Follow the reluctant adventures in the life of a Welsh astrophysicist sent around the world for some reason, wherein I photograph potatoes and destroy galaxies in the name of science. And don't forget about my website,

Saturday 21 December 2013

Winter is Coming, look busy

Christmas is upon us, so how better to end the blogging for a year than with pictures of Prague in the snow ? If I post anything else over the next two weeks, it probably means I'm not having a good enough time and you should shower me with pity.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago Prague was treated to a light dusting of snow. Immediately I went for a walk. The webcams indicated the city center wasn't amazingly snowy, so I stuck with the less-picturesque local area where the snow was pretty heavy.

Nothing particularly special, although to be in a country where snow just magically freakin' falls out of the sky every single year ! as opposed to somewhere where such an event would be nothing less than apocalyptic is rather gratifying. Much more interesting, though, was the effect caused by two spotlights illuminating a billboard. This is in fact a giant glowing snowcone.

The next day I willingly dragged myself out of bed by 6:30 and was in the center of town by 7:30. It was still dark as I left the Institute, but unfortunately it was more or less full daylight by the time I got to the center. This time I at least had the good sense to check the webcam beforehand, just in case everyone else had the same idea and already trampled the snow into mush.

They hadn't, though the snow was not quite as thick as in the exotic mountain land of Roztyly. But it was enough. Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square are both lined with stalls for the Christmas market. While this is quite famous, it's surprisingly small. Actually it probably consists of no more than half a dozen small stalls, but someone accidentally hit CTRL+V a bunch of times, so it looks a lot larger than it is. 

More annoyingly, they don't sell anything you couldn't buy in the shops anyway (apart from maybe the one selling swords and medieval armour). It's quite pretty, but actually as a functioning market where you'd buy things, it's rubbish. Don't go. Even if you like tourist tat, and I do, the selection is poor and the prices high. You're much, much better off staying at home.

Somewhat surprisingly, Prague isn't big on Christmas decorations. I suppose they're probably unnecessary. Wenceslas and Old Town Squares are very nice at night though, with the trees covered in thousands of white lights. The Christmas tree in Old Town Square is particularly impressive. The surrounding market may be useless, but it does look nice.

Then I wandered to Charles Bridge, and was not disappointed. Though next time I shall force myself to get up even earlier and see it with the street lights on.

Convinced that the snow might suddenly disappear at any moment for no reason (it was -3 C and there were still occasional small flurries) I happily walked up to Prague Castle. The snow wasn't really heavy enough to make this look any more extraordinary than usual, but the view down the hill was worth it.

By the time I returned to the town center the hours of tourism were fast approaching so I headed up to Vysherad, fast becoming one of my favourite spots. I mean really, could it be any more gothic ? It was busier than normal, but it's quite a large space so this didn't really matter.

There is one thing, though, that I must admit. The pool at the Astronomical Institute just isn't as good as the one at Arecibo (except maybe as an ice rink, if it got even colder).

Identifying which is which is left as an exercise for the reader.
Back in Cardiff, all shopping was complete within 6 hours. No-one in their right mind takes their holidays in Cardiff (except for serious Whovians) so there are no pointless tourist souvenirs to get in the way. The fact that everything is in English may also have helped, slightly.

Well, that's all for 2013. Tune in again next year when anything could happen... but it probably won't.

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