Magical Prague

Prague Castle at night

Prague is without doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  We spent three days in Prague yet I felt we could have spent three months and still not have taken in all the city has to offer.  The detail and beauty of its architecture alone left me reeling.  It seemed that every time I walked by a building, I discovered some new detail I’d missed earlier.  Prone as I am to wax at length on history and architcture, I think this posting will mostly be pictures with  limited commentary, after a brief introduction to the basic historical facts.  (I promise I’ll be brief!)

Prague, or Praha, as the Czechs call it, is the capital of the Czech Republic, formerly of Czechoslovokia. Historians cite remains of paleolithic settlements, but it seems the “modern” history of Prague as a major city and the capital of the Czechs, under whatever titular ruling, began in the late 800’s C.E. Prague Castle with its crown, St. Vitus Cathedral, pictured above at night and below in day, has its origins in the early 10th century.  The castle complex, as you can see, dominates the northern skyline over the Vltava River.  We stayed on the south side, in the “Old Town” in a lovely hotel called the Cloister Inn.  As one can gather from its name, the hotel was once a convent, and what are now spacious hotel rooms were individual cells.  However, there is quite a 20th century twist:  during the Communist era, the Secret Police took over the facility, and converted the religious abodes (pardon the pun) to “holding” cells.  If that is the case, then both nuns and political prisoners had quite rooomy accommodations!

Prague Castle, the Castle District and the "Lesser Town"

The “crown” of the castle is St. Vitus Cathedral, dating to 926 C.E., whose spires dominate an already intimidatingly impressive skyline.  To enter the castle complex, you enter through three courtyard before you find yourself at the doors of the cathedral.

Entry gates to Prague Castle

Third Courtyard, Prague Castle

Third Courtyard, Prague Castle

The castle complex has several other churches, the royal palace, accompanying palaces by noblemen desiring proximity to the king, workmen’s housing, and, of course, the requisit dungeons and torture facility.  Again, I choose to provide photos in place of words, which are insufficient to describe this marvelous world heritage site.

St. George's Basilica at Prague Castle

Sternberg Palace, at Prague Castle complex

Workers' houses on Golden Lane. Franz Kafka, the Czech-born writer, worked during 1916-1917 at # 22

Hanging torture "cage", Daliborka Tower, Prague Castle

Daliborka Tower housed various political prisoners and other malcreants over the years.  The dungeon and torture chambers are quite small but the devices quite horrific.

I believe people were strapped into the device shown above, then left to hang, where gravity took its toll.  Sort of a vertical “rack”.  However, at this point we didn’t have a guide but a less-than-perfect “guide book” , so if anyone cares to comment and/or correct, please feel free.

View from the castle complex.

And now to the south side of the river and “Old Town”.  The heart of Prague, “Old Town” has the  cobbled, twisted streets of  a medieval city and an incredibly rich architectural smorgasbord.  As in most old cities, there is a main plaza, ringed with churches, the town hall, palatial residences and guild halls.

St. Nicholas Church, Main Square, OldTown

Our Lady of Tyn Church, Main Square, OldTown

Beautiful building, now Tourist Info Office

Decorative horses for tourise coaches in main square

Side street off main square shows how narrow a "main" street can be

Kinsky Palace, on main square, now an art museum

Astrological Clock, Old Town Hall, Main Square. Every hour the two upper wooden windows wood open and statuary figures rotated in an allegorical depiction of Death, Vanity and Greed.

Moving allegorical figures on town hall clock tower

Hard to see, but above are some of the moving statues.

Many of the panoramic pictures of Prague are taken from the Charles Bridge.  Michael and I walked this bridge daily, often at twilight, taking in the incredible sights of Prague Castle, the old town’s beauty — and jostling with all the other tourists.  Incredibly, Prague was as crowded as Florence, whether day or night.

This crucifix with Hebrew caption stymied us. Anyone care to translate or explain?

Penguins on the Vltava with Charles Bridge in the background

Prague has a rich Jewish history.  While we never made it into any of the old synagogues that comprised the sprawling Jewish “museum”, we did spend some shoe leather and time walking the old Jewish section, just off the old town plaza.  Some of the buildings were incredibly beautiful.

The old Spanish Synagogue

Jewish Ceremonial Hall, Next to Jewish Cemetary (to the left of the Hall)

Old Jewish Cemetary. The last burial was in 1787. Land allotted to the Jews for this cemetery was severely limited so plots were dug deep ough to permit twelve bodies to be buried vertically, one atop the other.

Old-New Synagogue. Completed in 1270, this "new" synagogue became known as the "New Old Synagogue" as the Jewish community grew during the Middle Ages and additional synagogues were constructed.

There are so many beautiful aspects of Prague, one posting cannot do it justice, no matter how many pictures I post.  I’ll end with a series of photos showing some of the many details that captivated my attention and admiration for this city.  One note:  I realize I have said nothing about the Czech Republic’s recent history, and for that I apologize (to those of you who expect some political and historical commentary.  However, I was so overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and magic of this city that I’ve chosen simply to share a few pictures (I took hundreds) of a few sights I loved the most.

Decorative details and favorite buildings:

One of my favorite buildings, just off the main square

.

Some detail

Figure on mill water wheel. I'm not sure what he's supposed to be doing or guarding, but he IS unique.

Building frieze of storks

Praue is most definitey a city I will return to, although the next time will be in the off season!

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