Our day began at the Strahov monastery, manned by friars who came to Prague in the 12th century from France, after they had returned from the Holy Lands, and sold their services as guards, bibliophiles (librarians) and book copiers/scribes. In the two fascinating halls of their library, one for the theological works, and the other for philosophical works, we saw an excellent example of how these church institutions were the depository and guardians of culture in Europe. This library contains over 45, 000 volumes of work dating back to the 10th century.
From our view at the top of the hill, we overlooked the spectacular view of Prague, and discussed its different units: The Castle Town, Lesser Town, New Town, and the Old Town which includes the Jewish Ghetto. All of these were in place by the 14th century, when Charles IV was the Holy Roman Emperor and Prague was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Next, we saw the Czernin Palace, which today houses the Foreign Ministry, and the Loretto Shrine, one of the finest baroque structures.
Continuing into the Castle premises, we saw a whole diversity of architectural styles, beginning at the St. Vitus Cathedral, with its unique gothic and neo-gothic architecture. As we walked through the king’s palace, Shalmi explained the significance of manure in world history and how defenestration was utilized to punish individuals.
We then went into the recently opened Lobkowicz Palace. The Lobkowicz family is one of the most important of Czech nobility whose estate and property were very, very extensive. They lost their property twice in recent history: once to the Nazis, and once to the Communists. They retrieved it in 1989 after the Velvet Revolution, and recently opened it to the public as a museum. Inside we had an intimate look at the inside of palace life, and especially at the Lobkowicz’s contribution to culture: music, painting, and architecture.