Posts Tagged ‘sightseeing’

8:11 am

Visiting Ephesus

On Friday the 8th, I visited Ephesus, which contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Basilica of Mary, Mother of God, was the site of an ecumenical council in the 4th century. Its existence supports the claim that Mary lived near Ephesus toward the end of her life (since in the early days of the Church, churches were dedicated only to those who had lived nearby).

There’s the remains of a necropolis, littered with sarcophogi:

The great amphitheater is the site of the riot described in Chapter 19 of the Acts of the Apostles:

It was still being used as a theater into this century, and Pavarotti and Elton John appeared there, but I’m told that such use is now forbidden.

The Library of Celsus is my favorite structure in Ephesus, and looks to be the best restored:

The Temple of Hadrian:

Looking up Curetes Street:

And looking down Curetes Street, back toward the Library of Celsus:

I don’t know who or what this frieze represents, but I liked it:

This theater was next to what had been roughly the equivalent of the Ephesus City Hall. It was a covered theater, and apparently used both as the seat of the city Parliament and for indoor concerts:

The day I was visiting, there was a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship in port and so there were seemingly dozens of groups of tourists visiting Ephesus. In "honor" of their visit, there was a rather hokey "Live Interactive Show":

There were dancing girls:

There was a juggler (off to the left there):

A pair of gladiators held a mock battle:

And they all processed off grandly at the end of their little five-minute show, to return about five minutes later and do it all again:

By the time I was leaving, all the cruise line buses had left, and they were closing up shop:

Last but not least, we have kittens of the ruins:

Grotto of the Seven Sleepers

On my way out, I detoured by the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers, which I found rather disappointing. Everything was fenced away and locked up and I couldn’t tell what I was looking at.

2:57 pm

Svata Hora

On Sunday, I took myself on a little pilgrimage to Svatá Hora (Holy Mountain), in Pŕíbram. (Pŕíbram is about an hour from Prague by bus.)

From the website:

"The most well-known, as well as renowned, place of pilgrimage consecrated to the Virgin Mary in Bohemia – Svatá Hora (Holy Mountain) – has been, in its present-day form, towering high above the old mining town of Pŕíbram offering a majestic panorama for more than 330 years. Svatá Hora is a vast baroque complex of buildings with a multitude of towers with its severe external look and corner chapels reminiscent of defensive bastions giving the impression of a fortress, of a castle of the Virgin Mary to whom it has been consecrated. Because of its location in the center of the nation, Svatá Hora has been considered as the spiritual heart of Bohemia."

The main color scheme of the complex is pink and cream.

A closer view of the complex from the main plaza:

The statue of Madonna and Child in the middle of the plaza:

A side entrance to the complex:

The grounds are lovely and quite extensive. I’m always a little surprised at how much wealth the Church apparently managed to hang onto despite 40 years of Communism. But then, I suspect that land (at least outside of Prague) is pretty cheap in the Czech Republic.

This structure houses "Mary’s Well":

The notice regarding the well is in Czech, and I can’t find any other information on it, alas.

There is other fairly predictable statuary on the grounds, including two different Crucifixions. This one is along the path leading up to the complex from the town:

This one is on the hill itself:

On entering the complex through the main entrance, there is a main outdoor chapel:

The altar of the outdoor chapel:

There are indoor chapels at each of the four corners of the cloisters, as well as outdoor altars lining the cloisters, each dedicated to a different event in the life of Mary. The roofs of the cloisters are covered in stuccoes depicting miracles attributed to the intercession of Our Lady.

The main altar in the Church is rich with silver and gilt; not surprising, perhaps, as Pŕíbram was a mining town. A scanned postcard:

It’s not readily apparent from the picture, but to the right, just in back of the altar rail, there’s a short pillar with a notched top. I couldn’t make out the purpose of it, but it became apparent later.

The real star of the show, though, is the statuette of the Virgin Mary. (I swiped this picture from the Svatá Hora website):

At the risk of sounding irreverent, I have to say that the way in which the robes cover the limbs of the Virgin and Child makes it look as though they’re Siamese twins! And, as with the statue of the Infant Jesus here in Prague, the statuette in Svatá Hora has multiple changes of robes, corresponding to the different liturgical seasons. The statuette typically resides in a niche above the tabernacle (as seen in another picture swiped from the Svatá Hora site):

I attended the late afternoon Mass (which was in Czech, of course). People didn’t leave immediately after Mass, and I soon found why and also the reason for the pillar: after Mass, there was veneration of the statuette. The priest removed the statuette from its niche, covered the robe with a tulle cape, and set the base on the pillar. This picture, another pinched from the website, shows veneration taking place at the outdoor chapel:

There were several groups of pilgrims visiting at the same time, mostly Germans (or German-speaking, at any rate), but there didn’t seem to be very many Czech pilgrims.

3:30 am


I visited Tábor ("a historic town with a Hussite past", according to one of the brochures from the tourist office) last Friday (the 10th) for no real reason except that I hadn’t been there before.

This historic center, centered on Žižkova náměstí, isn’t very big. The tourist office offers a free audio-guided tour which takes about two hours. It starts at the Town Hall:

The Hussite Museum also serves as entrance to (part of) the system of medieval tunnels that runs under the historic center. Kind of dank and gloomy.

Houses facing the square have been well restored:

These frescoes are (understandably) a little faded:

Such a strong color is unusual:

A statue of Jan Žižkov stands in the square:

There’s also a Renaissance fountain crowned by knight:

Going down Pražská, you can find this Renaissance house (the street is too narrow to get a really good shot):

And then you arrive at the Oscar Nedbal theater:

Jordan Reservoir is the oldest such artificial lake in Central Europe. These days, it’s popular for boating and swimming.

The city fortifications included paired walls, one inside the other. Now the space in between is used for parkland:

Another house I just happened to like:

The tour loops on back to Žižkova náměstí and the Church of the Transfiguration:

After the Battle of Bílá Hora, Tábor needed to be re-evangelized and the barefoot Augustinians* were invited in. The monastery, with the Church of the Birth of the Virgin Mary:

St. Augustine is to the left of the church door:

His mother, St. Monica, is to the right:

*I’m not sure whether or not the "barefoot Augustinians" are distinct from the Augustinians we have at sv. Tomáš.

Kotnov Tower exists only in part now, but is home to an interesting exhibit on "Life and work in medieval society". Below the tower is a park, which was converted from a cemetery.

There’s a WWI memorial in the park, too:

According to the guide, there’s a Shoah memorial in the park, but I couldn’t find it.

I had lunch at U dvou koček (At the Two Cats’), just because I liked their shield:

Wandering away from the center, I visited the Baroque church and monastery in Klokoty – a renowned pilgrimage spot.

There’s an extensive cemetery attached:

Returning to the train station, I passed this fountain, which I happened to like:

And, I’m not sure what this building is, but again, I just happened to like it:

Tábor is home to a botanical garden, but I can’t say I was much impressed:


There’s a little park near the train station. I don’t know who this is: I tried asking some of the kids in the park, but they just shrugged.

6:49 am

Playing Tourist: Sunday at Konopiste

Last Sunday was not quite as grand as Saturday had been: it was a little hazy, but still bright and crisp. So I took advantage of the fine weather to visit another of the local castles, Konopiště.

The inner courtyard:

Konopiště’s main claim to fame is that it was home to Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire whose assassination in Sarajevo set off World War I. Franz Ferdinand was an avid hunter and so the grounds attached to the castle are extensive and quite lovely:

Perhaps because it’s fairly late in the tourist season, only one of the three tours of the castle was available in English, which was a pity, as I would have liked to have seen the private flat. The castle brochure has this to say about the tour that was available in English:

Unforgettable hunting corridor with almost 900 trophies proves Ferdinand’s hunting passion. Throughout his life Francis Ferdinand killed almost 300,000 animals. As for representative salons situated on the 1st floor in the southern wing of the chateau, most significants guests such as the German emperor Wiliams II were accommodated there.

The hunting corridor in particular was really unnerving. Just getting up to it required climbing stairs panelled with hunting trophies before being confronted with hundreds more trophies, each with a little plaque detailing when and where the animal in question had been killed. The sight of all these trophies prompted me to observe that Franz Ferdinand had not been killed by Serb separatists, but rather by a PETA precursor!

The tour guide even pointed out the trophy for a kill attributed to Franz Ferdinand’s daughter Sophie when she was 2 years old! (Apparently, her daddy helped her.)

Franz Ferdinand was also an enthusiastic collector of guns, stamps, and St. George images. There is even a "Museum of Saint George" at the castle. Besides the expected figures, paintings, and tapestries featuring St. George, there are also belt buckles, medallions, beer steins and goblets, a bed, and several items whose function I couldn’t begin to guess. According to the castle brochure, 900 different pieces are on display.

Statue on the southern terrace:

There’s a bear named Kazimír in the moat:

Kazimír is 20 years old and is a long-eared bear (ursus thibetanus).

The park has some fine statuary, although I don’t know the significance of this piece:

An urn, for no real reason that I could tell:

The Neptune fountain:

This time of year, the Rose Garden is rather bleak:

It must be lovely in the summer:

The autumn colors helped to make up for it, though:

As at Wallenstein Palace, peafowl roam the gardens with no fear of or interest in the human visitors:

Konopiště was seized by the Czechoslovakian government in 1921 as a Hapsburg property. However, one of the conditions of Franz Ferdinand’s marriage to Sophie Chotek was that their children would not be allowed to inherit the throne. As a result, one of Franz Ferdinand’s descendants has recently filed suit to get it returned on the grounds that it wasn’t Hapsburg property.

Getting There

Supposedly, there is a bus that runs from the Florenc station directly to Konopiště, but I couldn’t turn it up on a search. Instead, I took the train to Benešov and then walked to Konopiště. I’ve noticed this before when using search, though, that direct routes that I later find out existed were not displayed. I speculated to one of my students that perhaps my problem is that I use the English-language version of the search and maybe if I were to stay with the Czech version, I’d get more complete results. Seriously, there must be some trick to getting better results; I just can’t figure out what it is.

3:16 pm

Little Brother’s Visit, Days 6, 7 and 8: The (Inglorious) Conclusion

Sixth Day

Monday was the day I resumed teaching, so Little Brother was on his own for the day. When I got home, LB mentioned that he had revisited some favorite sites in the historic center of town. He also mentioned that he had had a sausage at one of the sausage stands on Václavské Náměstí and that it wasn’t setting well. We had earlier agreed that Monday night we would have an early celebration of my birthday, and I suggested postponing our celebration to the next night so he would be feeling better. But no, LB insisted that he’d be fine, and so we returned to U Básníka P&aacutenve.;

This time, I badgered LB into ordering something properly Czech, and he got the svíčková, sirloin in a cream sauce. He was very pleased with the results. I think he had been dubious about the cream sauce bit, but he enjoyed it.

After dinner, we tried going back to Bar and Books, but for some unspecified reason, they were opening late, so we came home instead to open my birthday presents. And now I have lovely new copies of Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna, FDR and Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind. Thanks, LB.

Unfortunately, by the time he went to bed, LB’s earlier sausage had already started taking its revenge and LB got sick.

Seventh Day

The revenge of the sausage continued on Tuesday, and LB stayed home with 7-Up and canned soup.

Eighth Day: The Departure

LB had a 9 AM flight to Amsterdam, so we had arranged for an airport shuttle to pick him up at 6:15 AM. He was still not feeling well, but we packed him off anyway. I had a brief text message from him later that day saying "Made It. Lagos. It’s crazy here. Will text u tomorrow". By the next day, he was indeed fully recovered, but alas, his Prague stay had an inglorious conclusion.

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