"the looking-up" city - Historic Prague

Step back into Vysehrad, the old castle grounds with the National Cemetery and Slavin, and enjoy a quieter Prague free of the crowds elsewhere. And visit the Technological Museum to see Czech achievements in science and technology that rival their well-known achievements in music.


"the looking-up" city - Historic Prague

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by travelprone on December 17, 2001

Visit Vysehrad to escape from the Old Town and Hradcany hordes,let alone the tour crowds at the synagogues.
Well-worth your while, a tour of the National Technological Museum will astound you with its examples of Czech scientific and technological expertise.
As you stroll through the National Cemetery and the Slavin, note names unfamiliar to you and research them later.
Vysehrad offers stunning views to the north of Hradcany, as well as the Vlatava River.${QuickSuggestions} Spend most of your time just strolling around the historic remnants at Vysehrad. Take in the views; read the tombstones at the cemetery and at the Slavin section. Prague can be so overwhelming that a little "down time" refreshes, and gets you in touch with the nationalistic fervor of the Czechs.The more you read beforehand about the prominent Czechs commemorated at Slavin, the more meaningful your seeing this site will be.${BestWay} It's a pleasant walk from the Metro stop at Vysehrad through a most tranquil neighborhood; the way to Vysehrad is marked quite clearly. There is a northern approach cited in the Lonely Planet book that takes one near some Cubistic architecture if that interests you. What we really liked about Vysehrad is that we were totally free to just roam around and peer into nooks and crannies with no one to deter us from doing so.

Slavin & The_National Cemetery

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travelprone on March 31, 2002

Cemeteries have always attracted me. The National Cemetery is very special to the Czech people for its cultural giants are buried there- it's the Pere Lachaise of Prague. Several of the names were familiar to me -Dvorak, Smetana, Capek, and Mucha- but some like Wechterle were not. When we visited the Technological Museum we learned he invented the contact lens -a boon for many the world over. And of course, I encountered the name of Emma Destinova again (first encounter was the JBClub's claim to be the birthplace of Emma Destinova).

My itch to research was again activated by seeing her name in the walled pantheon (Slavin) of departed VIPs in this cemetery and I resolved to find out who she was asap. On the day we were there, about 50 people were strolling around; like the old Jewish cemetery in Old Town, this cemetery isn't very spacious, but, unlike that cemetery, headstones were not piled one on top of the other. And, more important, it is serene, not jammed with tour groups rushing you along.

While strolling around, I noticed several headstones with the name of Libuse, the legendary founding princess of Prague. Several memorials were very elaboate and were probably costly when erected. This didn't strike me as a poor man's cemetery. Several "readings" produced sketch bios of distinguished academicians associated with the famous Charles University, eminent medical doctors and prominent politicians. We three found the spot so engrossing we stayed there for over an hour. Later on, I learned this is where the Prague Spring music festival is launched every May 12, the day the composer Smetana died. On that day, a procession goes from his grave to the Obecni dum. Czechs seem to revere their musical giants so, when I finally found out who Emma Destinova was, I wasn't surprised that,like Melba, she had been honored by having a special culinary delight named for her by the JBClub's owners.

Slavin & The National Cemetery
Vysehrad behind Sts.Peter & Paul Church
Prague, Czech Republic

Vysehrad

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travelprone on March 31, 2002

In the off-season, in mid-October, many of the leaves of trees had already fallen, but the grass was still very green and lush in contrast to the sparseness on the trees. You were free to roam around and poke into things with nary a guard in sight, though we did see laborers working on various reconstruction and maintenance projects throughout the park. According to myth this is where the first dynasty of Czech monarchy established itself - the Premysl.

Statues in the park of the first princess Libuse and her Premysl spouse lend a romantic air to the place. Under the astounding Charles IV the coronation ritual of the monarch's beginning here and going in procession to the "new Castle" was established, underlining the link between Prague's early settlement and the later development of the castle on the hill to the north. During the religious wars, old Vysehrad was obliterated and the area lay in ruins until a late 19th century revival of interest in it as a nationalist symbol.

There were quite a few people there when we were, but the park is so spacious you didn't feel crowded in on. Most of the visitors were found in the church and the cemetery and seemed equally divided between Czechs and tourists. It's relatively easy to get to from the Pavlova metro station to Vysehrad metro station, a short ride, and then a 30 minute stroll to the park entrance in a middle-class residential area dotted with a few discreet B&B's with window signs.

At the Vysehrad station we could see just to the east of us the stark towering mass of the Corinthian Towers, a Libyan-owned hotel that all the guidebooks warn Americans to avoid. At the station itself is a large Congress Hall, a convention center, very glassy and modern in design, quite a contrast to the Vysehrad Park itself.
This is an area that one should read about before visiting because it is not yet a "touristy" sight. We felt you could picnic there very comfortably and it was a boon for our son who had "overwalked" his first day in Prague and had hurt his leg muscles. Prague has that effect on people; so many want to see it that they tend to overdo it and lose out, missing some of Prague's subtler charms.

Vysehrad Castle
Sobeslavova, 1
Prague, Czech Republic, 128 00
+420 (2) 2492 0735

National Technology Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travelprone on December 17, 2001

It's basically a resounding testimony to Czech expertise in technology as it focuses upon the many accomplishments of the Czechs especially before World War Two. They dominated in the development of photography and in cinematographic equipment ; also Czech factories produced many modern marvels in locomotion. Here we "discovered "Wechterle, the inventor of the contact lens. Most of the guides are elderly Czechs and were unduly alarmed when we tried to exit via what was signed in Czech (which we can't read) as a staff exit. We were pushed towards the "correct" exit. This didn't offend us as we understood these people had endured more than 30 years of emphasis on "correct" behavior.

No awkward moment like this could destroy our experience of one of the largest photo & cinematographic collections in the world. This museum is a must-see for the photo & film afficionado as well as those interested in devices for time measurement . One large section was devoted to historic sundials, water clocks,etc. that reminded me of the collection at the Greenwich Museum in London. Of great importance in the development of the modern world were technological devices that helped organize and capture that world. A fascinating, well-planned museum that succeeds without relying on words ! To get there from Ovenecka, walk 4 blocks south ,turn right on Letohradska, then right on Muzein & left on Kostelni for front entrance to the museum. In effect, you'll be circling the museum . Well worth going a little out of the way! This museum emphasizes that the Czech Republic may be a small nation, but many of its citizens have made significant contributions to the making of the modern technological world.

National Technical Museum
Kostelni, 42
Prague 7, Czech Republic, 17000
+420 2 3337 4641.

Who was Emma Destinova ?

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by travelprone on March 31, 2002

The epitome of Bohemian,geographically and temperamentally,her real name was Emilia Pavlina Venceslava Kittova (what a mouthful!), but she adopted her music teacher's last name professionally when she became an opera singer. She performed frequently in Berlin, Bayreuth, London's Covent Garden and at the Metropolitan in New York. Having studied both piano and violin, she could sight-read any music rapidly and learned new roles speedily. Emma was fluent in German, Italian, French and English. She had many "firsts" -she was the first to sing Senta in The Flying Dutchman,she starred as Cio-Cio-San in the London premiere of "Madame Butterfly", she sang "Aida" at the Met debut of Arturo Toscaninni,and sang Minnie in the premiere presentation of "Girl of the Golden West." She sang the first"Carmen" to be recorded, though she sang in German, not French. In 1979, a Czech film "Divine Emma" depicted her life; unfortunately, I have not been able to rent the DVD that is available according to imdb.

Sounds like a real professional Wunderfrau? Yes, but she was more than just an international opera diva. Reputedly,she had a boa constrictor tatoo on her leg that slithered(?) from thigh to ankle ; reputedly she had many lovers ,including the libidnous Artur Rubinstein, and, in 1916,lost 100 K in concert fees to follow one of her lovers back to Bohemia, whereupon her passport was seized by authorities and she was stuck in Bohemia for a while. Rumors circulated that she was a spy on the Germans during these World War I years.

Her swan song took place in London on October 16, 1928. Two years later,married and in retirement, she died at the relatively young age of 52. Oh, but how she had lived! The memory of this first-class diva is still strong with the Czechs to whom music is a vibrant part of life.


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