Novelist Franz Kafka, known for his story concerning a giant cockroach, wrote of his birth city "Prague never lets you go...this dear little mother has sharp claws."
Mozart said of his second city, "My Praguers Understand me." And finally Hitler thought the city too beautiful to bomb. We could have all done without that last one, but needless to say the greats (with exception of one aforementioned) of arts and policy have always been drawn to Prague. And so have I.
-Beth McKee Deckard
They say timing is everything. My trip to Prague, with a one-day stopover in London to visit my lifelong friend whose blog I am a guest writer, definitely proves that point. I arrived in Prague, meeting my sister-in-law Stacy, on Monday, March 2nd and retuned to the U.S. on that Saturday. The word pandemic had not been officially associated with Coronavirus until I got home.
Though I am a life-long traveler, this was my first opportunity to visit the Czech Republic. Actually this was my first visit to any of the Eastern European countries. I was a little worried about a language barrier but found most people in Prague speak a second language and, lucky for me, many speak English. I am amazed and thankful for these people’s skill as I had no time to try to pick up any more than a few very basic words in Czech like thank you, hello, and please.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Humans inhabited the region as early as the Palaeolithic Age and had established settlements by the 4th Century BC. The region became the seat of the dukes, and later kings of Bohemia. Under Holy Roman Emperor Otto II the area became a bishopric in 973.
Prague flourished during the 14th-century reign of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and the king of Bohemia. He transformed Prague into an imperial capital and it was at that time the third-largest city in Europe.
World War I ended with the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the creation of Czechoslovakia. Prague was its capital and Prague Castle as the seat of president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Prague was a true European capital with a developed industry. By 1930, the population had risen to 850,000.
Following WW2 and the Cold War, Prague was a city in the territory of military and political control of the Soviet Union.
In 1989, riot police beat back a peaceful student demonstration. The response began the Velvet Revolution.
This peaceful overthrow of the Soviet establishment was led by poet and future president Vaclav Havel.
In 1993, after the Velvet Divorce, Prague became the capital city of the new Czech Republic.
Prague is a lovely, old city. It is called the City of a Hundred Spires for reasons you will see for yourself as soon as you walk into the Old Town and cross the Charles Bridge. The Old Town, like in most European countries, is where the tourists flock. In summer months it is packed with humanity. In March, it was lovely with room to moving around and take photos.
Prague, or Praha in Czech, It is separated into sections. Praha 1 is the Old Town area.
I am a big history buff. So, my favourite bit of coming to Europe is seeing the architecture and diving into particular bits of a city's history.
There is a lot of it in Prague. A large portion of the historic buildings survived the Nazis and the Communists. There is the Jewish Quarter (Josefov) with museums and several synagogues.
We spent a morning in this section. The Jewish Cemetery is where I was able imagine what it was like when it was the ghetto as generations of people are buried on top of each other.
This area is now the up and coming area and home to one some of the best high-end shops.
The next day we spent a good part of the morning at the Castle. It’s a group of buildings include Saint Vitus, a large cathedral, a smaller Romanesque church, a palace, and houses, formerly used for the nobles and servant of the court. The strong sun provided a spectacular show that morning as it radiated through the beautiful stained glass of St. Vitus Cathedral.
Of course, we ate some traditional Czech food and drank a number of Czech beers while we were there, particularly Pilsner Urquell the first lager of its kind.
And what would a trip to Prague be without a day tour to Pilsen and the Pilsner Brewery. In fact, we took a day trip to the city of Pilsen where we of course toured the brewery which was established in the mid-1800s. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at the brewery. I'm not much of a beer drinker, but I really enjoyed the Pilsner Urquell!
We hired a private tour guide through realpraguetours.com. Michal, our guide, was wonderful. We had great conversations about the Czech Republic as he drove Stacy and I the 90 minutes to Pilsen.
In Pilsen, we climbed St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral to top of its tower. This is the tallest church tower in the Czech Republic. The cathedral was constructed during the 14th and 15th centuries in the middle of the town square.
We really enjoyed the traditional and local foods of Prague. Our favourite meal was at Next Door. It is a smaller, sister restaurant to the well-known Café Imperial. Next Door is a bistro with a formal sitting area in the middle and bistro style next to the kitchen in the back. They serve traditional Czech cuisine with a modern twist. Make sure you save room for dessert. It was a wonderful meal, with great service, good conversation, and delicious food!
Gustav Meyrink wrote: “Prague does not have its name for no reason - in truth, Prague is a threshold between the life on Earth and Heaven, a threshold much thinner and narrower then in any other places…”
I can definitely understand why. The definition of Praha is rapid, and there is so much to see and do in Prague that we were in a rush to do it all! When we are able to travel again, Prague will be on the top of my list for return trips!
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