Sunday, June 20, 2010

Prague Day 1: Old Town Square and Old Town Hall

Prague was hot and humid beyond my imagination even after 5pm. Occasionally a truck with a sprinkler device would drive by and sprey some water on the street. I know that's what people do to reduce the heat in the air, but with the humidity in the air, additional water particles didn't seem to help me that much.

The old town part of Prague is not that big. We thought it would be easy to find the square, but again we had to stop occasionally to check our map. After walking through several winding streets packed with tourists from all over the world, we finally came to the square. There was some kind of event sponsored by Hyundai with loud music and shops all around. It wasn't exactly the expected sight of old and beautiful Prague center, but we took a seat at a cafe and treated ourselves to some beer, which seemed to just evaporate with sweat and humidity.

The sight of Church of Our Lady before Týn against a huge blue advertising mast of Hyundai semi saddened me, but it was also a realization of us living in the 21st centry of capitalism with its massive advertisements and campaigns.

We finished our beer and walked towards the Old Town Hall, which was established in 1338 after the agreement of King John of Luxemburg to set up a town council. A part of the chapel was reconstructed after being destroyed by the Nazis during the WWII.

The most popular part of the tower is the Orloj, Town Hall Clock, which consists of three components: 1) the astronomical dial which is based on the Ptolemaic theory representing the position of the sun and moon around the earth and displaying various astronomical details; 2) "The Walk of the Apostles" which is a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures; and 3) a calendar dial with medallions representing the months.

The mechanical clock and astronomical dial were said to be made by a clock maker, Mikuláš of Kadaň, and a professor of mathematics and astronomy at Charles University, Jan Šindel in 1410, but later when the clock was repaired by another clock master in 1552, the report mentioned another clockmaster's name Jan Růže (a.k.a Hanuš) as a person who made the clock.

One legend said that Hanuš was blinded by the order of the Prague Councillors, as the clock he made became way so popular that other cities tried to hire him. He continued to be a clock master of Orloj even after he was blinded. It said that when he deceased the clock stopped working.

The clock is definitely a work of art. It is not only beautiful to look at, the exquisiteness of astronomical dial is just breathtaking. If you are interested in learning more about this amazing clock, go to this page.

We left the square behind and headed to the Powder Tower, which was originally built in 1475 and was used to be one of the entrance way to the castle. This is the place the foreign ministers and nobilities were welcomed, and they were led to the castle by a drum and fife band or soldiers. It must had been some kind of sights. By the time we got to the Powder Tower, it was already past 9pm, but as you can see the sky was still bright and the air was still very moist and hot. We walked towards the hotel and found a very touristy restaurant near the Wenceslas Square which the famous Velvet Revolution took place in 1989.

We got two Czech traditional dishes and shared among three of us. They were not bad, but the place was definitely targeting the tourists, and unfortunately we felt rather ripped off.

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