November 12, 2008

So…next topic promised- PRAGUE!  Thanks to RyanAir and the few days of vacation before classes, a few friends and I ventured to the Czech Republic.  An interesting experience too, because I knew not one word of the language.  We left rainy Ireland and got to rainy, chilly Prague- but it was beautiful!  After our success in buying our tickets and using the super fast subway — we arrived at our stop- to find a Tesco! (This was exciting for us because its one of the common “food halls” or grocery stores here in Ireland too).  Our first stop was the center of Prague where we saw the famous Astronomical Clock.  It was great to just walk along the streets because they were small and narrow, but beautifully decorated!  The architecture in Prague is truly amazing.  Continuing along the streets that are filled with outdoor cafes and stands selling hot dogs, hot wine and cider – we stopped into a few craft shops- marionettes and children’s toys being quite popular- and cute!  Just roaming around, we came to a cathedral (our map said “sv. Jakub”) nothing special, but on the inside- it was sooo ornate and grand.

Another great site we visited was the Hill of Petrin.  There is actually a funicular that we could have taken to the top of the hill, but us Holy Cross girls climbed the hill as it was a great opportunity for photos and we saw the view of the beautiful city with all the red roofs.  At the top of the hill is the Petrin Tower — a smaller version of the Eiffel Tower- providing another great view.

Other places in Prague visited:
*The National Museum, the old Jewish Quarter, the Cathedral of the Child of Prague (which I found out in speaking to the locals here in Ireland- that most homes in Ireland have a Child of Prague statue- my friend said it’s a tradition kind of like the tradition we have with statues of Mary).

*Prague Castle.  It was so wonderful.  Within the confines of the castle are several cultural gems: Old Royal Palace, The Story of Prague exhibit, Basilica of St. George… (we got the student ticket! Getting us into everything!)  There were 2 art galleries (The National Gallery & Prague Castle Picture Gallery)  which I found really fascinating.  Some new artists I now love:  Bernaert de Rijckere and Lucas Cranach.  St. Vitrus’ Cathedral- also quite famous- had beautiful stained glass windows.

But, by far, my favorite part of Prague was St. Nicholas’ Church.  After crossing over the Vltava river on the famous Charles Bridge (where we bought some lovely souvenirs) we saw St. Nicholas’.  While it’s not too striking on the outside- I had read that it was a must see and thank goodness I did!  Everything in this cathedral was huge and gorgeous!  It was 2 levels; the ceilings had amazing frescoes of biblical scenes and several side altars dedicated to saints such as St. Joseph, St. Michael, and there was an altar dedicated as  The Altar of the Holy Cross.  The style of this church is a result of the high Baroque architecture at the time, but its opulence, immense marble statues, gold, and stained glass were truly impressive.  It felt truly sacred.

With Prague Castle as our last stop and passing the National Theater on our way back home- I felt our trip was complete.  And one of the best things about getting back to Dublin?  It felt like home.  It was great to explore a new place for a bit- but the feeling of coming back to the home base- which at this point in my life is Dublin- was, well, really cool.
Stay tuned for upcoming details about the few days before classes, Freshers week, and how classes have been going!


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