As the top of the hour nears in Prague, crowds gather in front of the Astronomical Clock on Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square) and wait for the show to begin — all in a ritual that's happened almost daily for six hundred years of the clock's life.
The first attention goes to the twelve apostles that emerge from the little window at the top. They go around in a circle as if to bless the hour. One level down in the zodiac section of the clock the skeleton rings the bell to measure our lifetime, indicating that we have one less hour of life. Around the skeleton, other figures representing the sins of vanity, greed and extravagance shake their heads, a humorous indication that they are not ready to go, ready to die.
But our personal favorite part of the Prague astronomical clock show occurs at the very end.
(SPOILERS) The golden rooster, who presides over the whole thing from his his roost, finishes off the show with a mighty crow. A new hour is upon us, providing hope, and for the crowd below, a moment of levity and laughter.
Not a bad way to start the hour.
But Prague's Old Town Square is much more than its Astronomical Clock. Open up the panorama below to take in the atmosphere in and around the Old Town Hall, with Tyn Church in the distance and an almost-too-perfect melange of medieval buildings all around you.
Hint #1: And if the crowds around the clock get to be too much for you, head up to the rooftop terrace of U Prince for a cocktail (better than their food, wine, or beer options) to take in the scene from above.
Panorama: Prague Astronomical Clock on Old Town Square