I can honestly promise, cross-my-heart-hope-to-die, that this is the second-to-last installment of the holiday shenanigans. There are just too many awesome pictures and stories and people and buildings and histories and castles and foods and all that other grand stuff that I am simply incapable of paring this tale down, hubris be damned.
We started the next morning - New Year's Eve - at a church we'd only heard about the day before which had been closed...but had something we had to see to believe.
You see, this gorgeous church above is best known for its particular method of deterring theft - the 500-year-old severed arm of the last idiot who tried to rob the place. Charming, no? Legend has it that the thief, not satisfied with stealing all the valuables at ground level, wanted a special crowning achievement - literally, the crown of Mary seated above the altar. He somehow scaled the marble pillars, arrived at the Holy Mother, and reached up for her crown...whereupon the figure came to life and grabbed the offending wrist, preventing the thief not only from stealing her crown but also from escape.
The poor fool dangled by his arm from the re-inanimate grasp of the statue through the remainder of the night, until the priest arrived for services the next morning. Mary's grip was so strong on the thief's arm, however, that no one could remove it - and, given the choice of maiming either the Mother of God or the idiot who tried to steal from her, the priest chose to spare the former and severed the arm of the latter...which hangs to this day over the entrance to the church, half a millennium later.
Fittingly, we found this door just down the street.
Did you know the sugar cube was invented in Prague?
We made our chilly way across the river to spend the day exploring the castle side of Prague. It's situated, as castles tend to be, on high with incredible views of the city and river stretched before it. (Except the weather was so crummy we couldn't get a good picture of it, boo.)
St. Vitus Cathedral within the castle walls was stunning. It wasn't completed until the 20th century, almost 600 years after it was started. Thanks to that (centuries-long) delay, this cathedral boasts the only carven figures wearing three-piece suits on any major church in Europe! (The final architects had themselves carved over the entrance.)
Also, this window. THIS WINDOW. Art Nouveau, hand-painted, stained glass. I just stared at it awkwardly until I
started drooling realized everyone had left me behind.
We returned home, napped, and re-grouped before a night out on the town to ring in the new year!
Russian Kate is Russian.
He's hard to see, but there's a six and a half foot tall, epically-bearded security guard smoking a pipe. Epic security guide is epic.
New Year's day, Emily and I went out together to do a special something, just the two of us. We wandered the city a bit, looking into what shows we could catch, and happened upon the concert hall where Mozart's Don Giovanni had its international premiere...and they were showing the opera that evening! We were sold. We had quite a lot of time to kill, and so wandered over to Wenceslas Square (below). Where I discovered multiple bookstores. Which were all closed. There may have been tears.
(I like to buy a book in every city I visit. Of course, not just any book, so that complicates things. And I hadn't been able to find any open bookstores in Budapest and so that just ensures that I MUST RETURN...if only to buy a book.)
Emily and I stopped in our tracks when we saw this sign - it was like running into (our amazing and wonderful friend) Cecily Konicek in Prague! Bonus points: the surname Konicek means "little white horse" and so we geeked out even more. And by "we" I mean me. Emily is much more dignified in public than I am.
gaaaaaaahsdkljf Emily, you are so cute and I'm SO HAPPY I got to look at your cute face for three weeks.
Outside the concert hall!
More fireworks because why not?
I love adorable old people.
We got our seats up in the nosebleeds, the lights went down, and the three-piece wind ensemble took their seats and began to play the overture...of Marriage of Figaro. Which is not Don Giovanni. It turned out to be a special program highlighting Mozart's famous arias - which was great, and the two actors performing them were hilarious and talented and entertaining - definitely not an opera, but still a really cool experience with which to end our adventures in Prague.
The next morning saw us on a plane heading back to Albania...Part VII, coming right up!