This is the last day of my trip. What a treat to be awakened by the sun shining over the Vltava River! I was so pleased to receive my same room at the Clarion that I was in 10 days ago, with its little balcony and great views.
Since I had just been in Prague with the Tauck group, I opted out of the morning tour of the castle to fit in some things I had not yet done. I walked out of the hotel, which is only a block from the river, and walked along the waterfront, taking in the sights and smells of a city waking up.
Walking across the bridge took me to what is known as Little Quarter, which is an area below the Castle Quarter. Stairs on the left of the bridge took me across another small bridge that was adorned with padlocks, the scourge of romantic spots throughout Europe, which contemporary Romeos think "clinches" their love. Unfortunately, these have sometimes weighed down the bridge fences, causing them to collapse.
The small bridge led to Kampa Island, which was created from the rubble of the Little Quarter after a fire in 1540. The island is basically a park with pubs, lovely walkways and a contemporary art gallery (love these giant babies in front).
The length of the island took me back into Little Quarter and directly at the foot of the Monument to Victims of Communism. These stark sculptural figures portray how communism eats away at the whole of the human being until there is only an insignificant piece remaining.
The statistics inscribed on the steps are chilling: from 1948 until 1989, in Czechoslovakia alone, 205,486 people were imprisoned, 248 were executed, 4,500 died in prison, 327 were shot attempting to cross the border, and 170,938 left the country.
From here it was a short walk to the foot of Petrin Hill, where I took a funicular to the top (you know how I love funiculars -- or maybe I just love saying it).
The ride was delightful (I was in front) and took me to a park from where you could walk to the Strahov Monastery. But my goal today was the Petrin Tower.
From here I was able to walk back to the Little Quarter where I met my group for lunch at Tri Stoleti, very classy and one of the best of the trip. At this point, my iPhone had frozen and I was panicked about how to get it fixed. My whole life is on it. Our guide Luci looked up several iPhone stores and there were some nearby, so no problem. After lunch , I walked back across the Charles Bridge with the group and then bid them adieu while I searched out a repair store. One of them happened to be in the old palace morphed into a tri-level shopping center at Republic Square which I photographed on Day 13. Amazingly, no one was in the store but two very handsome "geniuses," who both spoke perfect English. One of them fixed my phone in 30 seconds, and I was on my way.
I still had some time so I walked to the Alfons Mucha (MOO-kha) (1860-1939) Museum. I didn't have time for the tour, but the gift shop had replicas of his posters and many other examples of his work, so it was almost like seeing the originals. He was a very popular Czech art nouveau painter and decorative artist, with a very distinct, almost fairy-tale like design. His work is characterized by organic backgrounds highlighted with ethereal looking women with angelic faces and flowing hair.
From Mucha's art, it was only fitting to head to the Municipal Cultural Hall, which is the "pearl of Czech Art Nouveau."
The one-hour tour was well worth it. And you could take photos! Built in 1912, it was one of the first electrified theaters. It was constructed under the Habsburgs, but later was the official scene of the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. In November 1989, Vaclav Havel proclaimed the country's independence from the USSR on the outside balcony. Fortunately, during its 100+ years' history, the Nazis and the communists did not destroy it - just left it in disrepair. EU money has been funneled to restore this gem.
The highlight of the tour is Smetana Hall, the main performance theater.
In addition to this hall, there were several smaller ones, all of which are available for rental by private individuals or organizations.
During the restoration, great effort was made to maintain the original design. In particular was the preservation of Mucha's paintings in the anterooms -- on the walls, the ceilings and windows.