Worth a Detour (Part Two)

Worth a Detour 2

Following on from my previous posts about places worth avoiding where I suggested the charmless Liechtenstein capital of Vaduz, the dreary Austrian city of Klagenfurt and the pointless Poble Espanyol in Barcelona, I come to my nominations for the top 2…

No. 2  – Les Rochers Sculptés, Brittany, France  

Driving in France we were delayed by a longer than expected stop in the attractive town of Dinan and were seriously behind schedule so the sensible thing to do was to go directly to our next intended destination of Mont St Michel but Kim was intrigued by a visitor attraction marked on the map called the sculptured rocks so sensing unexpected delight we left the main highway and set out on the coast road.

Let me now straight away give you a piece of advice – unless you are really determined to see rock carvings do not take an unnecessary detour to Les rochers sculptés!  We were expecting a stack of rocks standing in the sea pounded by waves into interesting formations but the site is a small area of stonemason carvings in the side of the granite cliff.

Rock Sculptures St Malo

These sculptures were carved just over a hundred years ago by a hermit priest, Abbé Fouré, who had suffered a stroke and lost his ability to hear and speak and the story goes that he began these sculptures as a means of alternative communication. I am not trying to underestimate the value of the work here you understand, what I am saying is that it is a tedious detour and the visit is going to be over in about twenty minutes or so (if you stretch it out as long as you can or go around twice).

If you do want to go and see them then I would do it soon because after one hundred years they are seriously eroded by the sea and the rain and it can’t help a great deal either that visitors are allowed to climb all over them.

After the pointless visit I was impatient to get to Mont St Michel but stuck on the coast road progress was infuriatingly slow as we passed through several towns and villages all with inconveniently snail like speed limits.  Out in the Gulf of St Malo we could see the abbey on the island but it seemed to take a frustrating age to get there as the road snaked around the coast and every few miles or so we came across a tractor or a school bus which slowed us down even more.  Several times I cursed the decision to go and visit Les rochers sculptés.

Les rochers sculptés St Malo France

Drum roll Please…

No. 1 – The Astronomical Clock in Prague, Czech Republic

Astronomical Clock Prague

I have no hesitation at all in declaring this the runaway winner of places I nominate not to go out of your way to visit and I am not the only one who thinks so because this overrated tourist attraction regularly makes an appearance in similar lists.

We arrived with about forty minutes to spare so sat at a roadside bar and watched a sizeable crowd beginning to assemble.  After a second glass of the excellent beer we wandered over to take up a good position to see the famous astronomical clock that stands in the centre of the square strike one.  It really was very impressive to look at but not nearly so good that it justified the city authorities blinding its creator after it was completed just so that he couldn’t make another one elsewhere.

Anyway, bang on time, the mechanism creaked into action and the little statues started to do a little jig, I especially liked the skeletal figure of death that to be absolutely certain of the time diligently inspected an hourglass and then rang a tiny bell to get proceedings started.

First came the promised highlight of the event when a small window opened and the twelve Apostles passed by in procession each one in turn blankly gazing out over the square.  They had to be quick though because this wasn’t so much a procession as a hundred-metre dash and they sprinted past as though the landlord at the rugby club had just called last orders at the bar.  Then a cock crowed and the clock chimed out the hour and that was it.  I thought the whole horological experience was over rather too quickly.

Whilst I am in Prague let me also mention  Wenceslas Square because this is another huge disappointment.  I had been expecting something similar to St Marks Square in Venice but it was lined with shops and familiar fast food restaurants and it felt a little just a little unsophisticated and disappointing.  It was big too, much bigger than I had imagined.  I was expecting it to be like the Grande Place in Brussels, the Plaza Mayor in Madrid or the Piazza Navona in Rome with an attractive open space and stylish pavement cafés but it wasn’t even pedestrianised and it was full of impatient cars and speeding trams that made the visit rather an ordeal.

If you go to Prague you will probably go and see the clock and the square but don’t expect too much is all that I am saying!

Have you seen the Prague Astronomical Clock? What did you think?

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28 responses to “Worth a Detour (Part Two)

  1. I remember the post about the sculpted rocks. No clocks in Prague. Duly noted. 🙂

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  2. I’m of the same mind when it comes to the clock.

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  3. I liked the clock as a work of art but not as a spectator activity. I concur on Wenceslas Square. It didn’t feel historic and the museum was closed for renovation when I was there. My number one not bother with is the Mona Lisa. A less inspiring picture I have never seen. It certainly isn’t worth struggling through the crowds to get a glimpse. 🙂

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    • I understand that it is almost impossible to see it now because of the crowds. I saw it in 1990 and it was relatively crowd free. I was with my friend Martin and I asked him what he thought of the World’s most famous painting. “it’s all right” he said “but I wouldn’t want it in my front room”.
      Personally I prefer ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’ by Vermeer.
      Thanks for contributing.

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  4. Haha….I recall seeing the Mona Lisa in the 1980s, before it was surrounded by glass, and in a loud voice (unintentional) commented to my friend that I hadn’t expected it to be so SMALL….sshhh, she said!

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  5. Very funny post! Happily Prague does have some wonderful squares to redress the balance! Apart from the obvious underwhelming Mannequin Pis in Brussels and the Mermaid in Copenhagen, I have several waste of time moments visiting alleged ancient Roman ruins. In Lebanon near Saidon we walked a couple of miles in the blazing heat, had to pass through a Syrian security post and having passed a few rocks in a field had to ask where the ruins were only to be told that the rocks in the field were the ruins! We then had to walk back and waited for over an hour by the side of a busy road for a bus back to Beirut. Five hours we would never get back!

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    • I have happily had the opposite experience. I drove a long way to Segobriga in Spain to see Roman ruins with very nearly zero expectation of seeing anything worthwhile but it turned out to be a real gem with extensive excavations and very few people. Thanks for the comment Wilbur.

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  6. I went to Prague when I was a student, no recollection whatsoever of the clock!!

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  7. Not having visited any of these places, I’m glad you have sent us this warning post. More spectacular surprises might be around another corner. 🙂

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  8. Okay, Andrew, I like the carvings. But whether I would like them enough to spend several hours caught in slow traffic… –Curt

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  9. Pingback: Continuing Along the Viking Trail | How the Cookie Crumbles

  10. You do realise you’re ruining Prague for me, before I ever get there? Though I know you would argue you’re improving the experience 🙂

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  11. What’s with the title? 🙂 I only found the clock interesting after reading about it. The representation of each items is quite interesting. I’m not all about the clock, but it was fun seeing the crowd risk having stiffed necks watching it. 😀 The peeing kid nearby, that’s the one I don’t know what the fuss is all about.
    The carved rocks look very interesting and the back story sounds interesting too!
    …..the perks of being a traveller. 😉

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  12. Warning, the largest cuckoo clock in the world is at least as boring as this, if not more so. I forget the town that had it, but not the overwhelming sense of so what.

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