Central Europe in a nutshell: Prague

Visiting cities in Central Europe – from Strasbourg to Brasov and from Milan to Copenhagen – can be like listening to Strauss’ waltzes: at some point one feel the need to pause the player and say `OK, I got the idea !`.
Of course, this is a very minimalistic statement and I don’t support it myself. However, you will admit there’s a certain amount of reason in this `seen-one-seen’em-all` approach when talking about Central-European / German / Austrian (call it whatever you like) cities. Those who find this approach very reasonable would probably like to deal with the original – well, Prague is definitely it ! The one city among them all to best explore the square-place-paved-in-stone-with-a-baroque-church-on-one-side-and-two-dozens-of-Jugendstil-buildings-on-the-other-three-plus-a-Gothic-cathedral-downtown type of Central-European city.

Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture

By all means Prague is much more than that, but that’s because all the others are less than Prague. I came to Prague with high expectations and I must admit I was only dissapointed by the cold and gloomy October weather (but I hear they are working on it for the next summer).

In order for a city to be a nowadays’ successful touristic attraction, it seems it should have been a capital of an empire at least for some time in its history. This theory appears to work pretty well for many of Europe’s most popular city-break destinations: Vienna, Rome, London, Paris, Istanbul, St. Petersburg, even Budapest if we relax the definition of an `empire`. It is somehow the case for Prague too, since it served – unofficially and briefly – as capital of the very fluid and conceptualized Holy Roman Empire.

Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
Charles Bridge at night – view to the Old Town end

Prague is displaying today more than a thousand years of history, civilization and culture. From proto-Slavs to Jews, from Middle-Age German spirit to modern Czech revival, from stone bridges to steel and glass buildings, from Nazi holocaust to Soviet and communist holocaust, from beer to ice-hockey (often bundled), from Mozart to jazz and New Age – Prague has it all. Therefore it’s hard to present in an organized way all these aspects within one single blog post. But since I like to do it the eclectic way, I’ll just invite you to roam through Prague for a little while. Pictures will do most of the job, while your guide will keep the talking to a minimum.

Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava

I don’t have a particular route in mind, but I feel I should begin the tour with a picture taken from the Vyšehrad Hill, as Smetana’s six tone-poems cycle, Má Vlast / My Homeland (of which Vltava / The Moldau is the most famous) begins with the soft harp chords of Vyšehrad.

Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava

Here, at Vyšehrad, I found out that the capital of a landlocked country has a marina. Now I don’t find that strange any more that Hungary, another landlocked country, once had an admiral as a ruler…

Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture night
The Neo-Renaissance building of the Czech National Museum in Wenceslas Square
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture
Strachov Monastery…
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture
…and one of its most spectacular treasures, the Theological Hall
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture
Prague Castle (Hradčany) and St. Vitus Cathedral
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Hrad
The Golden Lane, inside Prague Castle
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Hrad
Golden Lane – detail
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Kafka
 At no. 22, the house where Franz Kafka lived
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Hrad

There’s also a toy museum inside the castle. Considering the entrance fee, now I regret I didn’t keep all the toys from my childhood…

Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Mozart don Giovanni premiere

Municipal Theatre, where Mozart’s Don Giovanni world premiere took place in 1787. For this reason, Prague positions itself as a `Mozart-city`. I would note the harsh competition in this market segment: Salzburg and Vienna are tough competitors. Salzburg is Mozart’s birthplace, Vienna is the headquarters of Mozartkugeln !

Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture
Vitrailles at St. Vitus Cathedral
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
National Theatre
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture engineering astronomical
The astronomical clock at the Old Town City Hall – the oldest one in the world still in service (1410)
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture
 Another side of Old Town City Hall
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture
Standard Praguese flower arrangement
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Kafka
Another Kafka-place: House at the Minute, a Renaissance building where the famous writer lived as a child.
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture
The towers of Tyn Church at night
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture tombstones

Tombstones in the Jewish cemetery, the place where, according to a fake but still popular tradition, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion originated. The story proved a mystification and was publicly exposed as such many times, but in vain for those who still need to believe in the theory of world conspiracy.

Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture
Ceremonial Hall of the cemetery, residence of the Burial Society – a body which regulated the burials inside the Jewish Cemetery.

I would have liked to take some pictures inside Pinkas Synagogue too, but it was not allowed. On its walls, the names of over 77.000 Czech Jews murdered by Nazis are written. To me, it reminds somehow of Sighet Memorial in Romania- another memorial filled with the names of thousands of victims: the victims of communism. I find it strange and frustrating that Jewish martyrdom is widely recognized, as it should be (you can even go to jail if you deny the Holocaust), while the communist holocaust is regarded as a trivia, even in the former communist countries (if you deny the communist holocaust you will be seen as trendy, fancy and open-minded !)…

Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture
…and that’s why this monument means more to me, with all due respect, than Pinkas Synagogue. It is the Memorial of the Victims of Communism. And you don’t have to pay to see it.
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture
 A view of Malá Strana neighbourhood, with St. Nicholas church in the centre.
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture
Another St Nicholas church: the one in Old Town square
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava Jugendstil

The triumph of Jugendsil eclecticism – Masarykovo boulevard and its buildings. Šitkov water-tower at left.

Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava Fred Astair Ginger Rogers
Dancing House, a.k.a. Ginger&Fred.
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava Charles Bridge
Powder Tower and Gate – once one of the 13 entrances to the Old Town of Prague.
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
View to Hradčany and St Vitus Cathedral. Note the interesting wall painting of Schwarzenberg Palace (right `beneath` St. Vitus), which gives an appearance of 3-D graphics.
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava autumn
Autumn at Vyšehrad
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
St Lawrence church and a view to Prague
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
Ad augusta per angusta…
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
 Museum of Decorative Arts. That’s right, Neo-Renaissance style again !
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
Prague Funfair Orchestra in action
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
Princess Libuše admiring Prague from Vyšehrad Hill.
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge and the Castle with St Vitus Cathedral – I couldn’t help taking this classic, `magnet-type` Prague picture
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
Shapes and colours in Folimanka Park
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava

Deep metro station at Republic Square. The guy with a blurred face doesn’t seem very happy about me taking this picture, as he and his boyfriend must interrupt their making-up for a few seconds. Speaking of metro: I am a big fan of the closing doors announcement in the Prague metro trains: `Ukončete prosím výstup a nástup, dveře se zavírají`.

Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
Prague and Vltava seen from Petřín Hill
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
National Theatre and Masarykovo-Jugendstil boulevard again
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
One of the saints on Charles Bridge. I could tell you exactly which one, but that’s not the idea with the mystery lighting, is it ?
vintage car Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
You cannot do sightseeing of Old Prague with new cars !
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava
Prague: not always monumental, but always charming !
Prague Czech Republic city-break old town architecture Vltava

P.S. – You may wonder why I spoke so little about beer. Czech beer is very good, but with that kind of cold and rainy weather we got in Prague, the best beer I had was a glass of hot wine…



8 responses to “Central Europe in a nutshell: Prague”

  1. Radu says:

    Inceputul semana cu ce era scris aici si ma speriasem.

    Oricum, neasteptat acest post despre un loc ne-neaoş 🙂

  2. Florin says:

    Vezi bine deci că nu am descoperit eu roata. Dar de ce e așa de neașteptat ? S-a lipit de mine brandul de „drumeț al neaoșimii” ?

  3. Radu says:

    E drept ca ai povestit si de pe la bulgari, dar in rest, cam da, neaoș 🙂

  4. Florin says:

    Păi bine măi, domnu Fără Moarte, tocmai ție să-ți scape relatarea din Grecia ?! Ia vezi la To Dikeos !

  5. Radu says:

    Pai pe vremea aceea nu citeam blogul tau 🙂

  6. Florin says:

    Așa este, mai bine mai târziu decât niciodată…

  7. Eva says:

    It looks amazing, quite a mix of the old and the new. That said the historic architecture and sites look amazing. Do you think a weekend would be enough to get a real feel of Prague, I'm thinking of booking a surprise city break to Prague just before summer (hopefully it'll be a little cheaper than summer) and enjoy the beautiful seasonal scenery and sights.

  8. Florin says:

    Hard to say, Eva. My belief is that if you want to 'get a real feel' of any place you have to live along with the locals for a while, and this is not something you can buy from a travel agency. All you can do during a city break is to see as many nice places as you can. You could stay for a week and you wouldn't get bored in Prague, there's something to do and to see for everybody, I just hope my little 'abstract' provided you some ideas.

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