Prague, old world charm!

This is another dandy in Europe, well done and rebuilt very nice after all. I have been by here several times, and even on business trips. The city of Prague has kept its old world charm ,it has been kept very nicely with a quant squares and narrow streets especially in Praha 1 district. 

I like to update this post on an introduction to the city of Prague and its history. I have posts on its main monuments in my blog. Hope you enjoy it as I.

Prague is the capital and the largest city in the Czech Republic. It is at the same time one of the fourteen regions of the country, the capital of the administrative region of Central Bohemia and the capital of the historical region of Bohemia. It is crossed by the Vltava river.  Prague is located 250 km from Vienna, 280 km from Berlin and 300 km from Munich as well as 1038 km from Paris! I have come here only by air, however, done road warrior trip from Prague into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.(see post)

A general overview base on friends and my use of the airport. I have come by air at Prague International Airport, also called Praha-Václav-Havel,(after the great leader of free Czech Republic)  located to the west of the city. Prague,(see post)  which is at the center of the Czech railway network, has four main stations: the Central station Praha hlavní nádraží; station Praha Masarykovo nádraží; Praha-hole Holešovice and Smíchov Station. The main one is at Hlavni. The main highways that radiate from Prague are the D1, which leads to Jihlava and via Brno, to Bratislava, the D5 which leads to Pilsen and, via Rozvadov, to Nuremberg, the D8, which goes to Ústí nad Labem; And the D11, which leads to Hradec Králové. The main European road passing through Prague of interest to me is the European Road 50 which connects Brest (France) to Makhachkala (Russia), and on the books to one day try it. The city has a network of three metro lines, about twenty tram lines of day and a dozen of nights. In parallel, a bus network covers the city. Bus lines make the shuttle between Prague International Airport and the subway’s A and B lines. 

prague gates of old city jun16

In the past , Prague was the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Holy Roman Empire and Czechoslovakia . In modern Czech, práh means “threshold”, the name comes from an old Slavic root, Praga, which means “Fort” according to the legend, the city was founded under the order of Libuše, prophetess and mythical founder of the reigning lineage of the Přemyslid, where a man named Přemysl, a mere laborer who became her husband and the first king of Bohemia. Others, fascinated by the magical character of the city, claim that it is the threshold, the gateway to other worlds or other dimensions. The history of Prague is very rich and associates the Duchy of Bohemia with the great moments of European medieval history.

Some of the most Important areas of Prague from a tourist point of view (I have been to the other side as far as Praha 10) in my opinion are Malá Strana (“small Side” in Czech) is a baroque district, entirely rebuilt in the early 17C following major fires. Situated on a slope that rises towards the Royal and Imperial Castle, it is the district of the Great Imperial nobility (Lobkowicz, Sternberg, Thun…) that has built wonderful mansions after the Battle of the White Mountain, in a baroque style.  Hradčany, the Castle District situated on the left bank of the Vltava River, it dominates the lower town by the complex structure of the Imperial Castle of Habsburg and that of the kings of Bohemia, as well as the bell tower of the Cathedral of Saint-Guy. This district is composed of countless palaces of great lords, convents, monasteries, Renaissance houses, parks and gardens.  The Old Town is one of the Prague districts characteristic of its harmonious accumulation of all the architectural styles of Europe. Its main point is the old place of Staroměstské náměstí, its town hall, the astronomical clock , its many narrowed-themed houses, its baroque and neo-Baroque palaces, and the famous Cubist house with the Black Madonna.  Vyšehrad, the first castle in Prague this term literally means in Czech “the castle from Above”. This was the place of the first Prague castle in the time of the Dukes of Bohemia. This is also where we find the first religious building in Romanesque style. It is a romantic place turned into a barracks under Marie-Therese, then a nationalist memory in the 19C.

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Now a bit of history I like (a short as possible)!

The first written record mentioning Prague dates from 965. It is the result of a Jewish merchant from Andalusia, Ibrahim ibn Ya’qub. The town became a bishopric in 973. In 1170, Vladislav II built, the first stone Bridge on the Vltava River, the Judith Bridge, which, collapsed in 1342, will be replaced by a stone bridge, the famous Charles Bridge. On the other side of the Vltava river, the old town of Prague grows around its historic core of Týn and is populated by Czechs and a Jewish community in what will become Josefov. The city is experiencing its apogee with the King of Bohemia and future Germanic Emperor Charles IV (son of John of Luxembourg) who built the Charles Bridge (1357), the Cathedral of St. Guy (1344), founded in April 1348 Charles University, the first German university , and extends the city to the east and south to create the new city (1347) which doubles the area of the old town. In 1355, Charles IV made Prague the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.

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The daughter of Vladislav IV, Anne Jagiellonian, married Ferdinand of Austria, according to a dynastic agreement arranged by Maximilian I of the Holy Roman Empire in 1515, and the city soon passed under Habsburg domination after the death without heirs of Louis II.   The defeat of the Czech and Protestant armies at the Battle of the White Mountain in November 1620 and decapitation, place of the old Town (still marked today of 27 white crosses on the ground, in commemoration of the event), of the twenty-seven leaders of the revolt mark, for a long time, the end of the hopes of independence of the Bohemian states. The peace of Prague was signed in 1635 between the emperor and some Protestant German princes. In 1648, at the end of the Thirty Years ‘ War, the left bank of the city (Hradčany and Malá Strana) was invaded and looted by the Swedish Protestant armies shortly before the Westphalian treaties put an end to the hostilities that had led central Europe to fire and blood. In 1741, the War of the Austrian Succession saw the arrival of the troops of Frederick II of Prussia, allied with the French army of the Marshal of Belle-Isle who put the siege and took the city. 

The independence of Czechoslovakia, proclaimed on 28 October 1918, Prague became capital and many streets were renamed. Shortly before WWII, Prague welcomed the Czech refugees expelled from the Sudetenland attached to the third Reich following the Munich agreements. On 15 March 1939, Bohemia-Moravia was conquered in its entirety and Adolf Hitler parade at Prague Castle. On May 5, 1945, an insurrection erupts that will lead to the liberation of the city by a largely improvised resistance around a Czech National Council, which takes the lead of the insurrection. On 8 May, German troops capitulated and, according to prior agreements (with the weak west), the Red Army took Prague on 9 May 1945 during the Prague Offensive.

In 1968, the Prague spring marked the city in an ephemeral way, it was crushed in August by tanks of the Warsaw Pact armies, mostly  Soviets. The Prague people improvises resistance and fights take place, particularly around the Czechoslovak radio and television and the nearby National Museum. On January 16, 1969, Jan Palach set himself on fire in the Wenceslas Square to protest against the invasion of his country by the Soviet Union (again left alone by the weak west).  The Velvet Revolution, in 1989, marks for Prague as for the rest of the country a second liberation;  the omnipotence of the single party and its political police are collapsing, democratic freedoms are restored, the symbols of the dictatorship are and the names of certain streets, squares or stations of the Metro are democratized. The writer Vaclav Havel and ex political prisioner was elected President of the Republic and moved to Prague Castle.

Some brief things to see of what is in my blog posts.

The Castle District (Hradčany) with the Prague Castle;  Place des Hradčany (Hradčanské Náměstí): Archbishop Palace (Rococo); Palazzo Schwarzenberg (Renaissance) which houses the Museum of Military History; Palazzo Černín, the largest baroque palace in Prague (Ministry of Foreign Affairs); St. Vitus CathedralBasilica of St. George; The Golden Alley; The Royal Garden of Prague Castle (with the Queen Anne Belvedere, Renaissance style).

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Neighborhood of Malá strana: Church of St. Nicholas; Convent of Notre-Dame de Lorette; Palais Wallenstein The quarter of the old Town (Stare Město) has the Charles Bridge (Karlův most); Powder Tower; Old Town square there is the Astronomical clock; Old Town City Hall; Church of Notre-Dame of Týn; Kinsky Palace; Clementinum a showcase of the Czech National Library, features a sumptuous Baroque library, inherited from the time it housed Charles University in Prague and which is reminiscent of the Hofburg Library in Vienna; The House of Mozart is home to the Municipal House (1911) in the Smichov district; this is where he composed Don Giovanni. The musician’s first harpsichord and a wick of his hair are exposed. That said, museums offer rich collections that are worth visiting especially for me the National Museum which dominates its imposing mass Wenceslas square and that of pantheon of the Czech nation with a dome honoring the great men of the country.

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Some webpages to help you plan your trip and enjoy Prague are:

The City of Prague tourist officehttps://www.prague.eu/en

The unofficial Prague tourist board, nicehttps://www.praguecitytourism.cz/en

The Czech Republic tourist board on Praguehttps://www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/Destinations/Prague

There you go folks, something different from the East and worth a detour in Europe. See the old charm of Prague and yoiu will love it. And remember, happy travels , good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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