Another day in the beautiful city of Prague, and today we had the opportunity to got and experience some of the local history and culture.
The day started off with a breakfast followed by an hour long drive to the famous Karlstejn Castle. This castle was founded in the 14th century by Charles IV, King of Bohemia and later, the Holy Roman Empire. We had to actually spend 20 mins walking up a steep incline after we parked our bus in order to get to the castle. The views, however, were absolutely worth it. I shall post more pics when I have them.
We were given a guided tour of the castle by a young woman called Blanka. She did a wonderful job of providing an in-depth background of the castle artifacts and stories relating to the castle. The only down-side was that by the time we were done, we were freezing. But, all in all, the castle tour was well worth it.
After returning and refueling ourselves with some lunch, we once again headed out, this time on foot, for a walking tour of Prague. I must say that this was one of the richest experiences so far on the trip. Our guide Hanka helped us understand many of the nuances of the Czech culture including the reason for the sarcastic and pessimistic Czech humor, the fact that most of the populace calls itself atheists, and the effect the Communist regime had on the daily lives of the people. We also walked around and visited the three main gates to the Old City (only two of which stand today), Charles University (which is supposed to be the third oldest university), the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square. The old town square was interesting in that it showed architectural influences from a number of eras including 13th and 14th century Gothic, Rococo and Baroque, all on just one of the sides. It just went on to show that Prague was quite poor and could not afford to redo its architecture in one dominant style. So they chose to just add on to whatever already existed.
The old town square also has the astronomical clock which "rings" once every hour. And the ringing is an event, which many people gather around to see. There are puppets that appear to be sticking their heads out of tiny windows among other intricate mechanisms that drive this marvellous piece of machinery.
We were quite exhausted by the time we walked back to our hotel rooms. Little did we know that the treat was just beginning. An hour later, all of us were whisked away to an authentic folklore performance accompanied by a sumptuous dinner. Among other thing, we were treated to sprightly dance performances, some great, high energy music and one of the best cymbal players (cymbal here is an instrument consisting of a number of horizontally arranged strings and played with a mallet). I also ended up participating in a Broom dance while I watched Dr.V demonstrate his enthusiasm in another version of the same dance. It was a great evening with people inventing songs that sounded very much like Happy Birthday and with some absolutely breathtaking dance performances by the local dance troupe.
After a night of rest, I now look forward to today's business events. It would be quite interesting to learn about the Czech business culture. Once again, stay tuned for more updates.