A Travellerspoint blog

April 2020

Prague - the Heart of Europe.

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Mosaic above the Beaufort family memorial, Vysehrad Cemetery.

Prague is another place we visited long before I ever wrote travel pages or blogs so now that the world is closed due to covid 19, I may as well finally get around to writing it up.

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Maskovy family memorial, Vysehrad Cemetery.

We went to Prague in 1999. We got there by flying Swissair from Hong Kong to Zurich and then on to Prague. Our trip did not start well. We had read that airport taxi drivers were notorious for ripping off tourists, so we prepaid for our taxi and got a voucher. Our taxi driver was furious that he had had to wait in a queue to pick up tourists only to find that he could not rip us off as we had already paid. As a result he swore at us, threw our trolley bag around, shouted at us for the whole journey and drove like a maniac, almost crashing several times. Of course if he had just been pleasant, he would have got a tip. Needless to say he didn't. I've never been so relieved to get out of a taxi in my life. Fortunately, this insane taxi driver was the only unpleasant person we had to deal with all trip.

Prague from the air.

Prague from the air.

Prague from the air.

Prague from the air.

I don't remember the name of our hotel, but I do know it was quite far from the centre of the city and that we travelled into the city centre by tram. This was easy enough and it meant that our living area was pretty peaceful and quiet.

Prague is an amazingly beautiful city. It is one of the best preserved cities in Europe, as it was not badly bombed in World War II. The Vltava River flows through the centre of Prague. It separates the main areas tourists visit, with Castle Town and Lesser Town on one side of the river, and Old Town and New Town on the other.

One of the most famous sights in Prague is the beautiful Charles Bridge which crosses the Vltava River between the Old Town and the Lesser Town. It is supported by 15 pillars and is 516 meters long. Charles Bridge is called after King Charles IV. Construction of the bridge was carried out by Peter Parler, a famous German-Czech architect. Building began in 1357 and was completed in 1402. At both ends of the bridge there are towers. The one at the Old Town end is called Staroměstská věž and the one on the Lesser Town end is called Malostranská věž. There are thirty Baroque statues on the bridge. The most famous is of St. John of Nepomuk. He was a Czech priest who took confession for Queen Sophia of Bavaria, the second wife of King Wenceslaus IV. King Wenceslaus, convinced his wife had a lover, demanded to know the contents of her confession. When John of Nepomuk refused to divulge it, Wenceslaus had him thrown from the Charles Bridge into the Vltava River where he drowned.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge.

Not far from the Charles Bridge in the area known as the Lesser Town is the Lennon Wall. John Lennon was a hero for many young Czechs. One of his fans painted a picture of John Lennon on a wall opposite the French embassy. This wall then became a common site for the youth of Prague to vent their political frustrations. At one point the wall used to be frequently whitewashed over by the authorities.

Lennon Wall.

Lennon Wall.

Lennon Wall.

Lennon Wall.

Lennon Wall.

Lennon Wall.

Lennon Wall.

Lennon Wall.

Lennon Wall.

Lennon Wall.

Also in Lesser Town stands The Church of St Nicholas. This is the most famous Baroque church in Prague. It was designed by architects Kryštof Dientzenhofer, Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer and Anselmo Lurago.

Saint Nicholas Church.

Saint Nicholas Church.

Saint Nicholas Church.

Saint Nicholas Church.

At one side of Lesser Town there is a large green hill known as Petřín. This is a park area and can be accessed on foot or by funicular. We went to the top on the funicular. There are beautiful panoramic views over the city from the top of the hill. Also on the hilltop stands Petřín Tower, which resembles France's Eiffel Tower. The Štefánik Observatory is also located on the hill. On the edge of the park stands Strahov Monastery. This monastery was founded in 1140. Its buildings include the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Strahov Library, a Baroque Theological Hall and the Strahov Art Gallery.

At the bottom of Petřín Tower.

At the bottom of Petřín Tower.

At the bottom of Petřín Tower.

At the bottom of Petřín Tower.

Strahov Monastery.

Strahov Monastery.

Strahov Monastery.

Strahov Monastery.

Strahov Monastery.

Strahov Monastery.

The Castle Town area of Prague is made up a large assortment of different buildings in a wide variety of architectural styles. Buildings here include Prague Castle, the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Vitus, the Romanesque Basilica of Saint George, a monastery, palaces: such as Rosenberg Palace, the Archbishop's Palace, gardens and towers. Prague Castle itself is now home to the National Gallery, the Toy Museum and a picture gallery.

Peter outside the Archbishop's Palace.

Peter outside the Archbishop's Palace.

Rosenberg Palace.

Rosenberg Palace.

Rosenberg Palace.

Rosenberg Palace.

Rosenberg Palace.

Rosenberg Palace.

Saint George's Basilica.

Saint George's Basilica.

Castle Hill.

Castle Hill.

Looking towards St Vitus's Cathedral and Castle Hill.

Looking towards St Vitus's Cathedral and Castle Hill.

Looking towards St Vitus's Cathedral and Castle Hill.

Looking towards St Vitus's Cathedral and Castle Hill.

The Old Town is on the other side of the Charles Bridge from the Lesser Town and Castle Town. One of the first sights we saw here was the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi. This church is associated with the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star. It is designed in Baroque style. It was built between 1679 and 1688 by the architect Jean Baptiste Mathey.

Church of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Church of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Old Town Square, Staroměstské náměstí, lies at the heart of Prague's Old Town. In this square you can see the Old Town Hall with its medieval astronomical clock. Here you can also see the Church of the Mother of God before Týn, or just the Týn Church for short. In the northwestern corner of Old Town Square. stands the Baroque St. Nicholas Church which was built in the eighteenth century. Also in the square stands the Jan Hus Memorial. Jan Hus was a Czech church reformer who was executed in 1415. The inscription on the monument says “Love one another, wish the truth to everyone”. This is a quote from one of the letters he wrote while he was in prison. One of the most beautiful building in the Old Town Square is the Kinský Palace. From the balcony of this building in 1948 Klement Gottwald announced the beginning of communism in Czechoslovakia. In 1990 Václav Havel symbolically announced the end of communism from the same place.

Týn Church.

Týn Church.

Jan Hus Memorial.

Jan Hus Memorial.

St. Nicholas Church.

St. Nicholas Church.

To one side of Prague's Old Town stands its old Jewish Quarter. Prague has one of Europe's oldest Jewish communities. It has managed to survive in spite of pogroms, expulsions and the holocaust. The best way to see it and learn about it would be to do a guided tour of the area. We did not do this. We just had a quick walk around. We saw the old Jewish Town Hall and the Jewish Ceremonial Hall.

Jewish Town Hall.

Jewish Town Hall.

Jewish Ceremonial Hall.

Jewish Ceremonial Hall.

Near the Old Town Square stands the Gothic Powder Gate which separates the Old Town from the New Town.

The Powder Tower.

The Powder Tower.

In the Old Town.

In the Old Town.

In the Old Town.

In the Old Town.

Prague's New Town was founded in 1348 by King Charles IV. It centers on Wenceslas Square, which was originally built as the Horse Market. Wenceslas Square is really more of a boulevard than a square. At one end stands the neoclassical Czech National Museum. In front of that there is a statue of Saint Wenceslas. Many significant events in Prague's history have taken place on Wenceslas Square. On 28th October 1918, while standing in front of the Saint Wenceslas statue, Alois Jirásek read the proclamation of independence of Czechoslovakia. On 16th January 1969 Jan Palach, a young Czech student, set himself on fire here to protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. In 1989 huge demonstrations were held here as part of the Velvet Revolution.

Wenceslas Square.

Wenceslas Square.

Wenceslas Square.

Wenceslas Square.

We also visited the Dancing House building, sometimes known as Fred and Ginger. This was designed by the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić together with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. It was completed in 1996.

Dancing House.

Dancing House.

Dancing House.

Dancing House.

We also visited Vyšehrad, a historic fort located in the city of Prague, around 3 km southeast of Prague Castle, on the East bank of the Vltava River. This was built in the tenth century. While here we visited the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul and the Vyšehrad Cemetery. In the cemetery we found the grave of composer Antonín Dvorak. There are good views over the river from this area.

Vyšehrad.

Vyšehrad.

Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul.

Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul.

Mosaic of head of Christ, Vysehrad Cemetery.

Mosaic of head of Christ, Vysehrad Cemetery.

Dvorak's Grave.

Dvorak's Grave.

We also went on a boat trip along the Vltava River. Since it was a long time ago, I don't remember much about the trip but I'll put some river photos here.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

On the Vltava River.

When Eastern Europe opened up at first after the fall of the Iron Curtain, several countries had a terrible reputation for overcharging. We did not experience this in Prague. I don't know if we were just lucky, or just careful or things had already begun to settle down. In any case we had several excellent meals, wonderful beer and even went to a microbrewery that brewed its own high quality beer.

Microbrewery.

Microbrewery.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Prague had great food and beer.

Even when we were leaving the country, hubbie was delighted to find a beer dispensing machine at the airport.

At the airport.

At the airport.

At the airport.

At the airport.

Posted by irenevt 05:40 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (15)

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