For some reason, we decided to spend our first full day in Prague climbing up and down the hills of Malá Strana, "Lesser Town," still shaking off jetlag.
On our uphill walk to the castle, which we conquered slowly, we found the Gingerbread Museum on a street called Nerudova, which is packed full of the most intricately decorated gingerbread cookies I have ever seen. We gaped at lace icing designs, lederhosen-laden gingerbread boys, and pigtailed gingerbread girls.
And then of course we bought one, and shared it. The gingerbread was cake-like -- thick but soft -- with a nice flavor.
That seemed to give us enough energy to get up the rest of the hill to the entrance to the Prazsky Hrad (Prague Castle) -- which has a Starbucks (!) at the entrance. Sigh.
We made it in time to watch the changing of the guard, but really we just watched the hats of a few Czech military men march into and out of the first square of the castle -- it's all we could see over the crowd in front of us and their multitude of raised cameras.
The views from here were nice, and we paid $150 crowns each to climb the almost-300 stairs in the bell tower to see an even better (and panoramic) view of Prague and surrounds. From this bird's eye perch, we scouted the rest of the castle grounds, which we then explored by meandering slowly. The gardens are lovely, and the oldest vineyard in Prague is here.
This stroll dumped us out back near the river, so we climbed back up, past the castle, to the monastery to see the famed library (Strahovský Klášter), which actually ended up being two libraries.
You can't go inside the libraries; you can only view them from the doorway, but the space has some interesting exhibits to look at, too, like skeletons (?) of huge crabs and other underwater creatures, an abundance of sea shells, a wooden replica of an old sailing vessel, and -- really -- did I mention the sea shells? There are many. There are also some beautiful wooden writing desks and bookshelves with intricate inlays both on display and in use displaying other things.
The libraries themselves are impressive. It costs extra if you wish to take photographs, but I don't know how one would forget such lavishness. The first library boasts gorgeous wooden shelves, ladders, tables, and desks, with a narrow second-floor gallery curving around the perimeter to access the uppermost shelves. If allowed to go inside, I feel sure I would've simply walked to the middle and laid down, staring up at the painted ceiling and soaking in the voices inside all the volumes in the room.
The second library has a lower ceiling (also painted), wide wooden plank floors, and a series of globes of different sizes occupying the space down the center of the hall. Had I been allowed in this room, I likely would've spent most of my time studying these globes -- given the age of everything else in these spaces, I'm sure many of them are old enough to have the geography of the world depicted quite incorrectly, which would be fantastic to see.