Monday, May 25, 2009

Castles & Cobblestones

We arrived in Prague on May 22nd and found ourselves spellbound by the beauty of this ancient city. Already we had been awake for more than 24 hours but decided not to let jet lag get the best of us so we tackled the city head on. It is called the City of a Thousand Spires for good reason, every time you look up you can view a red dome christened with a golden spire. Our "Penzion" (Inn), was in the heart of the Old Town district. The streets are made up of centuries old cobblestone. I was paranoid that I might end up in a Czech hospital with a compound fracture of the ankle! (Maybe the high heeled sandals weren't such a great idea, no matter how good they looked.) The city is filled with museums but really the city itself is a museum. The architecture is astounding. Light filters through the streets and reflects changing colors throughout the day. 
I would have to say that some of my favorite sights were Old Town Square (and when they say "old" they mean like over a thousand years old!), The view from the Charles Bridge at sunset, The Mucha Museum and his artwork throughout the city, sipping coffee at a Cafe's in the ancient alleyways, and Patrin Hill, which is the park just across the bridge near the castle. 
Aaron was in gastronomic heaven. The Czech Republic has some of the best beer in the world  and we just happened to be there during the "International Beer Festival". It was so fun to watch my husband gobble up pork knuckles while chugging his beloved brew. 
On Sunday we had the chance to visit the church of friends who live in Sokolov, located over an hour west of Prague. They asked if we could share in couple of worship songs, which was an unforgettable experience. The Baptist fellowship meets in a small building tucked into a cozy little neighborhood. We felt so honored to be their guests. The Czech people are not very expressive but they are genuine. It was humbling to see the work of Christ in their lives.
On the way back from Sokolov to Prague we stopped in Loket. I had to pinch myself when we first viewed the village from the bridge. This place does not look real. Small rows of colorful shops and homes are lined up together all looking up at an ancient castle. Truly this castle looks like  a painting from a fairy tale. I was holding my breath to see Rupunzel let down her golden hair through one of the tiny windows. The castle itself is built on old Roman ruins. You can pay a small fee to tour the castle, and it is well worth it. Hrad Loket (Castle Loket) is equipped with everything a castle fan could dream of.. turrets, cisterns, torture chamber, a dragon, statues, frescos, etc. I think what shocked me the most about Loket was the fact that people still live there. That castle is still a part of everyday life for a community of people just as it has been for well over a thousand years! 
The Czech Republic may not sound like a dream destination to some, but maybe that is the secret to the magic of the place. It will surprise you with it's beauty. I can now see why it is a favorite to those who have visited. We may have left Prague behind today but a part of it will be with us for the rest of our lives. Farewell to Vienna!

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