This is the ornate central courtyard of the Ben Youssef Madrasa in the Marrakesh old town.
After climbing up the stairs at the rear of Prague castle, you are confronted by two armed guards flanking the entrance to the citadel. Their stern expression making it unclear whether it’s accessible so long after dark. As you move closer, they don’t react so you stroll casually past. Suddenly, you realize you’re inside the normally crowded castle, surrounded by silence. As you approach the back of the St. Vitus Cathedral it looms ominously, in Gothic glory. As you take it in, a couple breaks the silence strolling through the courtyard and out the other side.
Progressing around the cathedral you find a small, late night tour group of 4 or 5 people. The guide speaks quietly with no need to strain to be heard over the bustle of the daytime crowds. Soon, you’re at the intricately sculpted doors of the building, now closed to visitors. The lack of tourists allows you pause to soak in the scene. Snowflakes begin to fall around you, appearing from the dark sky and disappearing as they contact the paving stones. The silence is broken once more. This time, by the rhythmic sounds of four soldiers, stepping in time, as they exit through the archway behind you.
After making your exit, you enter a smaller courtyard. In here a lone soldier patrols. Marching in a tight square, right in your path. You carefully time your walk so you don’t interfere with his. As you exit the compound the city opens up in front of you and you make your decent.
Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral were not where I planned on ending up this night. I set out for a panorama of the city. In my search, this is where I arrived. It was well worth the trip. Having it to yourself, as opposed to surrounded by the tourist hordes really is a great experience. The absence of people also allowed me to attempt to capture the grandeur of the church’s original doors, below.