Sunday, 22 May 2016


Zelny trh (The Cabbage Market)

Our main reason for visiting the Czech Republic's second city was to see the astonishing Villa Tugendhat, but we also allowed time for a reasonably comprehensive walk around the old town, starting from the railway station. We took inspiration from the website. You can also collect a free guide and map from the Tourist Office in the Old Town Hall.

We headed towards the Cabbage Market and first encountered the Capuchin church, completed in 1651. We did not go in to see the mummified corpses in the crypt.

Directly ahead as we entered the square was the tower of the Old Town Hall which dates back to the 13th century. The roof of the tower was added in the 16th century. Presumably because today was a Sunday, we were treated to a lovely rendition of some brass band music from the small troupe of musicians who can be seen on the viewing platform.

To the right is the Parnas Fountain, designed by the Viennese architect J B Fischer von Erlach and constructed 1690-5. It symbolises the cave in which, according to the Greek myth, Hercules tied up Cerberus, the hound of Hades.

To the is a very harmonious group of houses in a pleasing combination of colours.

We headed round to the left of the red house to find the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul. This started life as an 11th century Romanesque basilica, but was rebuilt in the gothic style in the 14th century. It is prodigiously tall and impossible to photograph from nearby. This view was taken from the Old Town Hall Tower.

The inside comes as rather a shock as it was given a Baroque makeover in the 1740s. The stained glass and vaulting in the chancel were impressive.

We left the Cathedral and returned to the square, now heading along Peroutskova and Starobrnĕnskà streets to reach Husova street and the Špilberk Park. A pleasant winding path leads up towards the castle, but the first thing of note is a memorial to Italian prisoners who died there in the early 19th century. They were being honoured as patriots fighting for Italian independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The castle was once a genuine medieval castle, but was successively rebuilt as a Renaissance palace and a prison (in 1820). Today it houses the City Museum and one wing is the result of a recent imagining of what it once might have been like. So although there are massive brick walls providing a base, the superstructure is rather different.

The park is delightful though and we enjoyed a pleasant stroll around and then back down into the town, heading this time towards the New Town Hall. The building seems to date only from the 1930s, but this rear portal is a delight.

And the interior courtyard is also calm and harmonious.

It was not far to the Old Town Hall with its wonderful gothic gateway of 1510. It is said that the town council failed to pay the sculptor what he was due and as result he made the central pinnacle wonky.

In the passageway you can just make out the hanging shape of a "dragon" which allegedly once tormented the city. It is obviously in fact a crocodile ... but this still leaves many unanswered questions.

From here we walked up the main street, Masarykova, and through the massive Republic Square to reach St James's church, completed in 1592. It is another very tall church.

The tourist guide points out one detail which we would undoubtedly have otherwise missed: this little chap baring his buttocks who can be found on the middle section of the tower.

Inside the church is light and airy with beautiful vaulting picked out in gold.

We now had to head back to the station for our train back to Vienna and so this effectively marked the end of our tour. Returning along Masarykova, we did however spot this fabulous art nouveau house with its wonderful gold decoration.

Conditions: hot (mid 20s) and sunny.

Distance: about 3 miles.

Rating: four and a half stars. Full of interest.

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