Lonely Planet’s Prague guidebook lists the Astronomical Clock as number three in a list of fifteen must do things. ‘You won’t feel like you’ve been to Prague unless you experience it’ they say.
Yesterday, after checking out Wenceslas Square, we trotted off in the direction of the old town square. A small market along the way sold all the regular market things at regular prices: postcards, posters, dolls, thimbles etc. Slim, winding roads took us further into Prague’s history and exports- cheap pubs and glass shops seemed to occupy every building. At the end of one tiny street we could see a tall, gothic tower with tourists poking out of the top.
As we neared the tower, the cramped backstreets opened into a giant medieval square. A huge, pointy churched pierced the sky above us. The architecture of the surrounding buildings ranged from a couple of hundred to several centuries old. The tower we’d initially seen housed several clocks at the top, and the astronomical clock at the base.
Since the clock is nearly six hundred years old, it’s incredibly impressive looking. The golden statuettes maintain most of their shine and the clock itself looks incredibly complicated.
The clock strikes every hour between 9am and 9pm. We missed the first one we were there for because the heavens opened. At 6pm, we got back to the clock and a relatively large crowd had gathered. Since the astronomical clock itself was so complicated, everyone gazed to the other clock at the top of the tower to tell how long it was until it chimed.
Six o’clock came around and the crowd of tourists geared up for a huge, world famous event. A small figurine of death starts ringing the bell and turns over an hour glass, as two small windows open and the twelve apostles appear, two at a time. When they’re finished, a golden cock crows, but it sounds like a hidden prankster with a kazoo.
And that’s it.
Everyone looked around and said ‘is that it?’ or ‘well that was strange’ in their respective languages. I felt the same, yet, I couldn’t help feel like it was something quite magical all the same. A cryptic clock, over half a millennium old, and it still works. It’s a bit of a disappointment, yes, but Lonely Planet were right when they said you have to see it. It captures the history of this part of the world. A kind of tiny gem that doesn’t impress unless you really think about it. Mystical and beautiful.