Today we wandered about Prague a little more, discovering Wenceslas Square, for starters. Does the word Wenceslas sound familiar to you? Wenceslas lived in the 10th century and was evidently a great guy. There are all kinds of stories about the kind things he did for others, including a Christmas Carol written about him traveling with his page on December 26. The page was exhausted and couldn’t go on because the snow was too deep. Wenceslas began walking in front of the page, flattening the path for him so that he could continue. He was also known to go out of his way to give alms to the poor, as well as helping children, prisoners, and slaves.
Wenceslas was a Christian and is credited with bringing his homeland into Christianity. He was born in 907 to a pagan mother but educated by his Christian grandmother, who was strangled and killed when she became regent after his father’s death. He took over power when he was 18 and allied his country with Christian King Henry I. This angered the nobles, who then convinced his brother to assassinate him. He must have been pretty popular with the people because within a few years, four biographies had already been written about him.
Fun fact about Wenceslas: He wasn’t even a king! He was a duke! AFTER his death, he was declared Righteous King of the Holy Roman Empire by the then king Otto I. Righteous king means he didn’t inherit the crown but earned it with his good deeds. I guess it doesn’t really pose a threat to your power if you declare a dead guy to have been your predecessor. He was also made a saint by the Catholic Church, and he is patron saint of the Czech Republic. His September 28 birthday is a national holiday.
Another fun fact: The Christmas Carol about him was written by an English hymn writer John Mason Neale in 1853, over 900 years later, and the music actually came from a song about spring. Doesn’t it make you wonder why he picked him? And why that melody? Just one of the mysteries of Prague. Another mystery is that people who live in Prague, for whom King Wenceslas is a national hero, don’t sing that Christmas carol, and many have never even heard of it!
Needless to say, there are several statues of “King” Wenceslas in Prague, including the one of him on a horse in the middle of the square that bears his name. Around this statue is beautiful architecture, museums, and shops, as well as a huge tower with an astronomical clock, the oldest part of which was made in 1410. There is a legend that its maker was blinded by the leaders of the city so his work couldn’t be repeated anywhere else. There is another time keeper in Prague, though. There was a meridian line created on the floor of the square in 1652 that would be used to “check” the time each day. A statue was placed just perfectly so that it would cast a shadow onto the line at high noon. A flag would be waved and a cannon would be shot when this happened so that everyone around would know the correct time once a day.
At Wenceslas Square, we loved taking pictures of the fancy doors on every building, but we also had the best ice cream cones ever. They were so good that Bill ate the cone without the ice cream twice! They are called trdelmiks, and they are basically strips of dough rolled around a stainless steel cone shape and put spit-like over a fire. Then they are sprinkled with deliciousness (maybe sugar and cinnamon?) as they rotate over the fire. When they are removed from the cone, they are plugged and filled, or in Bill’s case, just sold empty. They can be plugged with hard chocolate, for example, lined with more chocolate or caramel, filled with ice cream and topped with whipped cream. Or they can be filled with carbon active ice cream, which is basically ice cream made from….charcoal? Savanna tried that one and liked it, but she like the one she had the next day better. It can also be filled with vanilla cream (which is some kind of pudding or custard), or even something savory, like macaroni and cheese or bacon and eggs. It’s like a delicious, freshly baked donut filled with yumminess. We joked around about opening a location in Estes Park, so who knows…? You may be able to taste them soon!
Finally, we went to U Medvidko, the restaurant our host had recommended for traditional Czech food in Prague. We got a huge platter of pork, duck, sausages, cabbage, and sliced dumplings of all different flavors. Jason did his video Facebook post from the Charles Bridge with Savanna’s help. I work really hard on these blogs, believe it or not. I’m so impressed he can throw a “spot” together in a few minutes and be done. I guess words just don’t flow out of me that easily. Once his spot was done, we waddled around Prague, filled to the brim and sleepy, taking pictures of the beautiful lights of the city at night.