Tag Archives: castle

Castles, Cathedrals, and Towers

Today I went to the Prague Castle complex. The guidebook recommended arriving early to buy a ticket as soon as they opened at 9:00, which would provide 15 minutes or so in the St. Vitus Cathedral without crowds. It probably would have worked out, were it not for the large Japanese tour group that apparently already had tickets and were ready to go in at the stroke of 9:00.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert

Thronging Throngs at the St. Vitus Cathedral

Saint Vitus, according to legend, was boiled in oil along with a chicken. Probably with some onions, too, and maybe a little dill, although the legend doesn’t mention that specifically.

St. Vitus and His Chicken

The bell tower required a separate admission, but if there’s a bell tower to go up, you can’t not go up it. So I did. 287 steps.

The Bell Tower, What I Went Up

View from the Bell Tower

This gargoyle is dribbling water from its mouth, although, sadly, it does not show up in this photo.

Dribbling Gargoyle

Afterward, I bought some mead in the adjacent Christmas market, and walked down the old village street adjacent to the palace. There was a guy playing Christmas songs on the recorder and flatting the same notes over and over.

Guy Playing Jingle Bells and Greensleeves Off Key

Not far from where I’m staying is a funicular, and a funicular is another thing that must be gone up, so I went straight from the palace area to the funicular, via the #22 tram (310 Kč for three days of unlimited use). At the top of the funicular line is…a completely bogus Eiffel Tower! Petřín Tower was built in 1891 and it looks exactly like the Eiffel Tower as long as you’re not looking very closely. But it is generally Eiffely, and bogus Eiffel Towers are near the top of the list of things that you have to go up, especially if, as in this case, you can pay an extra 60 Kč to take the elevator.

Petřín Tower

The Palace from Petřín Tower

Charles Bridge from Petřín Tower

After the tower, I took the tram downtown, intending to go to the Museum of Communism, but instead I just wandered around looking at things and getting food from Christmas markets along the way.

More Thronging Throngs

Eventually I walked back over the Charles Bridge and caught the #22 tram back to the apartment.

Statue with a Seagull on Its Head


This morning I went to Sweden. Malmö is only a half hour away by train. The Wikipedia page makes it sound pretty grim, but what I saw was very nice. I walked from the train station to Malmöhus Castle, via a pedestrian shopping street that was in the opposite direction, because Google Maps can’t seem to figure out which direction I’m facing from moment to moment. Eventually I gave up on Google Maps and figured it out the old-fashioned way: by guessing.

Malmöhus Castle

There are museums at Malmöhus Castle, but they’re just general museums. They have nothing to do with the castle itself.

After I left the castle, I stopped for lunch at Surf Shack. Pretty decent burgers.

Surf Shack

In a nearby restaurant window I saw this. It’s not Reptilicus, because what would Reptilicus be doing in Sweden?

Bad Taxidermy Fox

Schattenburg Castle

“The Schattenburg was built in the 13th century and served the Dukes of Montfort-Feldkirch as home and seat of administration,” it says here in the pamphlet. “After the dying out of the Montforts in 1390, the Habsburg bailiffs resided here until 1773. In 1825 the town of Feldkirch took over the castle.”

You might think that the town took over forcibly, with torches and pitchforks, to capture the mad Baron who was performing experiments therein, but that would be a different castle.

Schattenburg is not extensive, but is in good condition, and has a nice collection of period furnishings and weapons and such, where “period” means the entire time that Schattenburg was used as a castle — 1200s to 1800s.


There was also a nice view of the town from the tower.


Excursion to Austria

Rolling along on the southwest side of Lake Zurich on my way through Liechtenstein to Feldkirch, Austria.


Why Feldkirch? Well, it looked like a nice little town just over the border, and if I’m doing a run to Liechtenstein, I might as well go a little further to Austria. And it looked more interesting than Vaduz itself.

Although I was hoping we’d go through Vaduz. We seem to have bypassed it. Bummer. Rural Liechtenstein looks exactly like rural Switzerland.


I arrived in Feldkirch at a quarter after ten and spent most of my time touring a 13th-century castle. There wasn’t much to the rest of the town, so I took the 11:48 train back rather than wait two more hours for the next train.

I think the people sitting next to me on the platform were gypsies. The daughter was speaking German, but I think the parents were speaking Romansch. But I’m mostly guessing. I’ve never heard Romansch spoken before.

The Huhn Tikka Masala in the restaurant car was quite good, and they were nice enough to give me a ten-cent discount on a double espresso so I could use up the last of my euros.


Got back to the hotel about 1:30. Time for a short nap before I go chocolate shopping.

French Village Rambling

We sorted out our earlier confusion over the various French villages with their various ruins. Lobo was conflating two of them, I was conflating one of those with one other, and Alcalde was basically indifferent. Al, who was invited to come with us over and over again, was a no-show, and probably doesn’t even know where the Mediterranean is.

Anyway, we started out by going to La Turbie, which was the site of the Roman monument that Lobo remembered not seeing. This time, though, all three of us failed to not see it, as it is quite large and we had paid to get in.


This is the Tropaeum Alpium, built in 6 BC to celebrate Caesar Augustus’ subjugation of the people of the Alps. Starting about 1000 years later, people started using the ruins as a quarry to build the surrounding village. It was restored as much as possible over the last century or so by painstakingly matching nearby stones, like a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle.

There is also a nice view of the Mediterranean.


We got lunch in town, where Lobo insisted that we get some cheap sandwiches and sit on a bench overlooking the sea…right next to a nice cafe that had lunch specials.

Next we went to Èze, which is a picturesque twisty medieval village with a castle on top. The town has been conquered repeatedly throughout history, and we had no trouble conquering it today, after we paid six euros to go to the top.

There was a nice view of the Mediterranean.


We took a somewhat indirect route to Roquebrune castle, due to certain people’s inexpert handling of mapping devices, but we got there eventually, and were thus able to climb another steep medieval place. This castle was built on high ground, as castles generally are, but as there is even higher ground behind it, it was not really all that defensible, and was eventually abandoned.


It does have a nice view of the Mediterranean, though.


See also: Ramblin’ Through La Turbie, Eze, Roquebrune and Seborga Day 3: La Turbie, Eze, and Roquebrune.

UPDATE: Al does in fact know where the Mediterranean is. He says: “You go to Alviso, face north, and make a hard right.” This is correct, and I suppose unsurprising given Al’s longstanding obsession with Alviso.

Monégasque Monday

After a leisurely breakfast, we went to Monaco with no clear plan in mind except for Lobo to get a Starbucks mug and then wander around. We parked in a car park (garage) right next to the Starbucks, which I think was the same one I parked in 16 years ago. You basically spiral down into the center of the Earth or until you find a parking space, whichever comes first.

But we found a space, and we got mugs, and we wandered, starting with the yacht harbor.


We found some signs for the yacht show that had ended a couple of days earlier. They were just throwing them out!


We saw yachts…


…and a cathedral…


…and a tiny police car…


…and the palace, where we weren’t allowed to take pictures.

We were too early to get into the casino, and Lobo probably wasn’t dressed well enough anyway. And there was supposed to be a tourist information office that would stamp your passport with a Monaco stamp, but it seems to be gone. Still, Monaco is good place to wander around on a sunny day.

We left Monaco at around 4:00 and drove to Èze, which I remembered from the 2000 trip. Lobo had gone there a few years earlier, except that he didn’t actually go up to the castle ruin at the top. His wife and daughter went, but Lobo just sat in the car because he thought that his wife was just going to the restroom, and that his daughter had gone to look for her. He sat there for two hours until they came back and told him all about it. Seriously.

Anyway, he wanted to go, so we drove up there…and then he said he didn’t think that was really the place. Maybe it was La Turbie. So we drove there. La Turbie doesn’t have a castle, but it has a Roman ruin. The park with the ruin was supposed to close at 5:00, but it was 4:20 and it was already closed. I still don’t know if that was the right place.

But it was still a good day, and we drove back to the house and watched Birdemic: Shock and Terror, which made it even better.


UPDATE: Of the many noteworthy aspects of Birdemic: Shock and Terror, the song “Just Hanging Out” is a standout.

Charles walks in with the beer and his baby says HEY DEAR!
Can you go and talk to Melvin, he’s making out at the pier
So little Susan hears the music then she starts to groovin’
And all the fellas jump up to see, how she is movin’

See also: Monaco and Seborga Mash Day 2 – Monaco.

Matsumoto Castle

The cool, clear mountain air is more enjoyable when it’s not raining. I borrowed an umbrella and walked to Matsumoto Castle. While most of the samurai castles in Japan are reconstructions, Matsumoto is the original, built in 1593. It’s real, and it’s spectacular.

And it was just as crowded as Kumamoto was, despite the rain. Fortunately, I got there early enough that I didn’t have to wait to get in. But there were already a lot people inside.

You have to take off your shoes to enter the castle. They give you plastic bags for your shoes and for your umbrella. So people were carrying shoes, umbrellas, cameras, purses, small children, and whatever else while they filed through the six stories of the castles. The stairs throughout the castle are extremely steep, so people had to carry all their stuff up these steep stairs while other people were filing down the same set of stairs. On fairly slick wood. In their socks. There were some grips on the steps, but not much. At least we didn’t have to wear slippers.

I sort of attached myself to a group of four people who had an English-speaking guide. They didn’t seem to mind, and I don’t think the guide even noticed.

The line grew considerably while I was in there.


The castle also had an impressive gun collection. I had not realized that the samurai used guns, but they used matchlocks starting in the 16th century and were using rifles and revolvers by the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Of course, they disarmed everyone else.

When I left there was some kind of matchlock demonstration going on, but I never figured out exactly what they were doing.


Next to that was a drumming demonstration, which I could hear later on from my room.


I spent much of the rest of the afternoon wandering around Matsumoto in the rain looking for a samurai house that I never found. I figured I’d be okay if I could keep track of where the river was, but the river branches all over the place. Eventually I found my way back to the ryokan and dried off.

Now I’m having fish & chips at an Irish pub. And how does Japan do Irish pubs? Extremely well. The fish & chips is comparable to New Zealand’s, the service is excellent, and they’re playing the Pogues.

But now it’s time to go back and see if I can figure out a Japanese bath.

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle was the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns from 1603 to 1867, when they transferred sovereignty to the emperor.

It consists of two palaces: Ninomaru Palace, the residence of the shogun; and Honmaru Palace, which was moved from one of the imperial palaces much later. (The original palace burned down in 1788.)

The whole castle complex is surrounded by a moat, and Honmaru is surrounded by an additional inner moat.


Ninomaru was open to walk through, but no photography was allowed. And not just flash photography, but any photography or sketching.

The wooden floors in the palace are designed to creak, lest anyone try to sneak up on the shogun. They’re called nightingale floors and they really do sound like birds chirping.