A Travellerspoint blog

Czech Republic

Holiday in Prague

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It is October 28th and the Czechs are enjoying a National Holiday commemorating the nation’s creation on this day in 1918. What a day to be in Prague! Rejoicing throngs crowd Wenceslas square. The band is playing; flags waving; people dancing for joy…
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Whoa – Hold your horses. There’s something wrong with this picture.
Today is actually the anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia – a country that fell apart more than 22 years ago when the Czechs had a bust up with their neighbours the Slavs. These people aren’t celebrating unity: it’s just another student protest rally. Never mind; most Czechs are just enjoying a day off and doing the town. Sightseers pack the 14th century Charles Bridge as buskers and portraitists use the occasion to make a koruna or two…
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This guy played beautiful classical music on his crystal wine glasses…
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And these musicians beat out some traditional Dixieland jazz…
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Behind them the enormous Prague castle complex sprawls over the hilltop. The castle, a city within the city, grew for more than a thousand years as palaces, churches and military buildings were added by subsequent kings and archbishops. This is St. Vitus cathedral built in the 1400s.
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However most of the elaborate stained glass windows are actually art deco dating from the 1920s…
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The cathedral is the resting place of most of the kings and bishops of Bohemia. This is the elaborately decorated tomb of Good King Wenceslas from the early 1500s…
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An interesting castle oddity is this row of Lilliputian houses that were built into the walls by soldiers in the 15th century…
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For good reason Prague is the 6th most visited city in Europe. This city has everything; history, architecture, music, culture, shopping, eating and beer – gallons of beer. The place is awash in beer and at about three dollars a litre the Czechs have reason to make merry on their non-existent National Day.
While it may seem somewhat bizarre to celebrate belonging to a country that no longer exists we are reminded that us Canadians still celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria on May 24th – and she fell off her throne more than a hundred years ago. Hey – a day off is a day off whatever the reason.

Posted by Hawkson 08:20 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (4)

Prague’s Split Personality

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Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is at a crossroads twixt Europe and Asia and in the middle ages it was a major trading post where the products of both continents were exchanged. Many of Prague’s elegant buildings date from this period when it was the centre of the Holy Roman Empire…
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The city comes alive at night when thousands flock into its historic squares…
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Our restaurant this evening was built in 1392 and the original murals still decorate the walls – the Bohemian goulash was delicious…
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The river Vitava splits the capital in two with the old city and castle on one bank and the newer, medieval city, on the other. The two halves are joined by a series of bridges, none more famous than the 14th century Charles Bridge…
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This bridge has withstood nearly 700 years of wars and floods and looks strong enough to survive another 700.

Prague was the seat of King Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia from 907–935 AD. The Christmas carol about him giving alms to a poor peasant was written in 1853 by an Englishman and set to the melody of a 13th-century Finnish carol (Isn’t it amazing what you can discover on the internet?). This is the King’s statue in Wenceslas Square…
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However the square, famous for uprisings and victory speeches, was just a horse market in the 13th century. The statue and king’s name only appeared in 1848 and the enormous square became the focus for many lavish buildings including the national museum. Today it is the venue for Starbucks, Marks & Spencer’s, H&M, McDonalds and numerous other western companies that have flocked here since the communists’ downfall in 1989…
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At 12 o’clock each day the 15th century astrological clock (circa 1420) in the old city centre chimes the hour as the small figures of 12 apostles appear in windows above the clock face. Hundreds of tourists cram into the square to watch this event every day and most leave completely underwhelmed by the experience….
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As we stroll the cobblestone streets today it is difficult to believe that Prague has recently been the loser in a tug-o’-war between its neighbours. The Germans seized the country in the lead-up to WW2 and in August 1968 the Russians invaded to put down a student uprising that threatened the communist leadership. Today, Prague is as capitalist as any other European city, but the architecture has a distinctly Russian feel.

There are other reminders of Soviet years here too: the bureaucracy when checking into a hotel; the seeming indifference of tourist information officers, and the Matryoshka dolls. However, in Prague these traditional Russian dolls, (where successively smaller wooden dolls fit inside each other), are more likely to portray foreign sportsmen rather than plump Soviet maidens…
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Prague is a very popular city for European youngsters seeking a good time in the clubs, pubs and bars where the beer is cheap and almost everyone speaks English. The food is inexpensive as well – less than half the cost of Paris. And there are some eastern treats like Trdelnik…
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The spirals of pastry cooked over an open flame are delicious…especially when slathered in chocolate sauce or strawberry jam.

Posted by Hawkson 01:02 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (3)

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