Saturday, 2 April 2011

Strahov Library vs Faust House in Prague

The Strahov Library in Prague—the library in the Strahov Monastery—is #402 of 645 things to do in Prague according to Lonely Planet online, which tells you more about the Lonely Planet demographic than it does about the Strahov Library. However, when I was in Prague I didn't go there either. It being a Monastery library and all, housed in the Theological Hall, I couldn't muster any enthusiasm for the trip.**

Now, thanks to the "World's Largest indoor Photo," I don't need to return to Prague to see it and neither do you! You can

See the inside of an 18th century library in Prague in 360 degrees. Read the titles on the books and enjoy the trompe l'oeil painting on the ceiling

You can do this thanks to a forty Gigapixel photo hosted here. (For the record, a gigapixel is one billion pixels. Forty gigapixels is 40,000 x 1 megapixel.) Here is a pan-and-scan tour.

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**The first place I visited was the house Dr. John Dee stayed in when he was in Prague in the late 16C (photo below). This is the Faust House (Faustuv dum), a gothic house on the corner of Charles Square which is still closed to the public. Apparently, the Faust House rates even lower among tourists than both the Strahov Library and Jindrisska Tower (#544/645), which is the second place I visited and which is described as not on the regular tourist circuit (!)

The house was bought in 1590 by Dee's long-time companion Edward Kelly, but Dee probably spent more time in the castle dungeon than he did in this house. Kelly certainly did! The house was rebuilt in the 1720s and all that remains of the original gothic building is the lower floor and basement (which is all that I photographed when I visited). It is suitably grim. (See here for more on the Mysterious Faust House.)

When I was looking for something online about this house I was reminded of another Dee landmark in Prague: the house of Dr. Tadeáš Hájek that once stood in the NW corner of Bethlehem Square (Betlémské náměstí). Unfortunately, I no longer have the guide book that directed my steps to the Faust House, which also mentioned Hájek's "The House at the Green Mounds" (Dům u zelených hájků). But according to what I could find online (here) historic house no. 253 was destroyed in 1837, and in 1896 no. 252 was also destroyed. These two buildings, combined, formed Hájek's house.

Fortunately, tourists can still visit the castle dungeon and the Mihulka Powder Tower which had, when I was there, a fabulous exhibition about Dee, Kelly and Rudolf II's passion for alchemy. No photos were allowed, and there were attendants everywhere, and it was dark, and I had an old-style manual SLR camera—making it hard to hide, focus and hold still, while discreetly taking a photo—and so this was the best I could do!

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