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México
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In another thread, someone whose pictures I like very much commented that it was a pity I only focused on the "touristy" bits of the cities I visit. Somehow, the word "Tourist" has become suspect and somewhat dirty. Why? Why, if tourism is such a valuable source of income for the countries and cities blessed with beauty worth traveling thousands of kilometres to see? Why, if it creates so many jobs and directly transfers currencies that can help reduce large trade deficits? Because in the worst cases, tourism can even threaten the very survival of the places (un)lucky enough to deserve most attention. Tourists crowd places, create paralell economies and physical areas completely disconnected from the lives of the local inhabitants. They distort the lives of people living in the places they visit.

So, what's the alternative? Avoid Venice, Paris and Prague? Wouldn't you be missing out, though? Not go to the Louvre, avoid crossing St Peter's Square and not even think about a cruise down the Thames? Surely, there are dozens of places in each "touristy" place that "tourists" don't even know about and are just as good, if not better than the main sights, but... What about the main sights themselves? Those are the ones that make you want to go in the first place, right? There are now magazines and books that promote "active" or "engaged" travel alternatives: work with the poor, learn the language, participate in the harvest... get involved! Be a TRAVELER, not a TOURIST! But, isn't that going too far? Aren't these experiences also ultimately unauthentic and sanitized? Would you still not go to the "touristy" places after you're done talking with the locals? And it all sounds a bit contrived, doesn't it? Too much effort goes to avoid doing what the TOURISTS do...

I think I have my own "solution", or more exactly, "perspective," which is certainly more modest and much less ambitious than "getting involved." What's yours???

While you think about it, let's not be afraid to be "just TOURISTS" and join me on my first visit to the gorgeous Czech capital!!
On a first visit, you will probably spend your time in a relatively tiny area, the North Easter part of which is limited by the Náměstí Republiky (Republic Square), where several mid-size hotels in non-historical buildings are located. There is also a metro station right there.











But the building that will draw your attention in the square is the Obecní dům, (Municipal House) a 1912 Art Nouveau wonder housing a concert hall, bars and restaurants, exhibition spaces and tons of pretty details.









































From there, the pedestrianized Celetná Street takes you the Tourist epicentre of the city: Old City square.








































And, here we are, and we have truly arrived. Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square) is a breathtaking visual riot of medieval, renaissance, baroque and art nouveau ornamentation. Just my cup of tea!:cheers:























































In the square, much will catch your eye. Among the pretty buildings, this one,
the Golz-Kinský Palace, is especially interesting and one of the few you can actually walk into. This renaissance and baroque beauty houses the Antiquity section of the Czech National Gallery.













This huge gothic building, Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem (Church of our Lady of of Týn) is very visible from the square and looms over everything in Stare Město (Old Town). Everything about it is visible, except the entrance, which is around the corner down a narrow alley!











The other large church in the square, the baroque Svatý Mikuláš (Saint Nicholas), looks (and is) much more accesible. In the Týn church, they won't let you take pics!! :eek:hno:





That's it for now. Na viděnou!

 

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México
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Back to Prague!

Still in Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square), the large church with the baroque façade is Svatý Mikuláš (St Nicholas Church). It used to be an orthodox church, which becomes obvious once you notice the cross-shaped, Greek-style floor plan, the spectacular byzantine chandelier and the stained glass.







































Now, going back to our Tourist Manifesto, we shall not let anyone think less of us just because we are “tourists.” However, we should still find ways to make our experience as worthy and dignified as possible.

Respect is a good place to start. We shall not go to any place with any preconceived notions and we shall keep an open mind. Most places won’t run the way we are used to back home. Just because we foreigners find something unnerving, disconcerting or illogical, we shouldn’t be too quick to judge. It most probably makes perfect sense to locals, and for very good reason.

Still firmly along the tourist route, Staré radnice, the Old City Hall.



























Of course, even if the lines are long, you should still visit, because the views over the whole central city are amazing. I loved that about Prague, the views that the hilly geography allows.







Respect also goes for local standards of decency, modesty in dress and behavior. Keep your rowdy, raucous antics under control. Do not litter or pollute. Observe the rules. We are all Ambassadors of our countries when we travel.



































To me, if a place is worth seeing, you should go see it. It’s your right to see the achievements of your fellow human beings, or be witness to the prodigies or nature. But precisely because it’s an achievement or because it represents the beauty of nature, the place deserves your respect, attention and understanding. Understanding is what will set you apart from the hordes, and make your experience a much more meaningful one.









































Understanding means you should make it to a place with at least some knowledge about what you’re about to see. What makes it remarkable, what did it change? Who built it and why? Many people find places, works of art and sights “overrated” only because they go to see them expecting to be “entertained,” as if visiting a historic place should be akin to going to see a show. Our own ignorance often forbids appreciation. It is not true that art speaks to anyone. Often, it only whispers. But you may be too numbed by the stimuli of modern life to hear it. And you need to understand its language.















Understanding also means that you have to take your time. Read the brochure. Reserve the guided tour. Get the audio guide. This will normally mean you won’t have time to “do” ten cities in 15 days. Don’t allow yourself to just be herded around by someone brandishing a large umbrella or a handkerchief tied to the tip of a cane.

Back on the ground, the super-famous astrological clock. Originally set up in the 13th Century, it’s one of the oldest clocks in the world. Incredibly complex for its time, it features a the zodiac calendar, an astronomical dial and astrolabe.











Additional images of the square…





 

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Great thread. Liked the pics of St Nicholas in the Old Town. This church did not appear to be open to the public in the summer of '89 when I visited.
 

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Out of Control
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Excellent set.
 

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México
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Back to Prague and to our manifesto!

Prague Castle is high on every tourist's list visiting the Czech capital. But when you finally make it to the "Castle" you realize the place isn't just a castle as such, but a large complex that includes several palaces and churches, including the huge St Vitus cathedral!















































































































You should of course, visit some of the actual buildings and museum in the Castle, which takes us back to our rumminations about tourism and its discontents. Another way to make your tourist life more meaningful is to take your time. Don't try to cover too much ground on a single visit. Go for depth, don't spread yourself too thin. "Doing" ten European cities in 20 days, and just getting off the bus or the cruise for a few hours is not enough!

Just visiting all the sites in Prague Castle can take you a couple of days, but my personal highlight was probably climbing the stairs of the cathedral's spire, for a bird's eye view of the castle and an closeup look of the gargoyles.







And beyond the castle, the tower commands views over pretty much the whole of Prague!













































Now let's descend from the castle and back to Mala Strána for a well deserved break and an early dinner!





























 

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skylark
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awesome city and the architecture which is predominantly baroque is simply exhilerating.
the gothic cathedral is great too.
 

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very nice and wonderful perspectives. You succeed in catching on the buildings details and the part of the city which gives the glamor of the city.

Prague seems to me that is the only city in Europe where every building have a story, a fairytale through building's statues (towers, coats of arms, rooster on the buildings) which are the characters of this story. That's why I love Prague and why I considered it the best city in Europe, because it's a fairytale city :D :cheers:
 

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México
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Let's start today on the West part of town and move back towards the old town. :)

The area west of Mala Strana ("Small" Town) includes wonders of its own, including the Strahov Monastery, with its awesome library, which features two of the most beautiful rooms ever created to hold reading material.































As so often with touristy areas, if you just move a block away from the main drags (in this case the Nerudova / Udoz thoroughfare), you may see nice places. Here is the Luwkowicz palace, housing the German Embassy. The backside gardens of this palace became familiar to news audiences all over the world in the early 1990s as the place where hundreds of East Germans camped out to escape communism, back when the palace was the West German Embassy.









Walking right below the castle now...
















Moving on towards the riverside and the Charles Bridge...



















Let's cross the gorgeous bridge, once more! This never gets old, believe me! :cheers:















The tower on the old town end of the bridge is regarded one of the most significant and representative gothic structures in Europe. And the views aren't bad!

































Also at the end of the end of the Charles Bridge, some nice sights. The churches of St Francis of Assisi and Saint Savior, with the statue of Bohemian King and and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who started construction of the bridge.










...and we're back in the old town.





















Let's rest our tired feet in one of Prague's classic café houses, the Grand Café Orient, inside the cubist House of the Black Madonna.











And to cap a perfect touristy day, join me for an awesome night of art and music at Prague's gorgeous Opera House!









 
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