Europe and the United Kingdom, Historical sites, history, Style, Travel, Uncategorized, writing

A Walk to Remember: Praha 1

Národní muzeum

This morning I took a self-guided walking tour of Prague 1, with some assistance from Google Maps. The morning was cool and cloudy, which meant that while the light was not the greatest for Instagram photos, it was very pleasant for a walk around the most central part of the city.

I mapped out my route on Google Maps before heading out, and started by choosing a few spots that were in relatively close walking distance to each other. As mentioned in my prior post, the tram was really convenient for making the start point for my expedition easy to get to. This morning, I chose first to head over to the Lennon Wall on Velkopřevorské náměstí. The wall is now named after famed Beetles member John Lennon after he was murdered in 1980. Prior to then, the wall was used to write graffiti messages, many against the communist regimes of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and Communist cession of power that would allow a free Czechoslovakia,* the wall remained a place where people could draw and write messages. It is owned by the Knights of Malta, and while in the past they have painted over it, the wall always gets redecorated. It is ever-changing, and the photos below might look very different on my next visit to Prague.

For me, the wall was not just cool sanctioned graffiti art. The signs celebrating 30 years of freedom in the Czech Republic were a reminder that political freedom is not something to be taken for granted. The Czech Republic has a long and rich history, spanning hundreds of years, but in its current geopolitical form, it is relatively young. We cannot assume that any political system will continue to succeed if its citizens become complacent or that a country would just last forever. In our current global climate, it is easy to see how quickly things can change. But I will step off my soapbox and walk over to our next stop: Karlův most, or the Charles Bridge.

The Charles Bridge was built in the 14th century during the rule of King Charles IV. The bridge is a stone arch bridge and is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site. It spans the Vltava River and measures about 1693 feet long. The bridge is an iconic site in Prague. There are really interesting statues that line the bridge, many that were erected in the 17th century, and pay tribute to Jesus, saints and biblical figures, as well as King Wenceslas. Under the statue of St. John Nepomak, there are plaques that tell some story of which I am unfamiliar. While it is hard to discern the legend, the golden dog on the left plaque gets a lot of attention. It caught my eye as being the perfect photo op with Chris the puppy to send to Sami, and I, like many, petted the dog. When I returned to the room after my trek out, I checked the internet to see if there was any sort of lore, perhaps some indicator of good luck in love or finances that one might get from petting the dog. Alas, I learned that most people pet the dog just because it’s cute, and that’s what you do to a nice puppy, even if only a relief on a statue on an evocative bridge.

After meandering across the Charles Bridge, I headed to the Jewish Quarter, also known as Josefov, also in Prague 1. For a long time, it was once the Jewish ghetto. Here you will find six synagogues, including the oldest still functioning synagogue in Central Europe. This area, where Jewish people were once confined to live, is a monument to the turbulent history that has plagued the Jewish people. The old buildings of Josefov were demolished toward the end of the 19th century and rebulit in the early 20th, and the area was rebuilt to model after Paris. The synagogues remain, as does the ‘new’ Josefov, even after World War II.

For those who appreciate his writings, there is a statue of Franz Kafka in front of the Spanish Synagogue. As I was probably not the best English literature student in high school, and had very little appreciation for “The Metamorphosis” and the essay that accompanied it, I did not do him justice and take a photo. He was born in Prague and is buried in the New Jewish Cemetery in Prague 3. I have seen Kafka tributes throughout the city, and there are many Kafka-themed souvenirs one could purchase if so interested.

From the Josefov, it was a quick walk to neighboring Old Town Square. I wrote briefly about our night walk to get gelato near Old Town, but it was nice to return to it in the light of day. The main attractions were now much easier to see and photograph. Though it was pretty at night.

I did a loop around the square to take photos of the buildings we had first viewed on the evening of our arrival. Today, I was also able to clearly see the monument to John Huss, the Bohemian reformer who lived and worked for reforms before even Martin Luther or John Calvin.

Jan Hus monument in Old Town Square

Below are photos of the Church of Our Lady before Tyn and St. Nicholas Church in daylight.

The church bells were ringing from the Church of Our Lady before Tyn at noon.
St. Nicholas Church
Old Town Hall. The astronomical clocks are on the left side of the building.

After walking through Old Town, I stopped at a local Czech bath and cosmetic shop to pick up the last of the souvenirs going to family members. In all, it was a great, free walking tour that got me close to four miles according to Strava and some lovely photos. If possible, I absolutely recommend exploring the attractions in Prague 1 by foot. It was easier to get around than it would have been by car and I was able to take my time at what to me were the most interesting parts. I was also able to stop at random points of interest or pretty places on the way.

Going through the medieval gate

It was a fun- and free!- morning excursion. There are many adventures to be had in Praha. From art and architecture to history and science, there is something for every interest. Happy trails!

*The peaceful Velvet Divorce in 1992 separated the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Source info:
John Lennon WALL: Prague, Czech Republic Attractions. Lonely Planet. (2021, July 8). https://www.lonelyplanet.com/czech-republic/prague/attractions/john-lennon-wall/a/poi-sig/401339/358835.

Kopsa, A. (2019, November 16). What to know About Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution. Time. https://time.com/5730106/velvet-revolution-history/.

Jewish quarter (Josefov)Josefov, Prague 1. Jewish Quarter (Josefov) in Prague – Prague Experience. (n.d.). https://www.pragueexperience.com/places.asp?PlaceID=597.

FG Forrest, a.s. (n.d.). Old town Square (staroměstské náměstí). Prague.eu. https://www.prague.eu/en/object/places/183/old-town-square-staromestske-namesti

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