Prague Day 7: Communism and The Castle

So after yesterday’s tourist meltdown, we had yet another day free to do whatever we pleased in this wondrous city.

Many of our tour guides had told us that we needed at least 3 hours at the main Prague Castle to go through it all, so we figured that today would be our Castle day.

The Castle itself, is more the fortress like buildings surrounding the massive St Vitus Cathedral. The Castle is actually listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ancient castle in the world.

The Castle opens at 9:00 but I would recommend getting there closer to 8:30 which is what we did. There weren’t a TON of tourists yet so we were able to get our tickets without standing in line.

Tickets for the Castle range in price based on what you would like to see. We went with the A package for 350 CZK per person (about $13.50) which included everything but the Prague Picture Gallery and the South Tower.

Inside of St Vitus Cathedral

Here is what was included in package A: St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, exhibition The Story of Prague Castle, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower, Powder Tower, and Rosenberg Palace. We elected to do the South Tower for an additional 150 CZK per person (about $5.50) which was completely worth it!

In much of the Castle we weren’t able to take pictures which was disappointing but that also gave us time to look around and enjoy everything.

Sam inside St Vitus

So after yesterday’s meltdown, we got back to our room and soaked our feet. Our feet were so tired after walking literally MILES all over the city on uneven ground and even though we had great walking shoes, we were DYING.

I am so glad I soaked my feet that night and went home early because I don’t think I could have gotten my shoes ON let alone walked around the Castle today.

After buying our tickets, our first stop on the self guided Castle tour was Vladislav Hall.This hall housed public events for the Bohemian rulers so like banquets and receptions etc.

Inside of St George Basilica

As we wandered through this beautiful all and some of the rooms, we relished in the fact that there were hardly any people there…….but that didn’t last long. By the time we made our way through the hall Italian and Spanish high school students were arriving in droves. So we decided to stay a head of the curve ball and Vladislav Hall with a quickness.

Tomb of John of Nepomuk

The next stop was The Story of Prague exhibit which we actually thought was much much much smaller. We enter into this extensive and informative and actually felt a little overwhelmed.

There was literally THOUSANDS of years worth of history in this exhibit! I was completely blown away, and not know anything about Bohemian history, this exhibit was very informative.

You kind of have to pick and choose what rooms you want to visit. I mean they have prehistoric bones/history, medieval history, porcelain dishes, paintings, clothing…..TONS of stuff! We basically did the entire exhibit and without reading every little thing….we spent about 2-2.5 hours there. The absolute MUST see in this exhibit though is the helmet and armor of St Wenceslaus. Very very very cool!

More of Tomb of John of Nepomuk

The best part about this exhibit is we basically had it all to ourselves….it was glorious.

When we emerged around noon, we found that we were no longer alone in the Castle…..Italians and Spanish high school students were EVERYWHERE……add in the Asian tourists and holy shit you have a recipe for disaster.

We then went to Golden Lane which were a group of buildings inhabited by the Castles servants and artisans, it now houses some arms exhibits and little gift shops…..but we barely got to see any of those because all of the buildings were FULLLLLLL of tourists like I mean shoulder to shoulder, and we couldn’t make our way through for anything.

St Wenceslaus Chapel where the remains of St Wenceslaus are held

So we quickly left there and went to see St George’s Basilica which was founded in 970. It holds the tomb of St Ludmila of Bohemia and is now used as a concert hall and the 19th century Bohemian art collection.

Again……FULL and shoulder to shoulder with pushy ass students. We couldn’t even enjoy it because there were WAY too many people in there. We got stuck in a line and couldn’t get out, once we were there…..we were there and we were being constantly pushed by students so we couldn’t even really look at things and enjoy them!

View from the top of the South Tower

After we left there we went to the Powder Tower which houses military history but is mostly dedicated to the Castle guard……at this exhibit we once again had it all to ourselves!

It was very informative and I enjoyed learning about the different military dresses and events that the Castle Guard supervised.

The courtyard of the Castle from the top of the South Tower

Next on our tour stop was the interior of St Vitus……again huddled masses EVERYWHERE but it actually wasn’t as bad as some of the other areas of the Castle.

St Vitus houses the tomb of John of Nepomuk who is the national saint of Bohemia. He was drowned in the Vltava River at the request of the Bohemian king.

St Vitus also is home to St Wenceslaus Chapel. The Chapel houses the remains of St Wenceslaus the patron saint of Prague. Wenceslaus was a Duke of Bohemia from 921 until his assassination in 935, he was killed by his own brother.

Spires from the top of the South Tower.

The Chapel that houses the relics is the most popular spot in St Vitus…..shockingly we some how missed the worst of the tourists at that spot.

After leaving St Vitus, we went to check out the South Tower which as I mentioned earlier, we did have to pay extra for but the views of the city were worth every penny!

There is a spiraling staircase with 287 steps that takes you to the top of the tower. Not gonna lie….I did have to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. 287 never sounds like a lot of steps but let me tell you… is LOL.

St George’s Basilica

Not to mention there is only one way up and one way down, be prepared to get to know your fellow tourists very intimately as you pass each other. Oh and there is no railing so don’t fall.

Once we got to the top we were able to overlook the courtyard around the cathedral, St George’s Basilica, the spires of the cathedral, and many other stunning views of the city and there weren’t a TON of people up there like when we visited the Astronomical Tower in Old Town.

Our biggest regret about this tower experience…..that we didn’t do it at night. The views would have been STUNNING. After taking a shit ton of pictures at the tower, we headed back down.

Sam and I at the Hunted Museum

OK walking down the stairs was almost worse than walking up because going round and round and round in circles totally made us dizzy. We had to stop a couple more times just to get our barrings! Not to mention we got to get up close and personal with more tourists. Again though…..WORTH IT in every way!

After leaving the South Tower, we were basically at an end with our tour package. So we decided to go buy our doll as our big ‘souvenir’ purchase.  So let me first say how creeped out I am by puppets.

Pinocchio was literally the cartoon of my nightmares as a child.  I HATED it, but I was oddly intrigued by the marionette puppets and shops. The most expensive ones were hand carved and hand painted….many were creepy looking but intentionally creepy like witches or dragons, while others were ladies or jesters.

They were oddly creepy and beautiful at the same time! So of course the one I picked out was the most expensive…..the higher end hand painted ones can range from $200-$1000…..yes that is $1000 US dollars. There was no way I was going to pay that much.

Sam and I at the Hunted Museum

We settled on a $50.00 one which was made of wood and had a nice dress…..and not completely creepy. There are marionette shops all over Prague, we picked this one because it was close to our hotel and they had puppets for every budget. You could pick up a small one for $20.00 or less if you wanted.

The shopkeeper said she would wrap up the doll in a box. As she was doing this, I literally was like how the hell are we going to get them home. She must have read my mind because she was like hey we do shipping internationally. I just smiled and nodded like an idiot. I should have had her mail it home!

After leaving the shop we decided we better drop off the doll in our room since we were right there. Well right next door to our hotel was this candy shop, Steiner and Kovarik Chocolates. There were workers outside (since it was nice) offering samples to anyone who passed. So we sampled a cinnamon and chocolate covered almond. SOLD. We immediately had to stop.

We went into the candy store and proceeded to buy the most AMAZING chocolate covered almonds EVER. Let me first say, I am in LOVE with their box designs. I think they capture the essence of Prague by going with an art nouveau style.

Our amazing chocolates!

They had all different flavors, but the milk chocolate in ginger and the milk chocolate in cinnamon were literally the stuff of heaven. Thankfully they have an online shop and I do plan on ordering large quantities of their almonds.

We bought a tin of cinnamon covered almonds which was 229 CZK (about $9.00 USD) for 150g….which is about 1/3 of a pound. They had plenty of other sizes and bog style options too….not to mention other candies like chocolate covered raisins, gingerbread, nuts etc.

So after eating an entire bag of chocolate cover almonds, it looked like it might actually rain. So we thought it would be a good day to do all of our ‘indoor’ activities such as the The Ghosts and Legends Museum and the Communist Museum.

The Ghost Museum admission was included with our group ticket that we bought at the Alchemy Museum earlier in the week. We thought it was going to be like a walking tour, there are walking tours available and though I am sad that we didn’t actually go on one of those, the museum was actually really really cool.

Inside the Communist Museum

There are all kinds of interactive exhibits about different ghost stories in the different Prague districts.  The best part though was the underground. You walk down this old stair case and boom you are in this creepy wax museum depicting of the ghost stories we read about in the upper levels.

It was absolutely AWESOME! We had the entire museum to ourselves so it was quiet and we were able to look at everything and enjoy it rather then being pushed and shoved forward. We had a great time trying to scare each other too LOL. Since it was a small museum we made our way through pretty quick (about an hour) and then headed off to the Communist Museum.

Sam walking the streets of Prague

The Communist Museum was surprisingly hard to find. It’s in Wenceslas Square, but it’s actually inside of a ‘mall’ building that has a casino and a McDonalds. It’s on the second floor and there aren’t a lot of signs to tell you where to go. We had to ask at another museum where it was.

Side note….the museum we asked at was the Mucha Museum. Now this is the one museum that I was sad that we didn’t visit. It looked REALLY cool and I love that style of art so I was super sad that we missed this one. Why didn’t we go in you ask? Well we should have….we couldn’t find the Communist Museum….it was starting to rain…..and that museum looked WAY more exciting than the Communist one right… why did we pass? One word…..Italians!

The Mucha Museum was FULL shoulder to shoulder with Italian high school students and I literally couldn’t take any more pushing and shoving with hot bodies. So we decided that we would do the Communist Museum.

Our marionette puppet

Admission to the Communist Museum was 190 CZK (about $8.00 USD) which I thought was a little pricey for what we got. So the museum is small and there were quite a few people there so it was hard to read and enjoy the exhibits.

In some ways I felt like we should have just done the Mucha Museum because there were lots of Italians, Spanish, and Asian tourists even at the Communist Museum. But We had spent so much time learning about Medieval history and WWII history that I thought it would be cool to learn more about Prague’s modern history.

I almost felt like there was TOO much to read at this exhibit. There was a lot of history written on large boards in multiple languages but there were so many boards throughout the museum that it was almost overwhelming. There were too many people in the ‘theater’ that was showing a film about Communism so we missed that……in general I felt like we missed a lot at this one.

Book of ghost stories

Part of me felt like we maybe we were just tired….but I really felt like we missed out on a lot of history but then there was part of me that just didn’t care. The Castle had taken so much out of me that I think we should have just stopped at the Haunted Museum. Sam agreed. We were exhausted and our feet were literally KILLING us by this point.

ending the day with more delicious pizza!

The Communist Museum took us about an hour to get through. We left at 5:00 and it was raining. So we walked back to our hotel….slowly because let’s be honest, we were OVER walking but the thought of taking a tram was horrific so we just walked.

We stopped for dinner at…..surprise…..the pizzeria by our hotel where I ate more greasy delicious 4 cheese pizza! It was FAB and I enjoyed every single calorie!

The next day we had a full day excursion to Germany which meant that at least some of our walking would be diminished with the drive. We went back to our hotel and soaked our feet, ate more almonds, and pondered how the hell we were going to get that damn doll back home!

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