A January 2004 trip
to Prague by Gwilym Owen
Quote: Arriving in Prague in the winter was like a dream come true for me and to gaze across the snow-covered rooftops was like something straight out of a fairy tale. . .
The old town square is simply breathtaking, presided over majestically as it is by the town hall and the dominating presence of the monolithic Church of Our Lady before Tyn. A short five minute walk from the square has you standing on the banks of the Vltava River gazing in awe at the mediaeval masterpiece of the Charles Bridge -- in fact, the only thing that can possibly tear your eyes from this visual feast is the simply stunning presence of Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral standing proudly watching over the city on the opposite bank.
And that is just the beginning of visual treats that Prague has to offer. . .
There are many facets of Prague that can be explored through its impressive history:
Explore Prague's architecture starting with its Romanesque foundations, its mediaeval core or the many fabulous examples of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neo Gothic styles. . .
Explore Prague's food and drink culture -- Prague is a true bastion of beer where you can imbibe some of the World's best beers for mere pennies! Why not have a delicious Goulash with your beer to keep you going. . .
Explore Prague's arts culture from classical music greats such as Smetana or Drovak; literary greats such as Kafka and Hasek -- or movements such as Cubism and Mucha's pioneering art nouveau movement. . .
Prague has something for everyone and in all my time travelling this has to be one of my favourite experiences such is the richness of the history encapsulated within its walls.
Travelling further afield, Prague's cheap efficient and fully integrated Transport System made up of the bus, tram and metro system is brilliant. For a few crowns you can travel from one side of the town to the other and for a mere 200 crowns you can have unlimited transport across the city for three days. You can even connect from the airport into the city by bus for a mere 12 crowns, compared to a taxi, which costs 400 crowns for the same journey.
There should be no need to use taxis, especially as they have a bad reputation for ripping off tourists. Only use as a last resort!
Driving a car in Prague is not recommended due to the labyrinthine confines of many roads here, you could be looking at unnecessary stress and some very expensive and inconvenient fines. . .
Attraction | "Charles Bridge (Karluv most)"
Designed by Peter Parler, the bridge's 30 famous statues began to be added to the buttress plinths over a century later with the first one being St John Nepomuk in 1683, a rival of Jan Hus he came to a very sticky end with his tortured body being thrown from this very bridge. . .
After that the bridge's plinths filled up very quickly, especially during the early 18th century, with representations of some of the countries most famous saints. Indeed so many statues have been created that half a dozen spares reside in the Casemates under the imposing remains of the Vysehrad Fortress to the south of the centre of Prague.
The Bridge is 'bookended' by two impressive towers which can both be visited and afford excellent elevated views of the bridge and the river below. . .
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 1, 2004
Prague, Czech Republic 110 00
Attraction | "Vysehrad Casemates"
Inside you are greeted by a small exposition and history of the walled defences of Prague and Vysehrad in particular, which costs around 10 crowns.
Again, if you don't know about what is hidden under the formidable ramparts of this great fortress, you could leave without realising that you have missed one of the star attractions here.
Every hour the attendant takes you on a guided tour of the casemates running under the walls from both directions of the Brick Gate. This tour costs 20 crowns - both of these costs are covered by the Prague Card.
It is like entering another world as the lights are switched on to reveal a tunnel disappearing into the distance. There are over two kilometres of tunnels under Vysehrad and after what seems an age you come out into a large black space pierced by shafts of light from several small openings and you are aware of several dark shapes looming out of the inky blackness.
When the lights are turned on it is truly a revelation because the Gorlice Hall is a large hall of some 330 square metres with a 13-metre ceiling and is used as a repository for six original Charles Bridge statues placed here at regular intervals since 1992:
St. Bernard with Madonna (by M.V. Jäckel, 1709)
St. Augustine and St. Nicolas of Tolentino (by J. B. Kohl, 1708)
St. Adalbert (by F. M. Brokof, 1709)
St. Anne (by M. V. Jäckel, 1707)
St. Ludmila with small Wenceslas (by M.B.Braun, 1720 - 1724)
The Gorlice Hall is a wonderful space, especially when the first time you enter you feel like Indiana Jones stumbling upon some long lost tomb for the first time.
Definitely the highlight of my visit to Vysehrad!
Also, in recent years a theatre company has been playing 'The Tragicall History of Doctor Faustus' by Christopher Marlowe in this space.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 7, 2004
Prague, Czech Republic 128 00
+420 (2) 2492 0735
Attraction | "Vysehrad Cemetery and Pantheon"
Access is through two gates at either end of the Church of St Peter and St Paul, with the front entrance being at the front of the church, where you will find a map denoting the locations of all the tombs of the most famous people resting within.
Around the western, northern, and some of the eastern outer boundaries of the cemetery is a sort of cloister that houses some of the most impressive tombs and mausoleums I have seen.
In the central part of the cemetery are individual plots, many of which again are incredibly beautiful, and to the east of the cemetery, at the end of a wide avenue, is the Slavin, or Pantheon, a huge tomb built in 1890 and dedicated to the most honoured figures of the country, such as Alfons Mucha, Josef Myslbek, and Bohumil Kafka to name a few.
Also watch out for Antonin Dvorak, Bedrich Smetana, and Jan Neruda.
It may sound macabre, but I truly enjoyed visiting this wonderfully peaceful place, rejoicing at is beauty and the feeling of quiet restful solitude I found here. Being here in winter also helped, as for much of my time here, I was the only person.
For me, this is a far better experience than the tourist commercialism of the Jewish cemetery.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 25, 2005
Prague 2, Czech Republic 12800
+420 2 2492 0735
Attraction | "St Vitus's Cathedral (Chram SV. Vita)"
Built in 1344 by Charles IV on the site of the original Rotunda of St Vitus, erected by St Wenceslas in 925, the cathedral was finally completed in the early 20th century.
It is a huge Neo-Gothic masterpiece spanning a thousand years of history and absolutely crammed with religious artifacts, works of art and items of historical significance.
Probably the main sight within the cathedral is the sumptuously decorated Chapel of St Wenceslas, containing his bejewelled tomb.
Other major sights include:
The remarkable chancel built by Peter Parler (he of Charles Bridge fame).
A carved wooden panel showing the city of Prague in intricate detail, called 'Flight of Frederick of the Palatine' - my favourite because I love staring at maps for hours on end.
Tomb of St John Nepomuk (pictured below), made from solid silver and honouring the man who ended up murdered and thrown into the Vltava River for his troubles!
The Crypt where Charles IV and his wives are buried.
Also there are many brilliant stained glass windows including one by Alfons Mucha, the King of Art Nouveau - somewhat unaccountably I missed this because I didn't realise it was there...!
No matter - I shall see it next time I'm in Prague! ;-)
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 29, 2006
St. Vitus Cathedral
Prague, Czech Republic 11908
+420 2 2437 3368