Prague, Czech Republic
Today’s destination is about a place I was lucky enough to call home. Oh Prague! Words disappear when it comes to you.
Prague, Praha in Czech, is the capital of the Czech Republic, in Europe. It’s located on the north-west part of the country, on the Vltava river. It was founded during the romanesque epoch, but flourished during the gothic, renaissance and baroque eras. Praha was the capital of the kingdom of Bohemia and the main residence of several Holy Roman Emperors, such as Charles IV who founded the Charles University of Prague, but has been a cultural, economic and political capital of central Europe for centuries. The city played major roles in the bohemian and protestant reformation, the thirty years’ war, and as the capital of Czechoslovakia during both world wars and the post-war Communist era.
Prague is home to a number of famous attractions, many of which survived the violence and destruction of the 20th-century. Its historic center is included in the Unesco list of World Heritage sites since 1992. The city is filled with museums, theaters, cinemas and other historical exhibits; for most of these places, entry is quite cheap, around 30 to 60 CZK ( 1,50 to 3 euros).
Some the city’s main attractions are:
– Charles Bridge, a historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river. Its construction started in 1357 under King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. Originally called Stone Bridge or Prague Bridge. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava until 1841, Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town and adjacent areas.
– The Memorial to the victims of Communism is a series of statues in Prague dedicated to the victims of the communist era between 1948 and 1989. It is located at the base of Petřín hill, in Malá Strana or the Lesser Town. Its seven bronze figures descending a flight of stairs. The statues appear more decayed the further away they are from you – losing limbs and breaking open. It symbolises how political prisoners were affected by Communism. The bronze plaque nearby reads:
“The memorial to the victims of communism is dedicated to all victims not only those who were jailed or executed but also those whose lives where ruined by totalitarian despotism”
– The Discalced Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious also in Malá Strana, where you can visit the Infant Jesus of Prague or Child of Prague, a 16th-century Roman Catholic statue of child Jesus, originally from Spain and donated to the Carmelites in 1628. This building dates back to 1611, and was rebuilt from 1634 to 1669 by the Carmelite order. The Infant Jesus has two crowns and more then forty robes. His vestments are traditionally changed according to the liturgical season. A small museum was built for the clothing and other religious objects.
-The John Lennon wall, is filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs since the 1980’s. In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime, young Czechs would write grievances on the wall and in a report of the time this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the nearby Charles Bridge. This movement was described ironically as “Lennonism”. The wall continuously undergoes change and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under its many layers. Even when the wall was repainted by some authorities, on the second day it was again full of poems and flowers. Today, the wall represents a symbol of global ideals such as love and peace.
– The Prague astronomical clock, or Prague Orloj, in Old Town Square, is a medieval astronomical clock that was first installed in 1410, and still operating til this day. Old Town Square is a historic square in Prague. It is located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge. The Orloj is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself has three main components:
- the Astronomical Dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details,
- the “The Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures like the figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time,
- a Calendar Dial with medallions representing the months.
Fun fact: there are many known legends surrounding the clock. One of these legends is the one surrounding the figure of the skeleton, it is said that once the Old Town Astronomical Clock stops running for a long time, the Czech nation will suffer bad times and the skeleton is supposed to confirm this fact by nodding his head. Based on the legend, the only hope was represented by a boy born in New Year’s night. Once the astronomical clock sets in motion again, the boy is supposed to run out of the Týn Church across the whole square to the town hall. He has to run very fast to arrive before the last strike of the clock. If he makes it, he will quit the skeleton’s evil power and avert all the evil.
During the year, there are all types of markets held at old town square, such as the Christmas Market. In these markets, you can buy souvenirs, little gifts, have some hot wine (in winter times) and try some treats like Trdelník, a very popular sweet pastry among tourists.
What I really appreciated during the years i lived in the Czech Republic, especially as a student, was its public transportation system. The city, and in fact the whole country, is connected by an extensive modern system, from trams to trains, one has access to all corners.
One of the things I miss the most is having long walks from one side of the bridge to the other, and always finding something new and exciting around the city.
by Yocana Santos