Monday, June 23, 2014

Prague Walking Tour

Our first morning in Prague was a rainy one, but it seemed to fit the sometimes dreary feeling one can get when touring monuments and historic sites, many of which have dark and bloody histories. Prague has of course seen her share of triumphs and tragedies, and we had a Rick Steves audio tour to show us the way.

But first, let's see where Michael Hutchence walked for the music video of the INXS classic Never Tear Us Apart...

Yep, filmed exclusively in Prague. Wish we had seen that before we went, we could have done a recreation.

The first stop is the monument to the Czech hero, St. Wenceslas of Good King Wenceslas fame. We had been by this statue on our first wild scramble to our hostel, but now we were able to appreciate the square at our own pace.

St. Wenceslas Statue Prague
St. Wenceslas Statue Prague

Wenceslas organized, Christianized, and cultured the early Bohemian kingdom in the tenth century. After he was killed, he was made a saint by the Catholic church. Since then, he has become not just a political and religious hero to the Czechs, but their national mascot and identity. His monument looks proudly down the hill over most of the city today.

Prague has a variety of art and architecture styles in its many neighborhoods. The Communist Soviets built many of those functional but terribly ugly gray concrete slabs as they tried to develop Prague as a western stronghold. Other decidedly non-communist buildings like the Art Nouveau Grand Hotel Europa seem to glow among the concrete and steel.

Grand Hotel Europa Prague
Grand Hotel Europa

In the square, a number of small monuments and memorials are dedicated to the mostly peaceful Czech independence movement. Nonviolent students gathered here to demand, and ultimately receive, freedom from the Soviets in the late twentieth century. When the communists left, the Czech nation was free to grow and prosper with a more western economy. Interestingly, the communists left behind them a fantastic public transport system of buses, trams, and subways- something a small city like Prague could never afford to build with its own resources.

Dublin in its best financial times couldn't even get a sensible public transport system working, decided instead to build The Spire of Dublin.

"A [country] with money is like a mule with a spinning wheel, no one knows how he got it, and danged if he knows how to use it!" -Lyle Lanley, The Simpsons
Also on the tour is this great modern sculpture of King Wenceslas riding and upside down horse handing in a shopping center.

Wenceslas Riding an Upside Down Horse Prauge
Wenceslas Riding an Upside Down Horse

Farther along, we visited one of the old gates from Prague's old security wall. This is the Powder Tower, build to store the city's supply of gunpowder in the fifteenth century. Today it is nothing more than possibly the most beautiful traffic bottleneck in the world.

Powder Tower Prague
Powder Tower

We arrived later at the Old Town Square, home of many of Prague's famous buildings and monuments. This includes a dedication to Jan Hus (Yahn Hoose), a Czech religious reformer who questioned the Catholic church and was killed for his trouble a century before Martin Luther.

Jan Hus Memorial Prague
Jan Hus Memorial Prague

Behind the memorial is the old center of Hus' teachings, the Tyn Church. It was the center of the Hussite church until the German Catholics conquered Prague in the seventeenth century and made the church Catholic.

...Much like the Anglicans seizing St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, making it a Protestant Cathedral named after Ireland's most Catholic of Catholic heroes. Huh. The Prague/Dublin similarities continue...

Tyn Church Prague
Tyn Church Prague

At the end of the tour, we ended up back at the Charles Bridge, center of our Prague operations.

Prague's Charles Bridge
Prague's Charles Bridge

After the walk, it was time for lunch and more Eastern European adventures!

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