Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Prague: Angels and Demons and Santa Claus

Today is St. Nicholas Day, or Mikulas! More on this fun festival later. 

This morning we headed over to Charles Bridge to have a nice stroll and to checkout the Little Quarter. 
 This is picture is for Manny. (oooooh, tumahs!)
 The Bridge Tower, a gothic gate that marks the Old Town side of the Charles Bridge.
 A statue of Charles IV, the 14th century Holy Roman Emperor who got fed up with having to repair the old bridge, so had a new one built, which was the only bridge across the Vltava for 400 years. It's also got some mysterious numerology. The foundation stone for the bridge was laid down on the 9th of July at 5:31 in the morning in 1357...making a numerical palindrome.... 135797531

 This cross was the first thing decorating the bridge in the 17th century, and the gilded Hebrew reads "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts." Apparently, the inscription was paid for by a fine imposed on a Prague Jew as a punishment for mocking the cross.

There were a few of these adorable bands playing. They were so good and so much fun to listen to!

This 2009 replica brass relief marks the spot where St. John of Nepomuk was tossed off the bridge into the river. St. John was a 14th century priest to whom the queen confessed all her secrets. According to legend, the king wanted to know these secrets, but of course Father John wouldn't tell! So he was tortured and then thrown off the bridge. When he hit the water, five stars appeared (which is why he usually has five stars floating around his head). 

Pilgrims believe that touching the relief of St. John will make a wish come true! So here I am, wishing away...

 Can you see the water wheel there? It's the last survivor of many mills that used to line this canal.

 Spouting forth knowledge to the masses, from the revered Book of Rick Steves.
 This is the Lennon Wall, who was much adored by the Czech people for his messages of hope. When Lennon was murdered, this wall became a spontaneous memorial, and although it was painted over many times, it has remained. The wall ended up being a gathering place for locals and travelers, freedom lovers and the like, who would meet here and contemplate Czech independence. Even though communism is gone, people still come here to imagine...

 I left my mark on the rim of John's glasses....Ars longa, vita brevis....
 Church of St. Nicholas (in the Little Quarter)
 Dripping with Baroque ornamentation on the inside. It's hard to tell where the building ends, the painting begins, and if the sky is real or not...

 Ahhhhh! Death!
 On the walk back across the bridge. People are rubbing the reliefs at the base of the statue of St. John or Nepomuk.

 There is a small "young art" museum near the bridge, with this piece hanging in the courtyard.
 Back in Old Town Square, vendors roast huge ham legs over open fires (pictured in the background.) When you ask for some, they carve off a chunk and weigh it. And then you eat it and are never the same again.
 We finally made it to the Astronomical clock on time! The show was brief, and cute, but it was fun to hang out in a throng of tourists, nibbling on a banana crepe, and stealing body heat from my neighbors.
 It's St. Nicholas Day! St. Nicholas, an angel and a demon wander around the square. Little children are on high alert, because if St. Nicholas asks them if they've been good children, they must answer honestly and then recite a little poem or sing a little song. Then they get treats! But is St. Nicholas suspects they've been naughty, well, then its black coal and hard potatoes for the little troublemakers!
 And if the little children have been REALLY bad....the demons will stuff them in their sacks and take them to hell!!!!!! Understandably, children are therefore quite terrified of the devil, which leads to bold performances of their songs and poem recitations in order to please St. Nicholas and prove that they are, in fact, good little children!

 This guy was playing water glasses outside of the Municipal House. We watched him tune the glasses (with a turkey baster) for about 15 minutes before he finally played something. I recorded in and will have to think of a way to put it on here.
 One of the glasses in the middle is filled with hot water for him to wet his fingers with.
I bought these wee-baby oil paintings of fruit of the Charles Bridge! I think they're so charming. :-)

Tomorrow is another adventure, although the temperature is dropping dramatically, with a high of 26 degrees...I might become the newest statue along the Charles Bridge...

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