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Living history

  • Published at 05:42 pm November 10th, 2018
wt- Nov 10, 2018

An enchanting, captivating and well-preserved medieval city

Ahoj Prague means hello Prague! It was the first phrase I learned from my tour guide Iva during a visit to the Czech capital.

If you’re planning a trip to Europe there are so many must-see destinations that you’ll have trouble cramming them all in.  The key is to focus on the cities and regions that offer the activities and attractions that suit your travel style -are you into heritage? Outdoors stuff and staying active? Museums?  Night life? That’s the thing about Prague – it offers all of the above and more.  

My focus was on the Old Town Area and surrounding landmarks. The first order of business was to find accommodation. This we found in Hotel Pav, which was a ten-minute walk from the tram station, which is located about 900 metres from Old Town  Square. 

Prague; a city so beautiful that even the cold-hearted Nazis spared it, is a living and breathing enigma, old and unimaginably graceful. It is home to beautiful buildings in a smorgasbord of architecture styles — Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, Neogothic, Art Nouveau, Cubist, Communist and so on. There seems to be a different style of church or cathedral every block, lending the city to its nickname “the city of a hundred spires.”

Walking around Prague I could feel the history around every corner. It is a beautiful city to photograph with well-preserved, excellent examples of nearly all of European styles of architecture. The Czech people, who often refer to Prague as their soul, have done a marvelous job keeping the paint fresh, building facades maintained, and the cobblestones clean

Wenceslas Square

The most amazing part of Prague is that it is very convenient to visit the whole city on foot .Though there are many free city walking tour guides and hip-hop bus services from different tour agencies. I was about to buy the ticket of hip-hop bus was advised by my tour guide Iva to save money and take a walking tour. 

The square was created in 1348 as part of King Charles's plan for a large new town that was three times the size of the old town. The new town had unusually large wide streets and large squares. The largest, the site of a horse market, formed the heart of New Town. In the nineteenth century the square was named Wenceslas Square after the patron saint of Bohemia, Saint Wenceslas. Today Wenceslas Square forms the commercial heart of Prague. It is a popular meeting place and the many hotels, shops and restaurants around the square attract throngs of tourists and locals alike. 

Walking Around and To Charles Bridge

Each city around the world has its own feel. On our first walk over Charles Bridge and through the Old Town streets we found Prague to be one of the busiest historic districts to date. 

It was a nice walk and we saw interesting buildings along the way. Reaching a center point, there was the Charles Bridge afar to the left of us and another more modern bridge to the right of us. Many swans were resting on a small islet and we stood there to take in the scenery for a while. 

Soon, we reached the Charles Bridge area. With every turn and step, we’d find stunning samples of old European architecture and old tram transport moving across. No wonder the historic centre of Prague with its old town areas was listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site. 

To the left, we saw a dam and another bridge in the distance. The most famous bridge is still the Charles Bridge as it was built in 1357 under King Charles IV, a Bohemian King, who also founded the New Town of Prague. It important in those times to connect the Old Town Area to other areas of Prague, and functioned as a trade route. Lining the bridge were various decorative statues and we looked at them closely as we walked. What made Charles Bridge even more interesting was the array of artists and street performers.

Artists were selling their wares and many of them were of high quality and unique. We were both amazed at all the different artistic goodies, whether of paintings, jewellery, ceramics or wood. Some were of the Prague landscapes while some were their own creations. They made good souvenirs and were definitely not those mass-produced factory souvenirs. I regretted not buying anything because we didn’t come back to this area later, and they weren’t available anywhere else. 

One thing we were never short of during our walk was great music. Along the squares and wide walkways, there was always some form of instrumental, classical and cultural music, very bohemian and indie, none of the ubiquitous pop and electronica fare. It added to the experience. 

Photo: Cecilia Rodriguez Suarez

Prague Castle

The Prague Castle complex is enormous, with an area totaling of 753,474 square feet. That makes it the largest ancient castle in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. 

The structure that holds us captive is the St. Vitus Cathedral – which witnessed coronations of kings and queens, and is the continual seat of the Archbishop of Prague. It is a site to behold – its gargantuan Gothic presence entices us to view it from every angle and to envision the activity over the centuries. The cathedral was begun in 1344 during the reign of Charles IV; built on the site of the original Romanesque rotunda. The construction took nearly 600 years, finally competed in 1929.

St. Nicolus Church : 

 The greatest Baroque Church in Prague with its massive dome, it is also one of the attractions. We couldn’t enter as it was already closed by that time but the structure outside was great to look at.

The Old Town & Prague Astronomical Clock

Over on the other side of the bridge is the Old Town and Prague’s famous Astronomical Clock. Be sure to stop by for some tourist snaps, but beware of the overpriced tourist haunts located in the square that offer far from the best food in Prague.  If you’re a fan of the Brothers Grimm, you’d agree that the Astronomical Clock seems like it came from their imagination. The legend says that it was created by an extraordinary inventor who got blinded by the Prague Councilors so no other nation could have a better clock. He took his own life by throwing himself into the astronomical clock as revenge.

It is one of the most well-known astronomical clocks in the world and with good reason. It has four moving automatons, rotating statues of the 12 apostles, and shows the moon’s phases and the sun’s journey through the constellations of the zodiac.

St Vitus Cathedral

Another city icon – St Vitus Cathedral is a favourite for many visitors to Prague due to its unique baroque architecture. The Cathedral looks particularly lust-worthy in the evenings when it lights the sky.

This was one of my favourite cities amongst the ones I’ve visited, just for the architecture alone. But Prague has so much more to offer!

To be continued… 

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