The Other Side

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Colorful buildings line the river

The next day, I decided to cross the river and explore the massive Prague Castle complex. On the other side, I stopped for brunch before taking my time to walk through a big green park on the way there.

There is a gondola ride that takes you up & up to the top of the park, but I hiked it, stopping often to take photos. The higher I got, the bigger view I had of the city I just came from.

Sneak peak of the iconic St. Vitus Cathedral! And another church I passed. I had to veer slightly off the path to take these photos through the fence and through the trees.

 

 

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So green. So lush.

More greenery along the way… Summer was in full bloom and the sun was blazing, causing me to work up quite a sweat.

Kids chilling on the steps of this Catholic church.

I walked around the corner and slightly down a path to the other side.

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There, a tiny vineyard boasted, yet again, another lovely view.

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Keep walking a bit further and you’ll pass another row of this picturesque wine.

Turn around and you’ll see deep red roses blossoming overhead.

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The final stretch to the complex was down a cute street lined with cafes and apartments.

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I noticed many of the buildings either had plants growing up their walls or from their balconies.

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A few side streets away from the Old Town Square I stumbled upon an open air market selling hand crafted souvenirs. At the end of the street was another church.

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During our tour, we were lead through the Jewish Quarter, the area that was once the Jewish ghetto. It is home to Europe’s oldest active synagogue!

The features of this Spanish synagogue almost resemble those of a mosque. Unfortunately this time I didn’t have time to go in, but one day when I return I am curious to peek inside!

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This Old Jewish cemetery is the largest in Europe. Our tour guide explained to us that it is composed of alternating layers of dirt and bodies because over a period of 300+ years they ran out of ground space to bury their dead, so instead they had to bury upwards.

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Prague Jewish Museum located next to the cemetery

We also learned that this area around Old Town is the most expensive area to live in Prague. This was made evident by the expensive name brand stores lining the streets. The building shown below on the right was one of the prettiest ones I saw.

After the tour, our guide recommended we cross the river a couple bridges away from the famous Charles Bridge and take a walk through the vast park on the other side.

Like Vienna, Prague also uses red trams as a means of transportation. I think I still like Vienna’s trams better (although I may be a little biased ­čśë).

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Later that evening I went to dinner, took a walk, and enjoyed a beer along the river. There were a few men at the bar who gave me a strange look, probably wondering why I was alone drinking a beer at a random pub in Prague.

The Fairytale Square

The Old Town Square is one of the main attractions in Prague, and despite the herds of tourists and overly priced tourist trap restaurants, it still had fairytale charm. Every building was a different color, with different designs and different styles.

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These buildings looked like illustrations straight out of a fairytale book, each telling their own story.

This terracotta-colored building was one of my favorites, showcasing coats of arms in a row across the top, and gold accents in the main windows.

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I could not stop taking photos; I wanted to capture every unique building!

Regardless of the fact that it is listed as one of the most disappointing attractions ever, the Astronomical Clock still lures in tons of tourists for its hourly “show,” consisting of figures spinning and popping their heads through the windows. Although most people find the show to be anticlimactic, our tour guide convinced us that it is actually a very impressive and intricate mechanism that is hundreds of years old. The clock displays the time according to the Old Czech time scale, which sets 24:00 o’clock at sunset and consists of numbers 1-24.

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Church of Our Lady is a gothic church built in the 14th century. Its striking and prominent features remind me greatly of the castles and towers you read about in fairytale books. It is unlike any building I have seen before. I’ll say it again- I am so amazed by the architecture of these historic European cities. You don’t see this in the US; some of these buildings are older than our country itself!

This is the Jan Hus Memorial. Hus was an influential figure in Prague during the 14th and 15th centuries. He symbolizes opposition to the Catholic Church, and thus Habsburg rule of Czech lands. In my history class I learned about the Thirty Years War, which was a religious war between Protestants and Catholics from 1618 to 1648. It is said that the start of the war was triggered in Prague, when Catholic diplomats were pushed out of a third story window. This event is now known as the “Defenestration of Prague.”

Baroque-style Saint Nicholas Church:

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Solo Travels

After classes ended, I planned a solo trip to Prague for 4 days, 3 nights. I took a 4 hour ├ľBB train ride there and back (this train ticket cost me roughly 19 euro). Why a trip all by myself in a country I’ve never been to before? 1. Most of my travel buds had either visited Prague earlier in the semester or were already en route back home to the States. 2. I think a solo trip is a learning experience everyone should have at some point in their lives. 3. I could see whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and at my own pace. The result? 4 days of LOTS of photography and delicious, cheap, local eats (and Czech beer).

After filtering through the hundreds of photos I took, I noticed the majority of them focused on the colorful, fairytale-like architecture featured throughout the city.

 

 

It’s as if every detail on every building was thoroughly thought out.

 

Walking through the streets I was reminded slightly of Vienna, but more vibrant and whimsical.

 

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Even the tiny side streets were charming!

 

On the evening of my arrival, I wandered from the hostel towards the city center, and stumbled upon the Powder Tower, one of Prague’s original city gates that separates the Old Town from the New Town. Located next to this tower is the Hybernia Theatre.

 

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Before heading back to the hostel, I stopped by the Vltava river and took a couple shots during twilight hour.

 

Schlo├č Belvedere

This Baroque palace was once the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Despite the fact that it was still frigid in February the first time I walked through its gardens, it instantly became one of my favorite sites in Vienna. I returned numerous times to this Schlo├č; these photos are from my final visit in June.

Colorful flowers in bloom everywhere!

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Look at that detail! And this was just his summer home..

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A magnificent view of the city, mountains in the background, and elaborate gardens can be seen from in front of Upper Belvedere.

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Lower Belvedere is seen here, at the lower end of the gardens.

The Imperial Estate

Austria has a long history, and the city of Vienna represents so much of its complexity. The architecture of the imperial buildings around the Ringstra├če (the street surrounding the 1st district) are grand and over-the-top, representing the grandeur and significance of Kaiser Franz Joseph’s massive reign over the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the mid 19th to the early 20th century. His lasting presence is still felt in almost every corner of the city.

In this collection of photos, I started in the Burggarten on the backside of the ├ľsterreichische Nationalbibliothek (Austrian National Library), walked around to the Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square), and through the arches into the Hofburg (Imperial Palace). The buildings around the city are in constant rotation for restoration and preservation.

Peeking out through the fence in front of the National Library.

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Das Rathaus (City Hall) & der Heldentor (Heroes’ Gate)

Vienna even turns construction into art! When spring finally sprung, it brought with it blossoming trees and flowers. The entire city came alive when the weather was no longer cold and grey. It was like living in an entirely different place among entirely different people.

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The Heldentor is a giant gate along the Ringstra├če that leads to the Heldenplatz, situated between the ├ľsterreichische Nationalbibliothek, the Hofburg, and the Volksgarten (People’s Garden). One must pass through these gates in order to reach the Hofburg from the Ringstra├če.

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Horse carriage rides are offered to tourists for a tour around the inner city.

2 Austrian heroes are depicted in the Heldenplatz. Prince Eugene of Savoy’s statue sits directly in front of the National Library. He was loyal to the Habsburg Monarchy. He is honored throughout Europe for serving the Holy Roman Empire and finally defeating the Turks in the early 18th century during the ongoing wars between the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires.

Archduke Charles’ statue sits facing Prince Eugene just across the way. He was one of the most respected military commanders and reformers to come from the Habsburg Monarchy. He is most notable for his victories against Napoleon during the Napoleonic Wars in the late 18th century.

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Next I walked through to the Hofburg complex. Once again notice the abundance of intricate details represented in every aspect of the structures.

A statue of Emperor Francis II (I), the last Holy Roman Emperor, stands in the center of the Hofburg’s courtyard.

Finally, I continued through to the 1st district and landed on the curved drive in front of the Hofburg. Horse carriages line the drive, waiting for their next round of tours. The building showcases the Baroque style popular in Vienna, and Europe, during the time of its construction.

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Gold F.J. initials on the front gate (I told you, Francis Joseph made certain to leave his mark on this city!).

Milano

I met Anna for a weekend in Milan. The first night we took a walk around the city center after dinner while the tourist crowds were minimal, and visited the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, most notable for housing the original Prada store.

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We came back the next day during our walking tour.

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In the center of the gallery is a floor mosaic of a bull. Legend has it if you dig your heel into its balls and spin around 3 times, it will bring you good luck.

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Our walking tour met in front of the massive Gothic-style Duomo di Milano, or Milan Cathedral.

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This beautiful cathedral took 6 centuries to build, and it is still incomplete.

If you look closely, the bottom right half of this bronze door (one of five) suffered damage from bombings during World War II.

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More churches we passed during our tour.

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Ca’ Granda, which is now home to the University of Milan, was once used as a medical center for poor, Milanese people.

Banca di’Italia – Bank of Italy

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Our tour guide ended the tour at a sculpture of a cutoff middle finger in front of the Milan Stock Exchange. This art piece from Maurizio Cattelan was meant as a gesture from “the people” towards Italian capitalism.

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During late afternoon, we wandered to the Castello Sforzesco, a medieval-renaissance castle that sits at one end of a large park called Parco Sempione. We spent a good hour people watching while sitting on the grass in the hot sun.

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Porta Sempione, Milan’s city gate, at dusk. We sat here until the sun was almost down.

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