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.
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.
Drum roll Please…
No. 1 – The Astronomical Clock in Prague, Czech Republic
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?