Hello everyone! Today was yet another spectacular day in Europe on the 2018 MYO Tour. The day began with a call time of 8:15 AM in the lobby of our Prague hotel. Once everyone was accounted for, the bigger bus groups split into smaller tour groups for the day of about 25 tour members. We then met our new walking tour guides for the day. Dr. Jackson and Mr. Stickley’s groups had a wonderfully nice woman named Theresa who was young and vibrant. Not to mention, much more awake than we were at 8:30 in the morning.
Our waking tour led us through several villages of Prague. Including the Old Town and the Lesser Town. The walk was beautiful, tranquil, and calming as the beginning was along the Vltava river and it is just absolutely stunning to watch the boats on the water. We began the true tour in the lesser village seeing beautiful monuments such as Little Venice, the Lovers’ Bridge, Mala Strana Park, the John Lennon Wall, the narrowest street in Prague, and even a stop at a local gingerbread shop. The John Lennon Wall was probably my favorite site on the tour. Our guide allowed us to stop and take pictures with the wall created by Czech people in order to memorialize all that John Lennon stood for. Including peace, happiness, and well-being of all. The lock bridge in Prague also has an interesting backstory. Each year, the gates on the bridge must be cut down and replaced with fresh locks as there is no more space for locks and if any more are placed on, and the bridge would collapse from all of the weight.
We also were able to see two significant public art installations created by David Černý including Crawling Babies and Piss. Each of these statues are incredibly controversial. Crawling Babies depicts babies with barcodes instead of faces and Piss shows two men pissing on the Czech Republic and Prague itself. Ten paintings of the crawling babies are also painted onto the “second ugliest building in the world,” Zizkov Television Tower. Which is only second ugliest to a building in Baltimore, Maryland – according to our tour guide.
Once we saw a good majority of the lesser town of Prague, our tour guide brought us to the oldest bridge to cross the Vltava. Which, in fact, turns 661 years old tomorrow, July 9th, 2018. This bridge is called Charles Bridge. If you did the math properly, that means this bridge was built in 1357. When the bridge was first built, it had an inscription on the East side which read 135797531. This means that the bridge was completed in the year 1357, on the 9th of the 7th month (june), at 5:31 in the morning. I thought it was so interesting that the builder chose to write the finish time of the bridge right on the side for everyone to see. The Charles Bridge is adorned with 30 statues of various meaning. The most prominent of all is the oldest, the bronze statue of Saint John of Nepomuk. This statue attracts many tourists as it has a old maid’s tale of superstition attached to it. It is said that if you rub the plaque on John’s right which is showing his martyrdom, you will be blessed with good luck. It is also said that if you rub the plaque on John’s left showing a shiny dog, you will be destined to come back to Prague. All of Dr. Jackson and Mr. Stickley’s group members took turns touching the plaques. So I guess we’ll be coming back to Prague!
After crossing the Charles Bridge we made our way into the Old Town. This town was full of winding roads, noisy locals, and some of the most beautiful architecture I had ever seen. Important places we saw in the Old Town include Old Town Square, the Church of Our Lady before Tyn, Kinský Palace, Estates Theatre, and the Astronomical Clock. The two most notable to me were the Estates Theater and the Astronomical Clock.
The Estates Theater was built at the end of the 18th century in midst of the cultural enlightenment across Europe. Its construction was driven by the idea that Prague needed a theater to enhance its charm, according to Count Frantisek Antonin Nostitz Rieneck, who financed the construction. Throughout the years it has housed many performances by world famous artists and composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart among them. He premiered his opera Don Giovanni at the Estates Theater in Prague on October 29, 1787; Mozart himself conducted the performance that night.
The Astrnomical Clock or the orloj, to those who speak Czech, is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself has three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; statues of various Catholic saints stand on either side of the clock; “The Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. The clock also comes with a legend. The man who built it had never built a clock quite like it before and was the only man in Europe who knew how to do so as it was the early 14th century. The king at that time wanted Prague to be the only city with such astronomical clock. Therefore, the night after construction of the clock had been complete, the king blinded the man. Legend has it on New Years Eve, the man was guided to the clock and broke the mechanism. The clock was then out of function for a whole century until someone else came along who knew how to fix the mechanism.
Our tour was over shortly after learning about the astronomical clocks. We had almost two hours for lunch. Some groups went to the Jewish quarter, others went clothes shopping, souvenir shopping, got lunch, ate ice cream, or generally just had a fantastic time with friends.
1:45 PM, our meet-up time, rolled around faster than expected. We took a walk back to our hotel with Helmut and Kristel in large groups. The walk took us back along the Vltava river and over one of the more recent bridges to be built across it. Once at the hotel, we had some time to relax and cool off after a long day in the hot sun. Most people napped and prepared for our concert. Others went back out and explored. The call time for the concert was 5:15 PM in the lobby and by 5:30 PM we were on the road. A short drive brought us to the Czech Museum of Music, where our concert was held. The hall was absolutely beautiful and gave our voices and instruments the most amazing ring at each cut off.
The program was shortened once again but despite its relatively small nature, the beauty of the performance was not compromised. Standing ovations were given after Storm is Passing Over, the Orchestra’s Concerto, and America the Beautiful. That fulfilling feeling I talked about yesterday was rekindled and it was a spectacular concert.
Our night was complete with a dinner on the top of one of Prague’s Mountains and a gorgeous view of the night sky. Prague was spectacular and I cannot wait to go back into the city for more exploring tomorrow.