The Hrad is an impressive and immense expanse, and it is all too easy to miss what you planned to see. Additionally, the presence of crowds induced us to rush along and, at times, overlook sights in order to escape to more quiet parts like the Old Palace balcony. We should have brought a Hradcany map we had printed from the website with us so that we didn’t miss the sections of the National gallery that are in the castle area.Check the web site, www.hrad.cz; it's really good. Additionally, we did not read the Prague Card booklet carefully.
It is IMPORTANT to realize you can revisit the Castle area and your admission is good for three days EXCEPT for St. Vitus mausoleum, choir, and tower, the Royal Palace, the Basilica of St. George, and the Powder Tower, all of which can be visited only once with the Prague Card. However, only St. Vitus charges admission, which, at 120 koruny in high season, or 60 koruny in low, amounts to less than $4.00 0r $2.00 respectively. The above stipulations as outlined in the Prague Card booklet make it "clear", I think, that puzzling contradictions in policy still prevail as the Czechs strive to accommodate Western tourism standards.
Following the path of least resistance, we just followed the crowd to St. Vitus Cathedral. The first surprise that hit the eyes was the ebony exterior. We shouldn’t have been that surprised except that none of the photos we had seen in guidebooks showed St. Vitus as it is, a victim of neglect under Communist rule paralleled in our previous experience by a visit to Magdeburg, Germany in 1992, where we saw a worse example, the once-magnificent Magdeburg Cathedral, also black outside but also, unlike St. Vitus, stripped in its interior, a ghastly, denuded remnant of glory. Here, as elsewhere in Prague, at the back of the Cathedral, excavation was going on.
In the Cathedral interior, it is very dark in the areas not adorned with stained glass windows. Several photos we took were so dark we could not recognize later where they were taken. But, the Wenceslas altar in all its golden and bejeweled glory is certainly stunning. Also memorable was our visit to the crypt where Charles IV and the Hapsburg Rudolf II, the monarchs during Prague’s two "golden " ages, are buried. I noted that the great Charles had acquired four wives buried here all in one sarcophagus! The musty air conveyed to the senses that indeed St. Vitus and the castle complex is nine hundred years plus old, though not as old as Vysehrad, we were to discover. The last reconstruction of the Cathedral did not end till 1929, so what visitors see is the accretion of centuries that makes Prague such a delight.