City overcomes Communism to become beacon of heritage

March 21, 2013


POSH TRANSPORT: One of the more relaxing ways to get about the streets of Prague.


CITY CENTRE: Looking down into the city centre from the National Museum.


ORGAN GRINDER : This gentleman plays his mini fairground organ to tourists on the King Charles Bridge.


CZECH SAINT: I am below a statue of Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia and the inspiration behind the Christmas carol, Good King Wenceslas.View from Prague Castle

PANORAMIC VIEW: Looking down on the city of Prague from the roof of the castle.



PRAGUE is the fourteenth biggest city in the European Union and the capital of the Czech Republic.

For me it is one of the most stunning cities with its baroque architecture and the contrast struck me of how it has changed between my three visits there in the summer of 1992; November 2010 and September 2011.

It is the historical capital of Bohemia and the city is home to one and a half million people and has a temperate oceanic climate with warm summers and cold winters.

It was previously an economic, cultural and political centre of Europe; was a major city in the Austro-Hungarian empire and it became the capital of what was then Czechoslovakia after World War I.

Like the town of Cesky Krumlov and its castle mentioned in a earlier post, Prague has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

One of the most prominent landmarks in the city is the King Charles Bridge. It crosses the River Vltava which flows through the city. Construction started in 1357 under the direction of King Charles IV and finished at the start of the 15th Century. It is an important physical connection between Prague Castle and the Old Town of the city.

At 621 metres long and 10 metres wide, it is said to be one of the most distinctive gothic-style buildings of its time. Activity is largely quiet at night but many street artists and vendors try to tempt tourists with assembled souvenirs along it’s stretch and it is almost like running the gauntlet.

Prague is a very popular tourist destination and is listed as the sixth most visited city in Europe receiving just over four million foreign visitors annually.

Wenceslas Square, in the New Town area, is named after the patron saint of Bohemia. Wenceslas was the Duke of Bohemia between 921 and 935 when he was assassinated He is the subject of Good King Wenceslas, a St Stephen’s Day carol written over 900 years later, in 1853, that remains popular to this day.

On 16 January 1968 the street hit the news when student Jan Palach set fire to himself in protest at the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Russian communists. Twenty-one years later the street captured the mood of the November Revolution, which saw the collapse of Communist rule in the country which had lasted for 44 years.

Prague Castle’s history stretches back almost 1,300 years. Between the 12th and 14th centuries it was a Romanesque palace but King Charles IV upgraded it to a Gothic-style building and strengthened it’s fortifications.

The castle was the scene of the Prague Spring of 1968 when protesters chanted Alexander Dubček’s name in protest at the Russian invasion of their country. They shouted “Dubček to the Castle!” As they pushed for him to take his seat as president of the country at Prague Castle, he embraced the crowd as a symbol of democratic freedom.

When the Czech Republic split from Slovakia, the castle became the residence of their first president Václav Havel. The castle also includes the Gothic St Vitus Cathedral, the Romanesque basilica of St George, a monastery, garden, several palaces and defense towers. It is also home to several museums.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the castle is the largest of its kind in the world at 570 metres long and 130 metres wide.

The city is home to one of Europe’s oldest Jewish communities. They are believed to have settled in Prague in the tenth century. When the Nazis occupied the city, it was feared they would eradicate the ghetto but wanted the area was preserved to provide a site for a planned “exotic museum of an extinct race”.

This meant that the Nazis gathered Jewish artefacts from all over central Europe for display in Josefov.

In conclusion the Prague residents were very friendly and the clean streets are a reflection of the pride in their city and their culture. Making the effort to say please or thankyou or hello in Czech is not mandatory of course as it is a difficult language to learn for English-speaking folk, but I know it would be greatly appreciated.

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