#Back to Puzzle Party 2008 page A Prague Summer — August 2008o
The 28th annual International Puzzle Party of puzzle collectors and designers, held in August 2008 at the Hotel Diplomat in Prague, the Czech Republic, included energetic sightseeing in the beautiful old city. The organizing committee had arranged a stimulating schedule of visits to the old castle, the Babylon Center science museum, an ancient library, and even a magic theatre. The puzzlers had a jolly good time exploring the science exhibits and playing with all the toys. All photos by Dick Jones.

Babylon Centrum entrance
Entrance to science museum filled with playable wonders

Kate starting to build the tallest possible structure with polycube blocks at Babylon Centrum
Kate playing with blocks at Babylon Centrum science museum

Everywhere one looked, amazing architectural details surprised the eye. Here are a few caught by Dick's camera.

Street lights covered with hexagons
Streetlight globes covered with hexagon pattern

A far-out gargoyle looms over a doorway
A gargoyle leans out over a doorway. Gargoyles are everywhere.

Famous ornate old clock
Famous old clock, reputedly very accurate

Detail of clock face art
Detail of clockface art

Town square with fairytale buildings, horse-drawn carriages
Town square with market booths, horse-drawn carriages, fairytale buildings

Baroque theater entrance
Theater entrance festooned with baroque decor

Historical sculptures adorn ancient turret
Historical figures perch on tower wall

Mythological murals
Mythological scenes adorn a wall

Mural detail
Detail from mural scenes

Metal tree
Metal tree, a piece of public art

Some trips were by jam-packed bus, and each outing involved waiting in long queues and many hours of vigorous walking. Set in the heart of Bohemia, Prague has many hills, most of them seemingly upward only. No wonder the Europeans are in so much better physical condition than the car-addicted Americans.

One of the most noticeable features was how clean the streets are kept. Everywhere are laboriously inlaid sidewalks and cobblestone streets. The sidewalks especially have beautiful varieties of designs and patterns, tiled with small square stones in hues of white, gray, and almost black. Zigzags, stripes, squares, octagons...it seems that a puzzle maker had been at work here.

Inlaid sidewalks and cobblestone streets
Cobblestone street, checkerboard inlaid sidewalk

Kate and cobblestones
Kate during hike along cobblestone streets - notice trolley rails in middle

We came upon a building with the most amazing blocks with triangular patterns, very much like our Multimatch I puzzle. The diagonally divided blocks were in all kinds of sizes and shapes. The metal coils (lower right) are a bicycle parking rack.

Puzzle-like wall blocks
Blocks of varying lengths with puzzle-like patterns

Prague is thousands of years old, sitting astride ancient trade routes. The old city's glories go back to before the Soviets, and the Czechs are still justifiably proud of them. Some remnants of the Communist era still linger, mostly in an attitude of minimal effort. Where individual enterprise thrives is in the little kiosks where artists sell their own work, and with small shopkeepers eager to sell their wares. On weekends booths sprout on the famous 650-year-old Charles Bridge that is a must for tourists. It was under repair when we walked it. Kate bought a barrette from a woodworker. What a great view of the Vltava river and city skyline.

View from Charles Bridge
View from Charles Bridge

One hilltop is dominated by the castle and the huge, thousand-year-old, Gothic-style St. Vitus Cathedral. The dizzyingly ornamented church was under repair, but we could still enter to see awesome stained-glass window artistry. The view from the castle over the city's panorama shows bright red rooftops spread as far as the eye can see. We learned about defenestration, the preferred mode of execution in olden days of throwing people out of windows.

Part of castle, with cathedral spires behind it
Cathedral spires peak above castle

Age-blackened St. Vitus Cathedral under repair
Age-blackened cathedral under repair, with king's private entrance bridge from castle on right

Here is one of St. Vitus' huge stained-glass windows. Note the five-fold symmetry on top, four-fold below that, and three-fold under those. Windows and architecture in general are lavishly geometric in Prague, in both old and new areas.

Stained glass virtuosity
Exquisite stained glass window depicts stories

Stained glass detail - note date of 1727
Mosaic-like stained glass, closeup of two panes, dated 1727

View from the top
City panorama viewed from castle hill, a top tourist spot

A bus trip to Loucen Castle presented the group with an assortment of mazes made of string, hedges, trees, paving stones, rocks, all designed by Adrian Fisher, the world's most famous and innovative maze maker. A playground for puzzlers! And check out this tree puzzle, a form carved in situ out of the trunk:

Odd tree growth
Structure carved in one piece from tree stump, no nails or screws

Classic labyrinth pattern in colorful pavement
Classic labyrinth, a single convoluted passage

Tree maze
Tall trees make for tricky maze

String maze - follow the color
String maze with colored strings

Little hedge maze, easy to cheat
Fountain-framing hedge maze, easy to climb over in a hurry

Rockmaze, a pleasant walk in the woods
Rocks and boulders form a maze

Prague has a highly convoluted and intertwined history of peoples, rulers, religions, emperors. Famous scientists and mathematicians like Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler lived there. The atmosphere of the city vibrates with its heritage. You might like to browse through Wikipedia's overview for more information on this fascinating land.

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