Christmas in Prague

Pictures of Prague taken the week before Christmas, on my last trip there.  Prague has hundreds of churches so you expect to see some angels around Christmas time and I was not disappointed.  Apparently, they eat in restaurants like the rest of us.

Angels in Prague
Angels in Prague

There were more secular but still unusual people in my hotel

 

Prague Hilton lobby - Inhabitants
Prague Hilton lobby – Inhabitants

I fit right in.

The lobby was dressed up for the season.

Prague Hilton lobby - Christmas
Prague Hilton lobby – Christmas

You can tell I was on a business trip, as I don’t stay at fancy places like this on my own nickel.
This is the outside of the hotel:

Prague Hilton
Prague Hilton

Even on my own nickel, however, I could eat at extremely fancy places. A decent meal at the Imperial Hotel Café is only $25-$30, including a locally brewed beer special. I had duck one time and wild boar another. Game is offered in most Czech-style restaurants.

Imperial Café, Prague
Imperial Café, Prague
Detail, Imperial Café, Prague
Detail, Imperial Café, Prague

Even the washrooms at the Imperial are totally over-the-top, or is that “over the tap”?

Washroom taps, Imperial Café, Prague
Washroom taps, Imperial Café, Prague

There is a huge outdoor market with permanent stalls. It isn’t just in one market square, there are stalls all over.

Market 2, Prague
Market 2, Prague
Market 4, Prague
Market 4, Prague
Market square, Prague
Market square, Prague

I didn’t quite figure out the purpose of the illuminated “bridge” which crowds of people were walking over, unless it was just to give a view of the lights in the market.

Market with bridge, Prague
Market with bridge, Prague

Those with a greater head for heights, the patience to stand in line and hunger could go up the tower by the astronomical clock (see below) and dine. The picture is a bit fuzzy as it was dark, but the lit area is populated by people at tables:

Tower restaurant, Prague
Bell Tower restaurant, Prague

The tree in the centre of the market was a big feature:

Christmas Tree, Prague
Christmas Tree, Prague

It wasn’t too cold, by Ontario standards – about freezing.  Still, you need something to warm you up and the stalls sold all kinds of food and drink, alcoholic and otherwise, so I got myself a small hot mead and that warmed me up instantly.

Selfie with mead, Prague
Selfie with mead, Prague

 

Just around the corner was the famous astronomical clock, one of the world’s oldest.

Astronomical clock, Prague
Astronomical clock, Prague

Although “Christmas” was the main theme, other celebrations were also in progress:

Chanuka candle at the Prague Chabad centre
Chanuka candle at the Prague Chabad centre

Still, there is an overwhelming collection of christian churches in Prague, but I didn’t have time to go inside any, but perhaps next time as Google images show some extremely impressive interiors. Here are some exteriors.

St Agnes Convent - Prague
St Agnes Convent – Prague
St Agnes Convent 2 - Prague
St Agnes Convent 2 – Prague
Statue at St Agnes Convent - Prague
Statue at St Agnes Convent – Prague

The statue didn’t have a description – it looked like it was being restored as it was standing on wooden supports on top of a stone block.

St Peters, Prague
St Peters, Prague
Clock Tower by St Peters, Prague
Clock Tower by St Peters, Prague

On the secular side again, there are many magnificent buildings in Prague:

Concert Hall, Prague
Concert Hall, Prague

The Hotel Paris also has a magnificent Sarah Bernhardt restaurant, decorated as much as the Imperial.  I didn’t go in, will have to check prices for next time.

Hotel Paris, Prague
Hotel Paris, Prague

I don’t know the origin of this building but it seemed like it was just used for offices now.  They don’t decorate buildings like this any more.

Office building, Hilton
Office building, Hilton

The Palladium has now been converted into a mall.  Inside, it looks like any other shopping mall.

Palladium, Prague
Palladium, Prague

Looking across the river you can see Prague Castle. I didn’t have time to go across so all I saw was what you see in these pictures. (I only had about 4 hours in daylight to see what I could.  I’m supposed to have a weekend next time so maybe I’ll see more).

River Vltava - Prague
River Vltava – Prague
Prague Castle
Prague Castle

Comet hunting

The problem with clear nights, they are cold nights.  But not to be deterred I took my best chance to see Comet Lovejoy.

I got a double reward because not only did I finally find the comet, I also saw a very bright meteor with a tail of its own.

The comet took binoculars and even after I found it I could not see with naked eye as it is too fuzzy, but it was worth getting dressed up and freezing.  Still, too cold to be bothered setting up a telescope.

Here’s my January astronomy outfit.

January astronomy outfit
January astronomy outfit

The English Lake District – Three Shires

The English Lake District is still my favourite place, even though I’ve spent lots of times in the Rockies and other mountainous regions, probably just because I spent so much time there in my teens and very early twenties.  Although the fells barely count as mountains, somehow their more human size makes them more appealing as you go “fell walking” rather than “mountain climbing”.  (Some go “fell running” but that never appealed as it detracts from close observation, though I did do the odd bit of scree running).

“Three Shires” were the old counties of Lancashire (where I grew up), Westmorland and Cumberland until Thatcher reorganized the English counties and turned the Lakes into Cumbria.  However, the Three Shires Inn is still near the spot where the traditional counties met.  I celebrated my 19th birthday there with a couple of carloads of friends and visited many times as a destination from hiking trips.  You don’t get that in the Rockies .

The Three Shires
The Three Shires

Here is a picture from one such trip with my friend Steve.

Three Shires c. 1970
Three Shires c. 1970

The pub is in the Langdales (dale=valley, plural because there are two valleys, Great and Little Langdale).  Here is a picture looking up the valley.

Great Langdale
Great Langdale

Out from the end of Little Langdale is a very steep road called Wrynose Pass. You have to go over the pass to get to the actual meeting of the counties, at Wrynose Bottom.  To get from the Bottom, you can either go down the Duddon Valley, the only valley that has no lake.  Or, you can go west over Hardknott pass, the steepest road in England. You can see it snaking over the hills on the far right of the picture.

Wrynose Bottom
Wrynose Bottom

Or, closer up in the next picture.

Hardknott pass
Hardknott pass

Hardknott is famous for its Roman fort over the top.  The Romans were famous for their straight roads but I suspect even they did switchbacks to get over the pass.  I didn’t stop to take pictures this time as there wasn’t much daylight left so I took this next one and then headed over to Wastwater.

From the top of Hardknott pass
From the top of Hardknott pass

Wastwater is the deepest lake in England, with steep screes leading from the fells on the right, down into the water.  This view is looking back east towards the Langdales. At some time or another I have been up all these hills.

Wastwater
Wastwater

From my December 2014 trip to England.  Almost finished posting the better pictures from it, then a few from Czech republic and I will be back to real-time blogging.

A walk down to the river

I went for a walk down to the river on the weekend, as it warmed up.
This is not quite the same spot as my header picture, but not far off.  Notice the difference?

Pigeon River
Pigeon River

Here’s where I cross the river.  My “bridge” was too slippery but the deer tracks across suggested I could cross on the ice. (The round ones are the deer, the warm spell took the edge off.) You can just see the roof of our house just below the 20m black cherry in the background.

Crossing the Pigeon River
Crossing the Pigeon River

or, if you couldn’t, here is a closer shot.

Crossing the Pigeon River - closer
Crossing the Pigeon River – closer

When crossing the river, I used a stout cedar pole in each hand to bang on the ice to make sure it was strong enough to hold my weight, because as you can see the river still flows underneath as it does all winter even in -30ºC weather.

Pigeon River under the ice
Pigeon River under the ice

Coming back up, here is the garden. For some reason, my brother-in-law stapled a flag to my shovel. As if I need a reminder what country I am in with all the snow and the -20ºC it has returned to.

Winter garden
Winter garden

You can see why I’m too lazy to shovel the driveway.  Oops, rain on the lens.

Winter drive
Winter drive

For walking on rivers and the like, serious boots are a good idea.  I have the same soles on my running shoes and sandals, so I don’t wear the boots very often any more, but these protect against twisted ankles if you slip.  Lots of dubbin have made them supple and waterproof.  They have hiked the west coast trail and lots of Rocky Mountain trails, amongst others, and I enjoyed the ride as they carried me about.

Boots on the ground
Boots on the ground

Since we only have shallow snow yet, the rain was enough to collapse the tracks of these voles.  Usually, by spring thaw, the entire garden has a network of these tunnels but this weekend there were just a starter few.

Mouse tunnel
Vole tunnel

 

Bigger (red-tailed?) hawk

The larger hawk now seems to be a regular around our garden though it doesn’t come quite as close to the house as the smaller one.  For now, I’m guessing it is a red-tailed hawk although I didn’t get a good look at the back of its tail. Maybe it’s not old enough to have turned more red and as it is new to the garden, that could be it.

Red-tailed hawk
Red-tailed hawk (?)

As usual, I just got it starting to fly but only got a few feathers on the next shot.  Must learn to hold the button down for a few more frames.

Red-tailed hawk 2
Red-tailed hawk 2

For comparison, here is a repeat of the smaller one, a little over ½ the size.

Are you staring at me
Sharp-shinned hawk (?)