Monday, July 7, 2014

Astronomical Clock Prague

One of Prague's most impressive-sounding sites is the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square. In our routes through Prague, we couldn't help but pass by it several times each day. It invariably drew a crowd of onlookers, especially near the top of each hour, when its famous show began.

The clock was installed in the 15th century and was a technological, mechanical, and engineering marvel at the time. It simultaneously keeps several kinds of time- fairly accurately. The movement of its several hands over its complex series of numbers, rings, and arcs, give modern 24-hour time, old Bohemian time (counted in hours between sunrise and sunset), and track the phases of the sun and moon.

Astronomical Clock Face Prague
Astronomical Clock Face

Astronomical Clock Crowd By Day Prague
Astronomical Clock Crowd By Day

By the time we left Prague, the clock itself was old hat for us, but we enjoyed watching the gathering crowds with craned necks every time we walked past the clock after the first day. We must have looked like that when we first arrived.

Of course, the highlight of the clock is the hourly show at the top of each hour. The crowd gathers, a hushed silence falls over all, and a sea of smartphone cameras begin recording...

Hard to see, hard to hear, and not the big dog and pony show that everyone expects. Most people leave disappointed and angry at those long-ago clockmakers. Why couldn't they make a better show six hundred years ago?

It is a marvel and a must-see in Prague, but it's probably a once-see. It does have location on its side, sitting just around the corner from the fabulous Old Town Square...

Astronomical Clock and Old Town Square Prague
Astronomical Clock and Old Town Square

If you make it to Prague, the clock will almost certainly be on your itinerary. Enjoy it for what it is, don't expect it to be a contemporary feat of entertainment. Imagine yourself as a Medieval peasant when you watch it. Or just count yourself lucky to be in such a great city.

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