Researching before a trip is good, but it’s still a shock when you arrive. The picture above revealed more about Prague, City of the Czech Republic, than what we had read. Prague, derived from the old Slavic root “Praga” means “ford” and the second one above is the Charles Bridge (1402) crossing the Vitava River, the most important connection between Prague Castle (up the hill on the right) and the Old Town (on the left). This bridge gave birth to the city.
We crossed, heading for Prague Castle. This pedestrian bridge was crowded: locals, tourists, sellers of all the accouterments of a popular tourist site. There are 30 statures (1700) of important saints and heroes posted along the sides.
St. Vitus Cathedral (1344) dominates the hilltop and the castle surrounds it. The original castle was built in 1135 (still visible in the basement) while another was built in the 13th century….and another in the 14th. The site is a treasure trove of period buildings and antiquities.
We were greeted by guards at the entrance…but without searches or charge.
There are numerous squares in this large castle and we only had the time and energy to check out this one, a museum and coffee at an outdoor café. We decided to head down to the Charles Bridge and the Old Town.
Our return path stepped down steeply through the narrow street with tightly clustered houses looming above us. About half-way, we stopped for lunch and a glass of wine…reviving!
The Wenceslas Square
Later the Square was mobbed with a million Czechs assembled to celebrate their riddance of the Nazis followed by the process of separation from the Soviet Union. This area with the statue, lights, restaurants and people seemed to reflect their joy!
Down the street Mike spotted the Grand Hotel Europa (fitting name).
Rebuilt in 1889 in the Art Nouveau Style with glittering lights and bright colors.
Notice the columns, brown woodwork and arches in the 1st level bar/café. The dining room above is partially hidden behind the beautiful, arched balcony.
We had an excellent dinner in the upstairs restaurant —where it was difficult to efficiently place the fork in one’s mouth—while staring at the beautiful décor. After wiping our faces, we decided to look at one more square. There was lots of pedestrian activity and many lights. The National Theatre was nearby and well lit.
When the original theatre burnt down in 1881, it had become so vital to the National Consciousness, that Czechs from all walks of life contributed money to rebuilding. In 1868, this picture shows the result of their desire for music, plays, artists and writers. Theaters sprang up all over the country emphasizing the importance of the Czech culture.
Standing by the river, looking up at the top, I thought there were people moving about ….but only statues. Time to return to the hotel and bed…….too much wine with dinner.
The next morning we headed across Wenceslas Square to the National Museum.
This Neo-Renaissance structure, completed in 1890, over looked the square and was fronted by a fountain splashing water over an allegorical figure that symbolized the Czech Nation. If you were there and looking closely at the façade, you would shell marks from the Worsaw Pack tanks from the Prague invasion in 1968.
What a delight to enter the Museum and see the spectacular Grand Staircase with
an overhead skylight! This hall way leads to the Pantheon…which would have been fascinating, but we had more places to go and much to see.
On to the Staronova Synagogue of the Old-New Synagogue (originally called the “New” Synagogue until another was built nearby and later destroyed ).
Built around 1270, this is the oldest Synagogue in Europe. It survived fires, slum clearances of the 19th century and Jewish pogroms. It frequently was a refuge and now is a religious center for Jews. It is almost totally surrounded by the Old Jewish Cemetery.
In the 13th century the Prague Ghetto had been formed by Jewish Tradesmen who settled here . There were conflicts over the following years but the Ghetto grew and became part of Prague.
In 1940 the Nazis arrived and the Jews were registered and segregated. The Nazis confiscated their homes, businesses, apartments and closed the Synagogues. Then they deported them to concentration camps. The Ghetto cemetery
Founded in 1478, this was the only burial ground permitted to Jews. Due to the lack of space, bodies were buried on top of bodies—up to 12 layers deep. There are over 12,000 gravestones standing, but it’s estimated that there are over 100,000 bodies buried there.
The Jewish Ghetto, ironically, survived destruction because, although the Nazis destroyed ghettos elsewhere, they wanted to preserve this Prague “collection” as a Museum of the extinct Jewish Race in Europe after the Final Solution had been achieved!!