In September 2008 we did a circular road trip around Europe starting in Frankfurt, Germany and travelling through Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic and finally back to Frankfurt Germany.
From Budapest we drove to Prague in Czech Republic which took most of the day. We arrived late afternoon into Prague and were lucky to be staying in the Archibald Hotel right next to the iconic Charles Bridge making it easy to walk around all the local city sights. We spent the rest of that day and all of the next day exploring Prague.
Prague is home to a number of famous cultural attractions, many of which survived the violence and destruction of twentieth century Europe. Since 1992, the extensive historic center of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, making the city one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, receiving more than 4.1 million international visitors annually, as of 2009.
The roads and stairs up to Prague Castle reminded me of Edinburgh with its castle and similar steep stairs and roads.
Prague Castle & Cathedral
Prague Castle is a castle in Prague where the Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic have had their offices. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept here. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Prague Castle is the largest coherent castle complex in the world with an area of almost 70000 m², being 570 meters in length and an average of about 130 meters wide.
Saint Vitus’ Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Prague, and the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. The full name of the cathedral is St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert Cathedral. Located within Prague Castle and containing the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors, this cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is the biggest and most important church in the country.
The current cathedral is the third of a series of religious buildings at the site, all dedicated to St. Vitus. The first church was an early romanesque rotunda founded by Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia in 925. This patron saint was chosen because Wenceslaus had acquired a holy relic — the arm of St. Vitus — from Emperor Henry I. It is also possible that Wenceslaus, wanting to convert his subjects to Christianity more easily, chose a saint whose name sounds very much like the name of Slavic solar deity Svantevit. Two religious populations, the increasing Christian and decreasing pagan community, lived simultaneously in Prague castle at least until the 11th century.In the year 1060, as the bishopric of Prague was founded, prince Spytihněv II embarked on building a more spacious church, as it became clear the existing rotunda was too small to accommodate the faithful. A much larger and more representative romanesque basilica was built in its spot. Though still not completely reconstructed, most experts agree it was a triple-aisled basilica with two choirs and a pair of towers connected to the western transept. The design of the cathedral nods to Romanesque architecture of the Holy Roman Empire, most notably to the abbey church in Hildesheim and the Speyer Cathedral.
The southern apse of the rotunda was incorporated into the eastern transept of the new church because it housed the tomb of St. Wenceslaus, who had by now become the patron saint of the Czech princes. A bishop’s mansion was also built south of the new church, and was considerably enlarged and extended in the mid 12th-century.
The Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic is a famous tourist attraction and the problem with that is trying to capture a picture of the bridge in its glory without people spoiling the view. I was lucky enough to be staying almost directly next to the Charles bridge so an early morning start gave me the opportunity to grab some images without hordes of pedestrians. The advantage of this also was the wonderful soft morning light and beautiful sky.
The Prague Astronomical Clock or Prague Orloj is a medieval astronomical clock located in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the only one still working.
The oldest part of the Orloj, the mechanical clock and astronomical dial, dates back to 1410 when it was made by clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Šindel, the latter a professor of mathematics and astronomy at Charles University.Later, presumably around 1490, the calendar dial was added and clock facade decorated with gothic sculptures.In 1552 it was repaired by Jan Taborský, clock-master of Orloj, who also wrote a report on the clock where he mentioned Hanuš as maker of the clock.The Orloj stopped working many times in the centuries after 1552, and was repaired many times. In the 17th century moving statues were added, and figures of the Apostles were added after major repair in 1865-1866.The Orloj suffered heavy damage on May 7 and especially May 8, 1945, during the Prague Uprising, when Germans directed incendiary fire from several armored vehicles and an anti-aircraft gun to the south-west side of the Old Town Square in an effort to silence the provocative broadcasting initiated by the National Committee on May 5. The hall and nearby buildings burned along with the wooden sculptures on the Orloj and the calendar dial face made by Josef Mánes. The machinery was repaired, the wooden Apostles restored by Vojtěch Sucharda, and the Orloj started working again in 1948, but only after significant effort.
Formerly, it was believed that the Orloj was constructed in 1490 by clockmaster Jan Růže (also called Hanuš); this is now known to be a historical mistake. A legend, recounted by Alois Jirásek, has it that the clockmaker Hanuš was blinded on the order of the Prague Councillors so that he could not repeat his work; in turn, he broke down the clock, and no one was able to repair it for the next hundred years.According to local legend the city will suffer if the clock is neglected and its good operation is placed in jeopardy.
The Lennon Wall is a wall in Prague, Czech Republic which was once a normal wall but since the 1980’s has been filled with John Lennon inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles songs.
In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the then communist regime of Gustav Husak. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall and in a report of the time this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the nearby Charles Bridge. The movement these students followed was described ironically as “Lennonism” and Czech authorities described these people variously as alcoholics, mentally deranged, sociopathic, and agents of Western capitalism.
The wall continuously undergoes change and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under layers of new paint. Even when the wall was repainted by some authorities, on the second day it was again full of poems and flowers. Today, the wall represents a symbol of youth ideals such as love and peace.
The wall is owned by the Knights of the Maltese Cross, who allowed the graffiti to continue on the wall, and is located at Velkopřerovské náměstí (Grand Priory Square), Malá Strana.
On our last day in Prague we had the chance to make a quick visit to the Jewish Cemetery before we had to leave and start the long drive back to Frankfurt in Germany.
The Old Jewish Cemetery is a Jewish cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic, which is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and one of the most important Jewish historical monuments in Prague. It served its purpose from the first half of 15th century till 1786. Renowned personalities of the local Jewish community were buried here; among them rabbi Jehuda Liva ben Becalel – Maharal (ca. 1526–1609), businessman Mordecai Meisel (1528–1601), historian David Gans (ca. 1541–1613) and rabbi David Oppenheim (1664–1736). Today the cemetery is administered by the Jewish Museum in Prague.
We left Prague and then drove straight back to Frankfurt, Germany for one final night in the airport hotel before flying home to Malaysia. So this was the end of our fantastic road trip around Europe – we saw so much and so many places and countries.
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