Monday, October 17, 2016

signal, a festival of light

St. Ludmila's
There are many ways to waste electricity. You can keep the lights on all night, you can keep the television on while you cook, you can run the heaters all day and night long. Or you can spray billions of watts into the air to make a cathedral pulse and glimmer or a Baroque building shatter as a snake comes bursting out. In Europe, it's clear there's no lack of the the enigmatic electron. In some countries around the Continent, they’re running so well on alternative energies that some months, they might even pay you to use energy. So the extra watt or thousand really isn't a big worry anymore. Maybe it was from this notion, this celebration of man's pioneering galvanism, that the Signal Festival was created, a truly modern blend of art and technology, on display to everyone.

The Signal Festival is one of Prague’s biggest festivals—and for a city of a thousand festivals, that says a lot. It goes on for four nights every October, sending blinding beams of light across buildings and up into the air. The first year we went, I remember there being a huge mat across a riverside park, and everywhere you’d step, it would light up in different patterns, and another one where you’d walk in front of a projector and, using some sort of quantum formula, it’d scatter your particles across the white screen beyond. These such exhibits are displayed all across the city, with each neighborhood seemingly at a contest to outdo the other.

Signal Festival began three years ago and has been such a success, with the streets literally overflowing with crowds all through the night, that I imagine it will be a mainstay in the festivities programming for centuries to come.

The hanging man of shooter's island
The usual hotspot of the festival is at Namesti Miru, where they do a complete video mapping of the 18th century, neo-Gothic St. Liudmila’s Church. The projection is played to some pulsing, heart-shaking, deep bass-blasting electronic music, and makes it appear that the church is at once breaking into pieces, spinning into some vortex, or launching off into outer-space. There’s usually a similar projection at the Old Town Square.

The projection though that really stole the show this year was Tigre’s mapping of a building near Kampa Park. 3D glasses were for purchase for a couple of euro, and the show included science fiction/fantasy creatures that literally jumped out of the windows and broke down the walls. It was a pretty awesome work of art and something that would be truly hard to find an imitation of anywhere. 

In other squares and neighborhoods, there were smaller species of displays, many seemingly without aim or purpose. But then, that's art for you, ars gratis artis. One was something like a reverse white tesseract, with random letters from random alphabets floating upwards. Another few were large balloon man. One had his neck snapped, as though he were hanging from a gallows, and the other was lying on the ground, possibly after the deceased were removed from the said gallows. Another was a tattered old windmill with patterns spinning to a deep electronic soundtrack. The musical theme was definitely something glitch with a touch of horror.

So if you’re planning on a trip to Prague, I’d recommend overlapping it with the Signal Festival. It’s an event that really takes this historic city into the next century.

And some videos:

Friday, September 30, 2016

pineapples, umbrellas, and all

Prague a cappella festival

Life could be an empty hollow mess if the word “yes” were never uttered. The other night I was thinking that to myself as though it were a mantra, when my wife told me about an a capella festival that was going on here in Prague. I’ve loved music since my birth, but I’ll be honest here and say that I’ve always been a bit tense when it comes to white folk scatting and doing the jazz hands. That’s the image that is somehow burnt into my mind after one traumatic incident of watching Cats when I was a child. Though to think of it, every time I’ve seen Cats, it’s been a traumatic incident. I could never watch Thundercats again after Cats ruined Cat People for me. I could never put that fire out with gasoline, I'll tell you what.

But I knew this would be a little different. I’m in Europe now, where cultures are allowed to mix and borrow from each other. America’s got so sensitive that we’ve even changed the language, now appreciation and imitation have new words—we call them “cultural appropriation”. But if we don’t appreciate each other’s cultures, if we don’t take the little bits of sweetness that we like—and here it doesn’t even matter if you like the whole culture, but just that part—then we’ll never get on the train of understanding each other and making it to that final destination. If you stop mixing cultures, then you get a lot of the same old thing, as most of what is new and innovative is just an interesting concoction of things done before. Straight shots are for some, but others would prefer their fru fru drinks, pineapples, umbrellas, and all.

Hardly church time

A capella literally means “in the manner of the chapel”, and was a reference to the vocal style of church music before the introduction of electric guitars, jumbo trons, and evangelical rock concerts for the Lord. It brings us to a simpler time before electricity, when armies of monks would chant across foggy creeks and four guys would sit at the barber shop and doo-wop it out in epic battles of intrinsic laryngeal control.

A long time has gone since those days, but hipsters of late have been trying to revive the barber shop and their quartets. Indeed, the first group we saw, the local group Hlasoplet, was a definite nod to this, and a reminder to me that a capella is perhaps some of the most complex music there is.


As Hlasoplet was playing, I gathered from the way the audience kept laughing that they seemed to blend a lot of humor into their act. In all, they caught the attitude pretty well and it was a nice warm up to the genre. They had a great presence on the stage as well, all with suits, well barbered facial hair, active facial expressions and no jazz hands.

Check out this video from Hlasoplet:

Sextensially quintessent

The group we came to see though—and apparently, as the announcer described, the headliner—was the Georgian group the Quintessence. I was a bit surprised when I saw six people on the stage, since the name would have made you think it was a quintuple and not a sextuple, but the shining white suits and dresses, and their shy youthful smiles made me quickly forget about this mathematical debacle. The name is likely a Quincy Jones shout out, but that's the best of my guess. They opened with a slightly jazzed up version of a Georgian folk song which was quite terrific. If there’s any people that have an edge on a capella music because of their folk styles, it’s certainly the Georgians.

There’s one thing I often complained about when I was living in Georgia regarding their music. Many Georgians seem to have a hard core belief in the purity of form. That either something is folk or its rock, and there is very little if not any fusion in the styles. It really leads to a disappointing modern live music culture, since it’s basically just the repetition of European and American styles, if not just straight up cover bands of Oasis and Pink Floyd. It’s the fusion that makes things interesting, and it’s what modern Georgian musical culture has really lacked, and it’s a pity since they have such a deep well of amazing musical tradition.

The Quintessence
The Quintessence—and indeed, whoever their instructor is—are certainly on the borders in an attempt to fix this. The way they handled the Georgian folk songs, the jazz standards, and the outright fusion of the two was phenomenal, and I truly had never seen anything like it. It was no wonder that the entire audience roared with applause after every song like it was the last, and then a true standing barrage of bravos when it actually was their last song. It seemed true that nobody in the audience had ever seen such a fusion either, and the effect was something quite lasting and memorable.

This is unfortunately the best video I could find on YouTube. But still, a good example of how they arranged the jazz standard, Senor Blues, with a touch of the Caucasus:

Just for that, I was glad I tempted fate and the jazz hands to make it to the a capella festival.

But as we were leaving, there was a filler group singing on the smaller stage in the bar room. As they finished their own fusion of genres—a song mixed from “All about the bass” and “Don’t worry be happy”, they did the jazz hands. It was a good time for us to leave, as the Jellicle cats were coming out that night.

The Prague A Cappella festival wraps up tonight, Friday the 30th, at La Fabrika in Holesovice.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

we are cocktail legion

An anonymous drink
Anonymous is many things. He’s a writer. He's possibly Shakespeare. He’s an artist. He’s that public masturbator that lives down the street. He’s an internet activist group. He is that guy who got arrested for revealing the identities of a ring of rapists.

Anonymous is also a coffee shop in Prague.

And a bar.

The coffee shop, near IP Pavlova, is one of the more uncomfortable places to sit with a computer, since all the seats are made of wood pallets and are about as comfortable as an introvert doing an unprepared stand-up comedy routine. Thus kind of defeating the theme of borrowing from an internet hacktivist group when you can't comfortably sit around on the computer. They do serve some pretty great brew though. The bar and the coffee shop are owned by the same people, and it shows in the standards and service of the staff.

But I’m not writing about the coffee shop. I’m writing about the bar.

We decided randomly with a friend to go for cocktails. I’ve been having trouble lately finding “classy” places to hang out that are still somewhat edgy, since mostly I just choose dive bar locations with questionable toilets. Toilets that either aren’t there, or that when the door opens, there’s not much else but for the entire bar to cheer you on. When I was prompted last year by a friend to go to a lounge, because he was there with his girlfriend, I couldn’t think of an appropriate place. “Nope, this one smells of beer, this one of vomit, this one of vinegar.” It’s a hard knock life, my friends.

Anonymous Bar at Michalska 12 then made the list of possible places to take out-of-towners who aren’t in for a rough night of drinking cheap beer. Cheap beer in Prague, mind you, is still better than expensive beer in 99% of the countries of the world. And ironically, that expensive beer is usually cheap Czech beer. Anonymous fit the higher class standard of being a cocktail bar and my standard of being a slight bit unusual.

The place is certainly classy, and weirdly extreme on good customer service. I almost felt offended, as I’ve been living in Prague for so long that I’ve come to see bad customer service as polite. All of these “hellos” and “good evenings” while passing the service staff almost seemed excessive, as though they were mocking us. But fine. They are legion. What am I to do?

Hideout of the Legion
The interior is a bit of a cross between what I imagine Kanye West’s house to look like and the set of the Nine Inch Nail’s Perfect Drug video. In fact, I think this was their primary motivation in design. The furniture were huge red lush old fashion arm chairs and couches, the ambiance dark with some soft electronic music going and on the wall a large sort of graffiti art interpretation of the Guy Fawkes mask. The music was nothing aggressive, just on the background, drifting along so you don’t have to raise your voice for conversation. The menu was full of weirdly named cocktails, the fun stuff of any cocktail bar. I got the 100% leather, which was a basic Manhattan with a shot of absinthe. My wife got a drink served in a syringe, and people at other tables had drinks served with toy guns, kaleidoscopes, and any assortment of novelties.    

The staff, as I said, is exceedingly friendly and quite knowledgeable on cocktails. My friend was bent on trying to stump the waiter, shooting out names like Witches Left Tit and the Vespa from the James Bond book, not the movie one, and the waiter was on top of the game. The drinks were expertly crafted and presented, with the waiter donning a Guy Fawkes mask as he serves the drink to carry on the namesake of the bar.

Getting our drinks
The place isn’t cheap by Prague standards though. The cheapest legit drink on the list is 175 crowns, or roughly 7 USD. Which, in the US that’s really cheap for an amazingly mixed drink. In Prague, well, that’s about 7 great beers. It’s a sacrifice to heavy drinkers like myself, but a worthy sacrifice. Now if only I could convince them to host an accordionist singer-songwriter like myself and pay him in free cocktails...   

In winter, it's highly advised to book seats. Call at +420 608 069. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

the museums of Orlik and Zvikov

Orlik Castle
It’s surprisingly cold in the newly re-branded country of Czechia. The climate has been on course for the change, though to something slightly more comfortable than all the warming mumbo jumbo. Last year, I remember sitting up in my attic apartment at night, soaking in sweat, unable to do much but drink water and breathe heavily. This year, I’m quite happily relaxed in blue jeans on my balcony, sipping coffee while I watch all the plebeians pass me by down below. But summer isn’t over yet, as there are still some things to be done and castles to be seen, and truly some borderline summer spirit to take you there.

The current cool cloudy clime is still the perfect time for a visit to Zvikov and Orlik. This would be my third time there and indeed, my second time to write about it (the first time was covered here). I won’t cover much information that I covered there on this blog, but rather something we managed to do that I’d never done before: the tours.


Our first stop was Orlik, or the “little eagle” in English, beginning with our customary langose. I’m not overly sure what a langose is, but it’s flat, fried, and topped with copious amounts of cheese and garlic. Frankly, I’m not even sure if it’s any good, but I keep ordering the stuff so it must have some merit. 

We then went on our merry way to the castle grounds. My first instinct is always to go down the stairs at Orlik and follow the moat to a small peninsula, where you pass by a door where there’s always a hundred or so people streaming out. What was that door? A secret entrance? I couldn’t tell, since as I said, there were a hundred or so people streaming out an egress that could barely fit a kitchen stool.

Back up the moat and to the tour. The tour costs 120 czk for the straight Czech and 200 total for that with a booklet that will let you decipher the tour guide’s speeches. The castle is well worth the tour and is now on my top three list of castle tours. 

Orlik castle was the main manor of the noble Schwarzenberg family, who still wields power in the Czech government today. The house tour shows you the living period of the most famous of the Schwarzenbergs, Karl Philipp, who led the victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig. However, the man also served as the Austrian Ambassador to the French Empire and had been an acquaintance of the Corsican Fiend, even receiving the best gift you could receive from a friend: their own bust. The bust of the Little Corporal is on display in the gigantic lounge room, which is situated next to the dining room, by far the chambre sans pareil of the chateau. The room is paneled entirely of hand-carved wood, taking the master craftsman from the locality over four years to complete. The ceiling, the walls, everything. It’s truly a masterpiece of woodcarving and shouldn’t be missed by any fan of the trade, and it certainly makes the entire tour worth the price.

The next most interesting thing are the Halls of Terror (name is mine). In one hall are rows and rows of hunting guns, and in another, an unparalleled assemblage of animal heads. It seems that the Schwarzenberg family tradition was to provide a fresh gun for each guest and store the gun for later use by that guest, and they’d go out hunting in the immediate lands. The guns were all notched with their score and on the plate of each beast’s head was served the name of the hunter and date of the conquest. 

Orlik from the front
From Orlik, we went on the ferry down the Vltava. The schedule is on this site and costs 240 czk for a round trip. On board you can find beers by the can, so no need to come prepared, and there’s also a beer garden on the Orlik side.


Zvikov I’ve already written about as well. It’s a mystical little place with the ruins of an old fortress. The boat lands in the back, but it’s best to hurry on and walk through the place and pretend to walk in from the front, which is certainly the best way to enter, where you walk over a bridge that’s easy to imagine having once been a drawbridge. There are ruined towers galore here and a museum that’s well worth a visit—again, before I’d never taken the visit, but this time decided on it, as it was just 70 czk. 

Zvikov from the front
The first floor of the museum has a couple of art galleries and for the castle and history buff is a bit of a disappointment. It’s the second floor that makes the place shine, with the old wooden rooms and the stairs up to the top of the tower. Moreover, I learned about why the castle stopped being occupied. It once served as the storage facility of the crown jewels of the Bohemian King, an honor that was later transferred to Karlstejn. Part of the palace had crumbled down off the cliff, and this part included the royal bedroom of the King. Figuring that this wasn’t a good precedent—especially for his crown jewels—the King abandoned it and it declined in its usefulness.

The walls near the dock

Monday, August 1, 2016

The church of bones

Kutna Hora
I first visited Kutna Hora nearly six years ago, during my great trek across Europe. I went for a day trip from Prague with some mad Greek. We explored the ossuary and the two main churches, and then ended the day hidden in fog at the train station—I was trying to figure out which of those ancient electric trains to jump on to get home while he was trying to figure out how to score some weed from some neighborhood kids that were huddled nearby. Many years later, weed was decriminalized and I moved to Prague (the two are not actually related). It’s one of the most premiere tourist sites in Czech Republic and really, if you’re in Prague for three days, then you should take your time on one of those to visit the village. Why? Because there’s an ossuary there that’s filled with bone sculptures.

But don’t go just for the calcium craftsmanship, go also for the other two churches that are there. You can get a discount pass for the three attractions, which also includes the Cathedral of Our Lady and St. Barbara's. If you’re in for a really intensive day, you can visit the place where—I overheard one local tour guide saying—“is the place the Jesuits used to take poor Czech children and brainwash them with the mindless idiocy of Christianity”. As interesting as that sounds, I’d suggest skipping it and visiting the nearby Vlassky Dvur (the Italian Court) instead, which was an old mint and part-time royal residence, or to the Hradek, where you can tour a medieval mine.

Kutna Hora is a thousand-year-old village, which started with the founding of the Sedlec Monastery. Silver was discovered nearby and the place became an immediate attraction and it was soon a booming mining town, something that is not lost on visitors of St. Barbara's. It also became the site of the royal mint, where the Bohemian Kingdom would press its money.

Sedlec Ossuary

Sedlec Ossuary and the plague column
The last time I visited the ossuary was with my parents a few weeks ago. There seemed to have been going on a death metal festival nearby, as there were no limits to the numbers of darkly dressed Goth punk rockers wandering about, with lots of black, face makeup, black, purple, or dark red hair, and piercings. For a moment I had to remind myself I wasn’t in Finland. It seemed the perfect pilgrimage for such patriots of punk, given the theme of the place. Of course, the place itself doesn’t have such a dark history—there are no Draculas or Bathorys in the mix—just a bit of bizarreness that results when people take religion a bit too seriously. 

Sedlec Ossuary was originally the small cemetery of a Cistercian monastery founded in the 12th century, but it wasn’t really known as an ossuary until the Bohemian King Otakar II sent the abbot to go down to the Holy Land and check in on the peaceful folk making camp down there. When he came back, he brought some dirt from Jerusalem—as you do—and added it to the monastery. Before he knew it, it became the most popular place in all the land to be buried.

The chandelier and candle holders

Within 300 years, after the Black Death and a few wars, thousands of bodies had been buried in the tiny plot of land and something had to be done. They built a tomb in the middle and put to task a half-blind monk to take the scores of dead bodies and exhume them one at a time, so that they could have bare skeletons and make more room for the dead. 

It was in the the 1800s when they had the best idea. a member of the noble house of Schwarzenberg—still a prominent Czech family today, owning many a castle—had the brilliant idea to get more room there by making it into art. So they hired the woodworker Frantisek Rint and set him to work. He made a coat of arms, a chandelier, candle holders, and four gigantic pyramids of skulls and crossbones. A true marvel in the world, making the ossuary an absolutely unique place. 

The House of Schwarzenberg

Church of Our Lady

To be honest, the church itself is not that interesting. Being Cistercian, it was all bare and not decorative, not at all your typical Catholic Church of Central Europe, which tends to be gaudy and Baroque. The 14th century church—which suffered from a huge fire during the Hussite Wars and some 200 years of neglect—was restored in the 1700s but put into a plain, aesthetic form of the Baroque Gothic style. What’s interesting about Our Lady is that you can go up into the roof. During the latest 2001 restoration work, they decided to put in a walkway above the vaults from the choir loft to the back loft. This can be reached from the stairs just left of the altar and reliquary, and you can explore the tops of the vaults. 

The Church of Our Lady
St. Barbara's

If you’re driving, then the best way to get to St. Barbara's that includes a nice, scenic walk through the old town is to park at Morovy Sloup and to make sure you walk by the Vlassky Dvur (the Italian Court). If you're taking the train in or walking from Sedlec, this is really the only way. You can take a tour of the Vlassky Dur or continue on to a really cute pedestrian street where you can try a glass of the local wines or have a beer in a garden pub. Then continue your walk up to the GASK—the old Jesuit brainwashing chamber-turned museum—where you can check out some modern Czech art (this is the fourth place on the ticket deal, if you purchase all four). The restaurant just in front of the GASK is the best restaurant in town, with some killer duck and great prices. So eat there. The walkway alongside the GASK is stunning, with a nice view of a nearby hill, a creek, and a small stone wall lined with statues of the religious and royal famous.
The GASK and St. Barbara's
The construction of St. Barbara's, a church dedicated to the patron saint of mining, started in 1388, led by the son of the famous architect, Peter Parlor, who had designed St. Vitus in Prague. The church is one of the most interesting Gothic designs I’ve ever seen, with three green spires pointing upward from the central nave and flying buttresses surrounding almost the entire church. Inside can be seen many pieces dedicated to miners, from a statue of a miner himself, to paintings of the coat of arms for the miners and the pulleymen. They were two houses of the same guild apparently too, one for the guys digging, and one for the guys lifting up the stones. 

St. Barbara's

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

another Prague beer spa

Bathing in beer is something I imagine the gods taking time to do up there on Mount Olympus, next to drinking ambrosia and playing fatal games with mortals. So when at first I heard this could be done in Prague, I jumped on it and went with my wife to Spa Beer Land on Zitna. It was a good experience, but one thing let me down, I wouldn’t be bathing in actual beer. It was tepid water with some malt, barley, and hops added. Not quite the real thing. But with unlimited pours of beer and my beautiful wife, a good time was had anyway.

When my parents came to visit, it was a reason to celebrate. Another beer spa would be had, as a proper treat for any foreigner to this great land of Czechia. The two remaining beer spas to try in Prague were Spa Pramen—featuring a microbrew owned by Staropramen—and Prague Beer Spa Bernard. To tell you the truth, drinking Staropramen or Bernard didn’t really excite me. Neither did going downtown to Spa Bernard. But Spa Pramen was at the less trafficked area of Hradcanska—an easy ride on the green line metro—and was serving the aforementioned microbrew, from a small brewery out near Karlovy Vary. That would be the choice then.

At the front desk, we were greeted and brought down to our beer spa room. It was similar to the Spa Beer Land room—cozy, fireplace, two big wood tubs for two, and a large straw bed. The main difference here was that at Spa Beer Land, you got your own bathroom, whereas here at Pramen, you had to share the restroom. Since we were there with my parents, that wasn’t an overly big deal, but for anyone planning a romantic night, that might be an issue.

The biggest difference though was in the tub. They actually put several liters of dark beer in the tub, then water, and then a mix of malts, barley, and hops. While we were expecting some jets a bit sooner and they only finally turned them on after asking them again, they did apologize profusely and added another 15 minutes of time for soaking and drinking. Then we went upstairs where we had another beer and decompressed.

All-in-all, Spa Pramen got my recommendation when I was telling some Prague newcomers where to go.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The treasure of the Clementinum

View of the Castle from the Clementinum
There was a heavy knock at the door. Pavel was kicked out of bed by his wife, who whispered loudly to answer the door and it better not be Vasek coming home from the hospudka again! Pavel muttered something about his wife as he stumbled through the kitchen and opened the door. There in the hallway were two men in heavy monks’ robes, the hoods up so their faces were only deep shadows. Pavel was somewhat surprised and rubbed his eyes a bit before making out a groggy “Hello?”

“Pavel Krumlov?” one of the men asked.

“Yes? Can I help you?”

The other man was holding a small, cloth pouch, made from the same material as the heavy robes. He held it out for him to take. Pavel took it—it was heavy and clinked. Gold. At least as much that he needed to pay back that lender he owed.

“What’s this?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.

“We have more.”

“Do you?”

“We have a job for you.”

Pavel naturally accepted the job, as his masonry business had gone somewhat downhill. The men refused to say where the job was, but rather took his wrist and led him into the hall, down the stairs, and into the street. “You’ll have to wear this,” said one of the men, holding a blindfold to him. After a short sigh, he put on the blindfold and they led him around the streets of Prague, over the river, in circles around buildings, back over the river, in circles, around this building, that building, up a hill, down a hill. He was completely lost by the time that he heard a door open and he was led down some steps into a cellar. From the cellar, there was a dark passage that led to chest after chest after chest. Jewels and glittering things were on the ground, the light from their torch picked up and scattered, making the floor itself almost look like a precious object.

“What is this?” asked Pavel.

“You will make a wall here, and it will appear as if the wall was always here. Do you understand?” one monk said. “The materials are all here. There are bricks, mortar, spades. If you need anything, you tell one of us and we will get it for you. When you're done, we'll take you back a different way.”

Pavel understood. This treasure was to be hidden. One monk remained behind to watch Pavel as he worked through the night. He slept on a cot through the day. When he woke, there was a different monk and he kept working and working until his wall was perfected.

When he came home, with several more sacks of gold, he told his wife what had happened. “Do you think you can find the place?” his wife asked. They searched again and were never able to realize that his commission was from the Jesuits of the Clementinum

A bit of history

In 1773, the Empress Maria Theresa told the Jesuits to pack their bags and go—thinking this was only a temporary departure, as they had a perfectly functional relationship with Charles’ University, they had allegedly decided to store many of their treasures in a secret room somewhere on the campus. Maria Theresa had designs for her own functions though and the property was never returned to the religious order. Which means there’s still a room full of gold somewhere in the Clementinum. 

Inside the Observatory tower with bookshelf/ladder

The building standing in the heart of the Prague Old Town was built by the Dominicans in 1556 and reconstructed and developed into a full-scale university by the Jesuits in 1653. The complex spans over 2 hectares, making it one of the largest building complexes in Europe. It was used by several famous astronomers, notably Tyco Brahe and Johannes Kepler. Brahe was key in keeping most of the scientific community of the time—meaning the Jesuits—against the heliocentric theory, while Kepler would advance the early Copernican ideas and correct them, adjusting the planetary orbits into off-center ellipses, which was the main failure of Copernicus. Then he also wrote several books expounding how Christianity and the Bible allowed for a heliocentric theory, and he never made the famous Galilean mistake of calling the pope an idiot in any of his tomes. Pope Urban VIII at the time interestingly supported the heliocentric theory, but didn’t support being called an idiot. And so the Inquisition goes its way.

The King's Road

The Clementinum now stands alongside the “King’s Road”, the path of coronation for the old Bohemian Kings, and is thus on the direct route to the Charles’ Bridge from Old Town Square. It works still as part of Charles’ University, containing an immense library, and it also functions as a museum—preserving the library wing where Kepler and Brahe once worked, in the form that they had left it. You can tour the library and observatory tower and you can sign up for the tours in the inner courtyard. Don’t worry, it’s okay to walk around the courtyards, even though guards might be eyeing you while you do so. 

View from the Clementinum
The tour lasts for about 30 minutes, is sold out quickly, and doesn’t really take reservations, which means you need to show up about 30 minutes before the tour and buy your tickets then. The price is a whopping 220 crowns, but the view from the top and the fact that you are looking into the library where Kepler was working certainly makes it worth it, especially if you’re only in Prague once.