Doing “Downtown” Prague

Doing “Downtown” Prague

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(Continue along with Tales Told From The Road on a month-long virtual European journey.)

Yesterday we explored Prague’s Little Quarter and the Prague Castle complex.

Today we’re headed literally downhill, across the Charles River, into both “Old Town” and “New Town” Prague.

As we near the river, we find a humorous memorial to “Love” — padlocks fastened around an iron railing signifying lovers forever bound to each other.

Lennon Wall and Locks Collage

“Kaska” (“love” in Czech) was also written at the top of what is known as “The Lennon Wall,” a tribute to the late former Beetle, John Lennon.  Every year on the anniversary of his death people come to the wall to light candles in remembrance of him. There’s even a “John & George “ café next to the wall.

The Charles Bridge is the best known of the bridges that cross the Vitava River in Prague.  Locals (or knowledgeable tourists) touch a brass plaque below the statute of John of Nepomuk for good luck.

St John CollageLegend has it that the king had him stabbed and thrown off the bridge to his death after the priest refused to reveal the details of a confession made to him by the king’s wife.

Modern-day tourists don’t have to worry about being cast into the river, but can enoy a leisurely stroll across the bridge, stopping now and again to get their caricatures down by a street artist, buy artsy-craftsy souvenirs from vendors, or listen to an organ grinder.

Charles Bridge Collage

After making it to the other side of the river we’ll avoid the tourist throngs by veering off the main drag and stopping to look at the large library established by Jesuit monks who were kicked out by Hapsburg Emperor Josef II in the 1780’s. Today, students at Charles University in Prague use the library for their scholastic studies.

"Darth Vader", "New Town Hall", Prague

Not far from here is the New Town Hall. A black statute, faceless behind a helmet and wearing a flowing robe, sits near the corner of the building, looking ever so much like Darth Vader, the chief villain in the George Lucas movie, Star Wars.

We continue into the Jewish Quarter where synagogues are open to the public on most days, but not on Saturday.  The exterior of these houses of worship is quite striking, particularly the Jubilee Synagogue, whose façade has a Moorish motif.

Jewish Quarter CollageA yellow hat is nestled inside the Star of David on the front of  synagogues. In bygone times, Prague’s Jews had to wear such a topper when leaving their district, much as 20th century Jews had to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothing during the Nazi reign over Europe during WWII.

Around noon it will seem like every tourist that had not gone to the Castle Quarter has gathered around the Old Town Hall to watch the parade of The Twelve Apostles march by on the hall’s tower when the gilded Astronomical Clock just below them strikes the hour.

Wenceslas CollageWe’ll finish our tour of Prague at the plaque memorializing the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 that led to the end of Communism and the return of democracy to Czechoslovakia, and Wenceslas Square, where flavors of old and new Prague mix.

Tomorrow: Off to Dresden!

(A great way to see Prague and learn about its history is on a private guided walk with Katerina “Kakta” Svobodova of I spent each morning with her during my two-day stay in the city and found her delightful, extremely knowledgeable, and her tours reasonably priced. Katka is recommended by European travel expert, Rick Steves; you can listen to her talk about Prague with him during this episode of his radio show.)

(Click here to read more stories about the month-long Tales Told From The Road virtual trip across Europe.)

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