Prague!

“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

Gustave Flaubert 

This weekend Yaren, Keisha, and I embarked on a whirlwind 2-day trip to Prague.  I have to admit, I am surprised by how quickly and intensely I fell in love with the city.  While I generally enjoy and appreciate large, historic cities, normally I feel content after spending a couple days there.  However, Prague took my breath away and I am already planning to come back once spring is here.  Below are some of the highlights:

Prague castle and St. Vitus Cathedral

Prague Castle is among the most famous and most spectacular places to visit while in Prague.  It is believed that the castle was first founded during medieval times, around 880.  Starting the 10th century, the castle was used to house kings, princes, the head of state, and the Prague Bishop.  The Basilica of St. Vitus (St. Vitus’ Cathedral) was built within the castle walls in the 11th century.  Both the castle and cathedral have seen renovations over the years, continuing to this day.  However, most of the structures are the original construction and they exhibit immense history and beauty.

I loved visiting the Prague Castle because it reminded me of a fairy tale.  Inside the castle walls there is an entire community, with many buildings, and I could imagine the royal family and friends living within the walls.  It was more than just a single building, but instead a royal and beautiful village within the city of Prague.

Old Town Square, including Prague Orloj, Tyn Church, and St. Nicholas’ Church

In the heart of Prague you can find the Old Town Square, known for its historical architecture and beautiful buildings.  Within the square you can find Prague Orloj, which is a famous astronomical clock installed in 1410 on the Old Town Hall building.  It is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest still in operation.  It continues to have a small “performance” every hour, during which two doors high on the tower open, several statues move within them, and the bells ring.

The largest building in the area is a gothic church, known as Church of our Lady before Týn.  The church was constructed in the 14th century and has towers over 80 meters tall.  Another spectacular building in Old Town Square is the Church of Saint Nicholas.  It was built in the 1730s and is Baroque style.  We were able to enter the church, and the inside was extremely beautiful and contained a Baroque organ played by Mozart when he visited Prague.

Vyšehrad and Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul

This historic castle was probably my favorite place to visit in Prague.  It is believed it was built as a fort in the 10th century.  Within the fort you can find the Vyšehrad cemetery which contains the remains of many prominent and famous Czech figures.  You can also visit the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, which is a beautiful neo-Gothic church built in 1070.  My favorite part of this church was the stunning stained glass windows all around the church.

The fort sits high on top of a hill, looking over the Vltava River.  It is possible to walk on top of the ancient walls of the fort, giving a beautiful view of Prague.  The fort is full of gardens and trees and is a very peaceful place to visit.  There were far fewer people in this area and was a nice walk through nature in the middle of a big city.

Dancing House

The Prague dancing house is the most modern of the famous attractions in the city.  Built in 1994, it is very different from the rest of the city, and at first was the subject of controversy among locals.  However, it is now a symbol of the transition from Czechoslovakia (under communist rule) to the Czech Republic.  It is designed to resemble famous dancers Fred and Ginger.

Lennon Wall

Another popular place in Prague that stands out against the historical architecture is the John Lennon Wall.  After the murder of John Lennon in 1980, people in Prague decorated the wall with graffiti in remembrance of Lennon.  At the time, the communist regime was angered by the wall and tried to cover the graffiti, but more people came and decorated it.  Today, people can visit the wall and add their own inspirational pictures and quotes.

Petřín hill and Lookout Tower

Petřín lookout tower is another more modern attraction in Prague.  The tower sits on top of a large hill in the middle of the city.  The hill is a gorgeous walk and climb through trees and grass and ends at Petřín village, which consists of several small churches, buildings, and the tower.  Tourists can pay to go to the top of the tower for one of the best views of the city.  We chose to enjoy the view from the bottom of the tower without going to the top.  Near the tower is also part of a medieval wall built to protect the city and castle from attacks.

There is also an interesting memorial at the bottom of Petřín hill, the Victims of Communism Memorial.  The memorial is in honor of those who were arrested, killed, and exiled during the communist rule in Czechoslovakia.  The memorial depicts a series of bronze figures, each of which is more decayed than the last, with eventually the last figure being essentially nonexistent.

Charles’ Bridge

Charles’ Bridge is the most famous spot in Prague, and one of the most visited spots in all of Europe.  The bridge crosses the Vltava river and was constructed starting in 1357.  There are two towers, one standing on each end of the bridge.  Lining the sides of the bridge there are Baroque statues from the 17th century.

We visited Charles’ bridge at the end of our second day and watched the sunset over the river.  Although it was fairly overcast, it was a beautiful place to visit and I’m glad we got to see it at such a wonderful time. 

Prague is my favorite European city I’ve visited so far.  It was surprisingly peaceful and quiet in most places and was full of history.  Everywhere you look there is another gorgeous building.  I had a great time with Yaren and Keisha, both of whom come from different backgrounds from me, but share many similar opinions and views.  We were able to talk about religion, politics, culture and more, each learning many new things about the others’ countries.  As I have said before, this is my favorite part of my study abroad experience.  I am meeting so many interesting and incredible people, and I am having my eyes opened about the rest of the world.

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