A July 2002 trip
to Prague by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: A day trip to Prague with friends was too short of a time to soak in the beauty of this old city and Czech Capital.
Prague was one of the only European cities not to be destroyed during World War II, and it still has its old-world charm and architecture today.
My friends and I first took a subway from our parking place in the suburb of Nusele. Then we went to St. Wenceslas (Vaclav) Square and saw the statue and City Hall. After that, we went through the Powder Gate (Prasna Brana), watching the clock at Stary Mesto change at 2pm, and across the Charles Bridge to a little bar at the end. We had a drink there and proceeded to Hradcany Castle. Hradcany was beautiful and St. Vitus Cathedral is one of the biggest churches in Europe. Its interiors are huge, and the big stained-glass windows are breathtaking. I have been to Notre Dame de Paris, but St. Vitus is even more beautiful than the cathedral in Paris.
Zlata Ulica (Golden Road)
I was very upset with my friends because they did not want to stay in Prague longer than 1 day. Therefore, I did not see the Jewish Quarter of Prague and other sights. I felt that we took the Mario Andretti speed tour of Prague and missed out on a lot of great sights and cultural events. Next time, I am going alone or with friends who will take the time to stop and smell the roses!
If you decide to visit Prague, make sure you take 2 to 3 days to see it. Prague is very touristy, and souvenirs can be expensive, so shop wisely!
At the subway station there are a lot of gypsy bands hanging around. So put all of your valuable possessions in a money belt, because they will pick your pocket if you are not paying attention. While I was waiting for my companions to get out of the rest room, two bands of gypsies were fighting with each other. This brought the police over, and we watched them take the instigators away. It is very routine in Prague and other Eastern European cities for large groups of gypsies to roam, and the police have a lot of trouble controlling them.
Attraction | "Karluv Most (Charles Bridge)"
If something happens and I can't contact you, remember this: Charles Bridge, in Prague. After it's over, go to that bridge, ever Tuesday and Friday morning, until I find you.--Mirek to Blanka in the Holocaust memoir The Oasis by Petru Popescu.
One of the most beautiful and popular sites in Prague is the Karluv Most (Charles Bridge). Commissioned in 1357 by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and completed in the same year, the Karluv Most became for almost 500 years the only road leading to and from Hradcany and Prasky Hrad (Prague Castle).
The Karluv Most is famous for its statues lining the path to Hradcany with the two most famous statues being The Crucifix, which is a statue of John Neponuk, one of the Czech Republic's patron saints. During the 14th Century, John Neponuk was the Bohemian Queen's confessor, but her control freak husband, the King, wanted to know all of the Queen's sins, and told John Neponuk to tell him, but he refused to kiss and tell and the King had John Neponuk tortured by his men. Still, John Neponuk wouldn't spill the goods on the Queen, and he was killed and thrown off the Karluv Most. Legend has it that five stars appeared where Neponuk hit the water, and these five stars are part of his statue, and if one rubs the statue's shiny spot, it is supposed to bring them good luck. So, that's why the Red Sox won the World Series two years after my visit!
The other popular statue along Karluv Most is The Crucifix, which became a stopping point for condemned criminals and political prisoners to pray on the way to execution in Old Town Square. The Karluv Most Tower is available for climbing daily for a small fee until dusk.
When we visited the Karluv Most in July 2002, it was a hot Saturday afternoon. The bridge was very crowded with locals enjoying the afternoon, tons of tourists, and several craft booths and musicians selling their wares. We didn't climb the tower, but we rubbed the statue of John Neponuk and stopped to admire the view of the Vltava River, which is the main waterway running through Prague. From Karluv Most, you can get a beautiful view of the Hradcany District and Prasky Hrad (Prague Castle).
Unfortunately, we were in Prague for only a day, and I was bummed that I couldn't admire the Karluv Most during the best time of the day, early morning when the tourists and their buses are gone, and the locals are out and about getting their business done. I will have to return someday!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 1, 2003
Prague, Czech Republic 110 00
Attraction | "Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske Namesti)"
In the middle of Wenceslas Square is the famous statue of St. Wenceslas on horseback. Surrounding the statue are many Art Nouveau buildings and architecture. Many historical events took place at this statue. As a child, I remember seeing documentaries on TV of the Prague Spring and Velvet Revolution and the statue of St. Wenceslas.
In 1968, Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia after the nation declared free elections. Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks rumbled through Wenceslas Square, and it became a center of protests by the Czech people. The most famous protest was by Jan Palach, who set himself on fire and died in protest of the invasion of his nation. There is a small memorial to Jan Palach near St. Wenceslas's statue honoring this tragic moment in Czech History.
In 1989, people came back to Wenceslas Square to demand and celebrate the end of communism in Czechoslovakia. This was known as the Velvet Revolution and spurred other peaceful revolutions throughout communist Eastern Europe and eventually the Soviet Union in 1991.
It is safe to walk around St. Wenceslas Square during the day or early evening, and it is best done in a group. It is not recommended to walk the square at night.
Prague, Czech Republic 110 00
Attraction | "Zlata Ulitzka"
There is a small fee to be paid at the beginning of the Zlata Ulicka to tour the museums and shops that line the way, but it's worth it.
The armor museum, up a steep stairway and in one of the old buildings, is lined with swords and suits of armor, some of which are only for display, while others are for sale--I couldn't afford one. At the end of the armor museum is a Museum of Torture complete with a scene out of the Inquisition--I left my thumb screws at home!
Throughout the museum, there was this haunting and lively Renaissance music playing--I happily bought a cassette of it and have been listening to it ever since as a reminder of good times and one of my favorite movies The Three Musketeers. It makes you want to open a bottle of wine and dance on the table!
There are many expensive shops on the Zlata Ulitzka that are worth a look because they sell antiques, souvenirs, and other things from Prague's golden past.
Prague, Czech Republic 119 08
+420 2 2430 3368
Attraction | "Staromestske Namesti--Old Town Square"
Staromestske Namestie is lined with old cobbled roads, Baroque buildings, old churches, and statues. Its most popular sight is the Staromestske Radnice (Town Hall) with its tall towers and famous Astronomical Clock (orloj), which deserves its own separate journal entry. The Staromestske Radnice is a series of private buildings dating from 1338. The row style of housing was because the city of Prague was short of money and this was the most cost-effective of architecture.
At the end of World War II, Nazi shells partially destroyed the Gothic chapel and a wing on the north side with shells. The chapel has been reconstructed since then. On the tower's eastern side, a plaque commemorates the Red Army and Czechoslovak victory in 1945 at Dukla Pass in Slovakia. This was the first area that was liberated in what was then occupied Czechoslovakia.
Also on the eastern face of the Town Hall is a plaque that contains a roll call of the 27 Czech Protestant nobles who were beheaded here in 1621 after the Battle of Bila Hora. Bila Hora was a hill near Prague where Czech Protestants during the 30 Years War staged an unsuccessful revolt against the Hapsburg Empire, which had recently taken over Bohemia and Moravia. There are crosses on the ground where the executions took place, and I found them very chilling.
Also nearby is the statue of another Protestant martyr, Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake in Constance, Germany in 1415. The statue was unveiled in Staromestske Namestie in 1915, the 500th anniversary of Hus's death.
Staromestske Namesti is located in the heart of Prague's Old Town, or Stare Mesto. It is a mandatory visit when you visit Prague, but it is very crowded in the summertime and around Christmastime with tourists from all over the world. The best time to visit it without the crowds is in the fall or springtime. I went during the summer, and it was a quick trip that didn't allow me to soak in the culture and history of this beautiful and historic place in the old city of Prague.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 26, 2003
Old Town Historic Center of Prague
Prague, Czech Republic 110 00
Attraction | "Astronomical Clock (Orloj)"
When I visited Prague in July 2002, my friends and I made sure that we visited the Astronomical Clock (Orloj) that is part of the Radnice, or town hall, of Prague's Staromestske Namestie. The clock was added to the Radnice in 1410 and was made by the master clockmaker Mikulas of Kadane. The design was improved upon in 1490 by a Master Hanus, who gave the Orloj its present-day looks and mechanics. Legend has it that Hanus was blinded in order for him not to reproduce the Orloj anywhere else in Europe.
It was about 1:45pm when my friends and I arrived in Old Town Square and arrived at the Orloj. We didn't wander far because we wanted to have a good vantage point to see the clock do its magic at 2pm. So we looked around Old Town Square and then got a spot near the front of the crowd that was gathered in front of the Orloj.
Finally, after what seemed like a long wait, the clock struck 2pm and did its magic. Death rang its bell and turned its hourglass, and then the 12 apostles came around with objects that represent them (for example, Paul with a sword and book and Thomas with a lance). Beside the clock are four figures that represent the troubles that Prague went through during the 15th century. They are Vanity, Greed, Death, and Pagan Invasion. After World War II, the Greed figurine was altered, since at first, it represented a Jewish moneylender and was considered politically incorrect after the war, in which most of Prague's Jewish population perished in the Nazi death camps.
The striking of the hour of the Orloj only lasted about 1 minute, and I stood there for a minute wondering, "Is that it?" I thought it would be a long and big ceremony, but I was disappointed that this magic only lasted a short time. However, I took several beautiful photos of the Orloj, and one of them is enlarged and framed on my table near my bed.
It is free to see the clock do its magic, but for a 30 ck fee, you can go inside and tour the Old Town Hall and tower. It is a brief but shining moment during your visit to Prague.
Old Town Hall/Astronomical Clock
Old Town Square
Prague, Czech Republic
Attraction | "Tyn and St. Nicholas Churches"
The first church is the Tyn Church (Kostel Panny Marie Pred Tynem--Church of Our Lady Before Tyn). The Tyn Church is a Hussite church dating from the early Gothic period of the 15th century. It is most recognizable with its spiked spires. The interior of the church is from the Baroque period.
I only saw the exterior of the church from the Old Town Square, but it is a beautiful sight to see and is the burial site of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who was a consultant of Hapsburg Emperor Rudolf II. Brahe died in Prague in 1601 from a burst bladder. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Tyn Church was a Hussite stronghold that the Hapsburgs were determined to destroy.
The other church that dominates the skyline of Prague's Old Town Square is the Catholic St. Nicholas Church (Kostel sv Mikulase), called a Baroque "wedding cake" by locals. This 18th-century church is located in the northwestern corner of Staromestske Namestie. St. Nicholas Church was built by Kilian Dientzenhofer, whose family was responsible for the design and construction of many other churches throughout Prague. This church is very tiny, but to me, it looked huge.
Author Franz Kafka was born next door to St. Nicholas Church at Celetna 3; this place is now a Kafka photo exhibit of his life.
So if you do the right thing and take the time to tour Prague, make sure that you take about an hour to see these two gems of Prague and its Old Town.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 27, 2003
St. Nicholas Church
Old Town Square
Prague, Czech Republic 11000
420 2 232 2589
Attraction | "Prague Castle (Praszky Hrad)"
Praszky Hrad dates from 870 when the Church of Our Lady became the first building on the grounds. St. Vitus was founded a century later, but the actual cathedral wasn't built until the 14th Century. Praszky Hrad was not occupied by any royal families during the Hussite Wars of the 15th Century, and after the wars were over in 1485, King Ladislaus II Jagello began to rebuild the castle in Gothic form along with two defense towers to protect the castle from future attacks.
But all of King Ladislaus II's hard work was destroyed during a big fire in 1541, and after Ladislaus's death, the Castle came under Hapsburg rule starting with King Ferdinand, who built the Belvedere, a summer home for his wife Anna. After Ferdinand, came Rudolf, who used Prague Castle as his main home and the Spanish Hall was founded during his reign which housed Rudolf's extensive art collection.
In 1618, the Bohemian Revolt began, and The 30 Years War wreaked havoc on Bohemia, Prague, and The Castle that culminated in Swedish troops looting Prague Castle in 1648. Praszky Hrad went under its final renovation in the mid to late 18th Century during the reign of Empress Maria Theresia. After Maria Theresia's reign, the castle became home to Ferdinand V after his 1848 abdication and after the fall of the Hapsburg Empire in 1918, Praszky Hrad became home to the President of the new Czechoslovakia. It was during this time, Praszky Hrad's gardens and New Royal Palace went under another renovation.
During World War II, Czechoslovakia and Prague were occupied by the Germans, and Praszky Hrad became the home for "The Hangman of Bohemia and Moravia", Reinhard Heydrich and his family. Heydrich upset all Czechs by supposedly putting the Bohemian crown on his head and called himself King. It probably signed his death warrant for on 27 May 1942, Heydrich and his driver were ambushed by Czech and Slovak resistance fighters parachuted into Czechoslovakia from England while driving from Hradcany to SD Headquarters. He died a week later from his injuries, and the village of Lidice was destroyed in retaliation by the Nazis.
After World War II, Prazsky Hrad became the home for the Communist government for 40 years and after the Velvet Revolution and Divorce, the Castle became the seat for the head of the government of the Czech Republic, and Vaclav Havel had the many painting in the Castle restored.
There is a small fee to get into the castle and grounds, but we didn't tour the inside of the Castle. Unfortunately, my friends wanted to do the "Mario Andretti Tour" of Prague, and we only stayed here one day. I hope to return here some day soon and really enjoy this beautiful Castle.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 9, 2007
Prague Castle (Hradcany Castle)
Castle District, Hradcany
Prague, Czech Republic 119 08
420 2 2437 3368
Attraction | "Katredrala Sv. Vita (St. Vitus Cathedral)"
Like the Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral has a long and storied history dating from its consecration in 925. The cathedral's name, St. Vitus was given by Duke Wenceslaus I because he had acquired the arm of St. Vitus, which is a holy relic. The original church was a small Romanesque church that handled the needs of the small Christian community in Prague.
In 1060, as the Catholic community of Prague increased, Prince Spythinev II decided it was time to build and even bigger church for his community. A bigger Romanesque basilica was built but not completed. St. Wenceslas's, the patron saint of Bohemian princes, tomb was at St. Vitus Cathedral and this was another reason to expand the cathedral.
The present-day Gothic Cathedral that you see when you visit St. Vitus Cathedral was completed on 21 November 1344 when Prague became and archbishopric, and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV wanted St. Vitus to become a coronation church along with final resting place for Bohemian royalty. The extensive construction of the triple-naved bascilicas and flying butresses took hundreds of years to construct, and Charles IV only lived to see the Eastern part of the cathedral completed.
In the 18th Century after 400 years of construction (and you thought your house building took forever), due to not having that Black and Decker saw and lack of money to carry on the work, the cathedral was strated again, and the Baroque southern spire and great organ were completed. By the time the St. Wenceslas Jubilee came around in 1929, construction of St. Vitus Cathedral was complete after almost 600 years of delays and hard work. What you see today at St. Vitus is mostly the work done by Peter Parler and his sons in the late 14th and 15th centuries.
Jaro, Maria, Ivan, and I spent about an hour touring St. Vitus Cathedral's interior. It has a massive triple nave main hall complete with a gorgeous altar and several stained glass windows that date from the 18th-20th Centuries. The most known window is The Mucha Window by Alfons Mucha completed in the late-19th Century. The Rose Window over the main portal was completed by Frantisek Kysela from 1925-1927.
I am not religious and as a jack Catholic, I was impressed by this beautiful cathedral and felt a little spiritual touring St. Vitus, and I believe that you will feel that way, too.
St. Vitus Cathedral is open to the public daily and masses are held every Sunday, so don't tour the place during masses. The price to tour the Cathedral is included in the Castle tour, and it is well worth your time to check it out!
St. Vitus Cathedral
Prague, Czech Republic 11908
+420 2 2437 3368