Prague, Czech Republic 5/01

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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 Prague Castle 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.

Prague 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.

After dinner, we tried to get some shots of Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge at night from the river's edge, but they turned out blurred. The best effort is shown in the first picture below.

Wednesday May 16th

On the last morning in Prague we walked through the district south and east of our hotel. The second and third pictures below show the Main Rail Station and the Radio Free Europe building. The last picture from the trip (below right) illustrates a phenomenon we noticed throughout Prague - there are a large number of very tall women in this city. We theorized that there must have been Miracle Grow in the food, but it seemed to only affect women. Go figure.

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