on July 28, 2006
Charles Bridge is one of my three top attractions in Prague. It joins Old Town Square and Prague Castle as three things that you simply cannot miss. The bridge can be walked across in 5 minutes (during early morning), but we went back and back while we were in Prague and probably spent several hours enjoying the view, the bridge itself and the people scene. The first stone bridge over the Vltava River, replacing a wooden construction, was built in the 12th century during the reign of King Vladislav I. This bridge, named Judith Bridge, collapsed in 1342.Charles Bridge is a stone Gothic bridge that connects the Old Town and Malá Strana. It was actually called the Stone Bridge during the first several centuries. It is said that egg yolks were mixed into the mortar to strengthen the construction of the bridge. Unlike its predecessor, Charles Bridge has survived many floods, most recently in August 2002, when the country experienced the worst flood in the past 500 years - so the egg yolks must not have been such a bad idea. Considering the weight of tourists it has to bear, it's surprising this one hasn't collapsed too!The Charles Bridge is 502 meters long. Resting on 16 arches, it was wide enough for four carriages to cross at the same time and was for a long time the only permanent link between both riversides. On the Lesser Town end of the Charles Bridge there are two bridge towers. The smaller one is a 12th-century remainder of the Judith Bridge. The taller late-Gothic tower was erected in 1464 on the orders of King George of Podebrady, who wanted a counterweight to the Old Town Bridge Tower.Thirty Baroque statues began to be placed on either side of Charles Bridge in the 17th century. Now many of them are copies. The most popular statue is probably the one of St. John of Nepomuk, a Czech martyr saint who was executed during the reign of Wenceslas IV by being thrown into the Vltava from the bridge. The plaque on the statue has been polished to a shine from countless people touching it over the centuries. Touching the statue is supposed to bring good luck and ensure your return to Prague. Of course, I touched it.Charles Bridge is also popular with Czech artists, musicians and souvenir vendors whose stands line both sides of the bridge year-round. You will find artists selling their wares, tourists by the thousands and wily thieves and pickpockets. A great time of day to come to the bridge is after sunset, when one can enjoy a breathtaking view of the fully lit Prague Castle against the evening sky. Don’t forget the camera.I visited in October, when visitor numbers are down, but I was told that the bridge becomes unbearably crowded during peak season. That’s when you have to be particularly wary of pickpockets.
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