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Day 3: Tuesday, July 12, 2022 – Astronomical Clock

According to our guide, Prague is like Vienna, but Vienna is three times as expensive as Prague and they speak German. There are three must sees in Prague: St. Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and the Astronomical Clock. (I misspoke and said Anatomical Clock. Ha I wonder what THAT might look like!!) Today I will talk about the Astronomical Clock.

There is an astronomical clock that was built in 1410 and is the oldest clock still in use today. There are four circles telling time which make them difficult to read. Every top of the hour, there is a show from 9am-11pm. There is always a crowd. While we were there for the “show”, a man started his jackhammer to do some nearby construction. Was it on purpose or was he just thinking about getting the job done?

The first time that the clock was shown to the people, they ran away in fear. These were the first mechanical people built and they were scared. They wanted to know how he brought them to life. They wanted to chop off his head.

Czech Republic is one of the countries that celebrates name day. These names are all listed on the clock in the blue circle. Everyone has a true birthday, a name day celebration, AND if you are named Peter or Paul, you get a third day to celebrate.

In 800 AD, a young lady, Libuše, who could see the future named Prague meaning “threshold”. Bohemia was the old name for Czechoslovakia in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

In 1474 there were 13 towers surrounding the city, but only three are left. The Powder Tower used to store gun powder. The royals lived next door until 1905. Yikes!! And of course we climbed it.

The Black Madonna Building is a building with cubist architecture. It was originally a department store.

Note the bay windows. The other floors have different types of cubist windows.

On the first floor is a coffee shop that uses cubist dishes. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful coffee shop in the world.

It might be the most delicious!!

Inside the building there is a winding staircase that goes through 4 floors that makes for some interesting photographs.

There is a cubist museum on the 2nd and 3rd floors. Furniture and buildings were able to adapt to this style and have been preserved, but textiles and glassware were not easily adapted.

We tried our hand at being cubists and reconstructed a Black Madonna. It’s harder than it looks.

On the 4th floor, there was a photographic exhibition. We were not impressed and it was hard to see that it was cubist.

Rob’s comment: “These photos look like ones that we would delete.”

Mozart was an alcoholic and loved classical music so for those two reasons, Prague was a place that he loved to be.

The Marriage of Figaro was a flop in Vienna especially since the Royals felt that it was in bad taste as it mixed classes of people. Mozart took it to Prague where it was a huge success.

Don Giovanni premiered here in Prague, but Mozart was in trouble with the Royals since one can only premiere in the presence of royal benefactors who were all in Vienna. There is some evidence that Casanova worked on the libretto. He was also in the audience during its premiere.

The Story of My Life by Casanova is an autobiography written in French where he detailed how to steal money from old ladies. He would pose as a librarian. “Watch out who is in your house,” was an anonymous warning to a widow who had hired Casanova. And of course, lovemaking was his specialty. He drank himself to death at the age of 72.

Czechs have a hard time with foreigners. Habsburgs were only going to rule for a short time. They were in Czechoslovakia too long.

Judaism is a big part of Czech culture. Czechs took Jews in after Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. This made Hitler mad. Prior to WWII there were 31,000 Jews living there. Hitler came and took them all away. There is a bronze placard outside homes indicating the names of the people dragged from their homes.

The Jews were transported to a concentration camp named Theresienstadt where they were processed. The old, weak and frail were sent to the right and were in line to be shot one by one. Those sent to the left were deemed fit to work. Some died due to living conditions. Eventually, they would be sent to the extermination camp, Auschwitz. Only 118 survived.

During WWII, Czechoslovakia was divided. Slovakia was fascist and on the losing side. Czech was aligned with the Allies and on the winning side. Czech kept the Czechoslavakia flag and Slovakia got a Russian-looking flag.

Franz Kafka, a German Jew who moved to Prague, is the most influential writer from Czech Republic. Two books are mandatory reading: The Metamorphosis and The Trial. While we were doing laundry, we watched The Metamorphosis. It was quite disturbing!!

Here is a headshot of Kafka. Every hour the planes of his head rotate and he faces different directions.

Kampa is a UNESCO island with houses with the same roof line with white chimneys since 1263. Every weekend in the summer, a different country is featured with music, food, and goods. Today is France.

Our guide said that America had never been represented. We wondered what our cuisine would be: hamburgers, hot dogs, fried chicken … pretty much anything that will shorten your life!! We have a hard time finding peanut butter here so we would add that food to the list.

Flooding is a constant concern for Prague. In 2002, one third of the city was underwater due to a flood.

Waterwheels have traditionally been the way to achieve power.

They have planned for the next flood. A base has been installed on the ground around vulnerable areas and 600 soldiers from the castle will erect a retaining wall within 5 hours. I wonder if they have drills?

In 1961 a wall had graffiti against communism. Then in 1980, when John Lennon was assassinated, it was renamed for him. In 2019, a large climate message was placed over it so it was repainted.

According to our guide, Czech Republic is considered a  Western nation, the only one of the 27 Russian satellite nations.

In 1968, Czechoslovakia was trying to reform. Russians and three other Warsaw Pact nation squelched that effort. The Czech Republic is very Pro-Ukraine because they know what it feels like to be invaded by Russians.

Czech Republic has had lots of name changes. Our guide said that he has had 6 passports in 25 years due to name changes. And they need a passport for holiday. One third of Czechs go to Croatia in the summer for holiday.

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