The past week, I’ve been exploring the magical city of Prague.
While here, thanks to Rick Steves’ Europe, I brushed up on my Czech history, so I will start by sharing some of the most interesting information with all of you. It’ll also make explaining the historic sites much easier later on. 😀
I’ll begin on a positive note, with famed 14th century Emperor Charles IV. He was a Renaissance man, who ruled this country during Prague’s Golden Age, by importing fine arts and establishing the first university, he inspired national pride and made Prague one of Europe’s most cultured cities. Things go downhill from there since a religious war would soon sweep through the country. This battle between Catholics and Protestants, called The Thirty Years War, left the people overpowered by Catholic Hapsburg rule for the next 300 years. After WWI, the Hapsburg Empire was defeated and Czechoslovakia was momentarily free. 🙂
Sadly, that lasted only 20 years before Hitler seized the country at the start of WWII. The country luckily escaped the bombs of war, and although the Nazis were defeated on May 8th, 1945, the Soviets took control of the country less than 24 hours later. 😮
Communism dominated the country for over forty years. There was a glimmer of hope in the mid ’60s, where leader Alexander Dubček loosened up the rules by allowing some freedoms of speech and travel. This period entitled “Prague Spring” would quickly be squashed, quite literally by the Warsaw Pact invasion, when tanks rolled into Prague’s Old Town Square, restoring police power and taking many lives.
Thankfully, there is a light at the end of this tunnel known as the “Velvet Revolution.” What began in 1989 as a peaceful demonstration of students asking for an end to Communist rule, ended in an incredibly successful and nonviolent transfer back to democracy. 😀
Lastly, Czechoslovakia became the Czech Republic in the early ’90s, another nonviolent separation between Czech and Slovak lands. Since then, thanks to tourism, the country has experienced one of the greatest economic booms that Europe has ever seen. 😀
To show you why it’s so popular with tourists, I’ll start by breaking down some the city’s most impressive sights. 😀
Now Prague is divided into four main sections.
- Old Town
- Malá Strana
- Castle District
- New Town
Today I’ll start with Prague’s Old Town, one of the most architecturally diverse areas in this gorgeous city.
Prague: Old Town
Since Prague wasn’t bombed during the war, it has one of the most well-preserved historic centers in Europe. Prague is fortunate to have such an eclectic mix of architectural beauty. You’ll find such styles as Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau. It’s as if you’re able to walk the gorgeous streets of Rome, Paris, and Madrid all at once. Love! 😍Prague Old Town also has one of the most beautifully preserved Jewish Quarters. This is sadly because Hitler wanted to retire in Prague, and freakishly wanted to preserve these Jewish synagogues as a way to commemorate an exterminated race. 😮I even got the chance to walk inside one of the churches, The Church of Mother of God before Týn. Now since Czechs have been through such a grim past, their sense of humor remains very dark as well. Evidence of this is seen through art pieces, like this one by David Černý, entitled “Man Hanging Out,” a statue of Sigmund Freud, which seeks to make fun of Freud’s fear of his own death. Speaking of spunky Czech humor, I was also able to take another free walking tour of Old Town, as a way to get a bit of historical background on the Czech Republic. 🙂
My guide for the day was Karel, an eccentric and sarcastic spitfire, who kept our group entertained from beginning to end. Now, Karel jokingly mentioned that, although he looked 25, he was actually much older, and was raised during the Communist occupation of Czechoslovakia. He describes this soviet rule as, “living life while wearing a straight-jacket.” 😮
Now, Karel joked, that since the establishment of a democracy, he now over-indulges in all of these new freedoms given to his people, enjoying brands like Coca-Cola soft drinks, McDonald’s burgers, and traveling as often as possible. He even married a local from Peru. 🙂
Our tour group met in the Old Town Square, and I took a brief panoramic video for you to enjoy.
It’s here you’ll find shops, restaurants, churches and this iconic astronomical clock. The figures alongside the clock shows saints with philosophers and sinners with a reaper. The symbolism is that, with time, all will meet their maker. The question is, which side will you be on? 😮
The clock has an hourly performance, which wasn’t all that impressive, but the enormous gathering crowd was enough to keep me entertained. I took a small clip for you to enjoy. 🙂
This is also where you can find some incredibly satisfying Czech cuisine. Through Foursquare I found the restaurant Mlejnice, which offers hearty Czech fare at affordable prices. I decided on a beer goulash soup. This hearty tomato beef soup is heavily seasoned with paprika and garlic, and served in a rye bread bowl. Absolutely delicious! ❤
Now Czechs have performed puppet shows in this country since the 15th century, and marionette dolls are one the most unique gifts to buy while staying in Prague.They’ve even designed dolls to appeal to a younger generation. Wingardium Leviosa!
As for getting around the city, there are a few options. I personally am an advocate of walking, but the tram is also another great option, with each ticket costing a mere 1 USD. As for transportation to Prague, I took the bus from Munich ZOB station. The station was very accommodating, with a small grocery, fast food chains, and even a beauty salon. 🙂My bus ride, courtesy of Leo Express, cost a mere 12 USD, and was more than enjoyable, with free WiFi, bottled water, and gorgeous countryside views.Before I left Munich for Prague, I was even able to meet up with my old roommate, Fernando, for a coffee. He just moved to the city to begin his master’s degree in business. 🙂
Any who, that wraps up just one of the four quarters of Prague. Stay tuned to hear more about this magical place. Until then. 🙂