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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.