many different places to exit the station, and I just couldn’t figure it all out. I don’t have as good a map of Prague as I need for this kind of hunt.

So, I went on to Charles Square (same subway station, just a different exit). This is a very large square-cum-park, around which the hub of New Town was planned. The square itself is about 3 blocks long. At the north end is the New Town Hall, parts of which date back to the 14th century. On the eastern side of the square is the imposing St. Ignatius Church, Jesuit headquarters from the 1600s. The present church is a beautiful baroque building, with (as always) a gorgeous interior, this one predominantly pink and white, and of course with plenty of gold. Walking down to the south end of the Square, I enjoyed the cheerful yellow blooming forsythia bushes and the incredibly spring-green weeping willows; spring is arriving in Prague too.

At the south end of the square, among other buildings, is Faust House, a building long associated with alchemists and other shady practices (as far as I could tell, it’s now a hospital). Then south of the square, Church of St. John on the Rock, a church built on a steep slope with a very grand staircase leading up to the doors. Unfortunately it wasn’t open, but I enjoyed the outer appearance. Then across the street is the Slavonic (or Emmaus) Monastery, a separate denomination from the prominent Eastern Orthodox religion more generally practiced here. As near as I can tell, the nave dates from the 14th century – certainly has that look to it. But I know that the monastery was bombed near the end of WWII, and there is a very modern double steeple on the 14th century building – not sure how much else is a rebuild. Mass was being held when I was there, so I couldn’t look around too much, and there was nothing in English or even German to help me out. But it was still interesting. And quite a reverb, I must say. There were only a few people at mass, but their voices really echoed and filled the large sanctuary in royal fashion. The monastery grounds are largely taken up with modern buildings – mostly seem to be medically-oriented. But there’s a nice quietness about the whole place.

I didn’t have time to go down to the ruins of Vysehrad Castle – it’s half a mile or so further down the river – but I feel like I saw a lot in the time I had available this morning. Had to get back to check out of my hotel. And then took the subway to the railroad station (spent a total of $2 on subway today, as compared with a $40 taxi fare coming to my hotel when I first reached Prague!) But I couldn’t have found my hotel on my own, not on my first time here.

This afternoon I spent on the train, coming back to Vienna. Shared my compartment with a nice middle-aged lady who spoke only German and Hungarian – we didn’t talk much! But I gathered that she lives in Dresden, and was traveling to Vienna to celebrate her granddaughter’s second birthday. There are six seats in each 2nd class compartment on the train, but there weren’t many passengers, so we had the compartment to ourselves. An uneventful ride, and not really anything worth looking at along the way – Czech landscape is not terribly pretty along the railroad, either new-growth trees on hillsides, or graffiti on buildings. Lots of graffiti in the Czech Republic. Outside of Prague, I’d have to say it’s the most cheerful thing I saw. Things looked much more prosperous and cheerful when we got over the Austrian border.

Back in Vienna at 6 PM, took the subway back to my apartment, bought some groceries, had dinner at my neighborhood Bavarian restaurant, and now I’m back ‘home,’ writing this. Can’t believe I have just two more days in Vienna. I’m making a list of all the final things I want to try to do.

Love to all,


Last updated 12/07. Copyright 2007 by Richard C. Morenus. Questions? Send email to richard.c@morenus.org