The most beautiful city...
Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge
Prague certainly lived up to its image as the most
beautiful city in Europe. The architecture is stunning
and the contrasts of a thousand years of buildings still
standing is impressive. Prague was largely undamaged in
20th century wars, which partially explains the
diversity of its architecture. At the same time, Prague
has the tense feeling of a city on the edge and in
conflict. It is the kind of place that will look the
same, but feel dramatically different in ten years.
The people of Prague seem proud, but the
city is still emerging from years of revolution and Soviet
rule. From a petty crime standpoint, it does not seem like a
safe city and you always have to be watching out for someone
ripping you off. For instance, in a nice restaurant along the
river, the menu warns you to only pay the pre-printed part of
the bill, as the waiters will write in extra charges (which
they did). John lost his wallet to a pickpocket on the subway
the first morning.
Old Town Square in the evening
Monday May 14th
After returning the rental car across town and canceling
credit cards from John's stolen wallet, we headed out toward
along the "Royal Route", used during the inauguration of
kings. The walk through the small streets and across Old Town
Square was scenic. We crossed the Vltava River using the 14th
century Charles Bridge (large picture upper left), which has a
long history connecting the walled city of the castle with the
rest of the area. The first and second pictures above show the
narrow streets and the astronomical clock in Old Town Square.
Castle dates from the 9th century and was built in
vertical layers and horizontally out from the original center.
The third and fourth pictures above show the square in front
of the castle entrance. Like much of Prague, this square
contains many centuries of architecture next to one another.
The first two pictures below are the area just inside the
walls of the castle.
The castle itself was an entire working city. The third
picture below shows 16th century "Golden Lane" which was built
into the fortifications to house sharpshooters. The small
houses evolved into tradesmen residences and then shops. The
fourth picture below is just outside the castle wall on the
way to the Royal Garden showing newer architecture
side-by-side with old. We had dinner at Kampa Park along the
river, which was very good.
Tuesday May 15th
We headed out in the morning to walk the parts of the city
we hadn't seen. The first two pictures below are from the
Jewish Ghetto area. The third picture is the 1921 cubist
"House at the Black Mother of God". The fourth picture below
is a famous controversial architectural landmark, the Rasin
Embankment Building (dubbed the Dancing Building), said to
have been modeled after Fred Astaire giving Ginger Rogers a
twirl above the Vltava River. This picture only shows Ginger's
side. The French restaurant in the "Dancing Building",
La Perle de
Prague was the best of the trip and unbelievably cheap.
After lunch we walked through Charles Square and Wenceslas
Square, the site of uprisings in the 60s. Just off Charles
Square we spotted the building in the first picture below. The
next two pictures below are from Wenceslas Square. Just off
Wenceslas Square we stopped in at the
Mucha Museum, which
was excellent. The best piece there from my perspective was
"The Lottery" (1912) which includes Mucha's not-so-subtle
revolution overtones. From there we headed back to Prague
Castle to get some views looking over the city (fourth picture
below). We had dinner at the highly recommended Bellvue, but
it did not live up to its reputation.
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