In 2007 we visited the capital of Czech Republic, Prague. Prague was also the capital of Czechoslovakia (until 1993 when Czech Republic and Slovakia became two independent countries) during the two world wars and during the communist era. Czech Republic became a member of the European Union in 2004 though the currency in use is the Czech Crown (Euros are not accepted everywhere).
With a historic centre that is a world heritage site, Prague is a beautiful city full of character, mystery and ancient stories. Join me and let me guide you through some of the incredible places I’ve been.
Located in the Old Town, this beautiful medieval clock from the 15th century (the oldest astronomical clock still operating), shows the movement of the sun and the moon and is made up of different parts: a calendar and a mechanism that puts in motion a procession of the twelve Apostles when the clock strikes the hour between 9am and 11am. There are other animated figures such as: Vanity, Miser, Death and Lust.
Take your time to admire this amazing piece of art and engineering.
This stone bridge from the 14th century is 621 metres long and 10 metres wide and started to be constructed during the reign of the King Charles IV. This bridge was built to substitute its predecessor called Judith bridge which collapsed due to a flood. The Charles bridge crosses the Vltava river and has survived several floods. Apparently, it’s due to the egg yolks that were mixed with the mortar, is this true or a myth? Who knows? The important is that this beautiful pedestrian bridge stands strongly and it’s one of the major attractions in Prague. Charles bridge connects the Old Town to Prague’s Castle. This peculiar bridge has 30 statues that are copies of the original ones from the 17th century and apparently in 2019 they are going to be repaired, this process will take around 20 years! Pay attention to a statue called St. John of Nepomuk (the 8th statue in the direction of Prague’s Castle), it is said that if you rub the shine spot it will bring you luck and the chance to return to Prague, well it won’t harm you if you try it.
I would recommend you go to the top of the tower of the bridge on the Old Town side and enjoy a stunning view of this magnificent city.
Try to visit the bridge early in the morning or at night if you want to avoid a crowd.
Old Jewish Ghetto
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992, the old Jewish ghetto is the right place to learn a little bit more about the life and history of Jews in Prague Here you can visit synagogues (the old new synagogue is the oldest active synagogue in Europe; it’s from the 13th century), museums and the Old Jewish Cemetery. In the old Jewish cemetery there are 12000 gravestones. I felt very sad when I visited this place and I saw those gravestones some of them on top of each other.
It may seem like a contradiction, but Hitler decided to preserve the Jewish quarter to present is as a “Museum of an Extinct Race”. The Nazis even gathered artefacts from other occupied countries during the war and took them to Prague.
Here you also find the birthplace of the famous writer Franz Kafka (one of his best-known novel called “The Trial” which was published in 1925, one year after his death).
For more information regarding the old Jewish ghetto please click the link.
St Vitus Cathedral
This impressive Cathedral that took around 600 years to be completed is located within the Prague Castle complex and it’s a superb piece of architecture that will leave you astonished with its grandeur. This is a place full of history. This was home of kings and queen’s coronations. You can appreciate treasures from the 14th century and admire beautiful pieces of art (admire the beautiful stained-glass windows). Here you will find the tombs of King Charles IV and St Wenceslas.
If you want to make the most of your visit, try to visit the Cathedral early in the morning (around 9am) as it gets crowdy later.
You can also enjoy amazing sights of the city from here.
Click on the link for more information regarding ticket prices and opening hours.
Cruise on the Vltava
I must tell you about the unbelievable experience we had on our way to the cruise. We booked this cruise in advance and we had a person that went to pick us from the hotel. We were expecting a mini bus to collect us but instead a huge strong woman came to meet us and take us on a taxi. She didn’t speak a word in English. All the communication was done through signals. Completely hilarious. What’s important is that she dropped us at the right place and we really had a very good time during our cruise experience.
I truly recommend it, it’s a way of seeing Prague at night with the majestic and imponent Cathedral looking over to the city, the beautiful Charles bridge with its chandeliers lighten up and all the enchantment the lights bring to the monuments. This is a very pleasant 3h journey through the calm waters of Vltava river, with dinner to the sound of live music and the company of people from various nationalities.
For more information on prices and timetables click on the link.
Watch the Changing of the Guard
I won’t forget the episode that happened at the change of the guard. I asked our guide to take a picture with me and one of the guards. She was very reluctant to doing this, so I had to insist, and she agreed to do it though you can see from the picture that she is very uncomfortable, probably because she felt my request too odd or the memories of the past were still very predominat in these people’s lives.
The guard changes take place at Prague’s Castle, every hour from 7am, though at noon the ceremony takes more time as it is escorted by a fanfare. The guards are members of the special army division and they serve the President of the Czech Republic.
Take the funicular that departs from Ujezd street and will take you to the top of Petrin Hill. Petrin Hill is located at an altitude of 318 metres and is a place where you can enjoy the beautiful gardens, have some fun at the hall of mirrors, explore the observatory or climb the 299 steps of the mini Eiffel tower with 63.5 metres tall. This is a place where you can enjoy splendid views of the city.
Terezín Concentration Camp
We decided to visit Terezín, a concentration camp during the second world war located about 30 miles from Prague. I know it might sound strange but when we got there I felt mixed of feelings, sadness but at the same time a sense of peace when I saw the big field with poppies and the big star of David. When you start to read the names of the people in the tombstones and see their ages you can’t avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Although Terezín wasn’t an extermination camp, around 150000 Jews from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, Netherlands and Denmark (including 15000 children) were sent here before they were sent to their death at Auschwitz and Treblinka. More than 30000 people died here due to the bad conditions and diseases.
The 17247 survivors of Terezín survived the death camps.
During your guided visit you will be explained to how Jews arrived here, the story they were told when they came to Terezín (they believed they were going there to escape the war, there was even a propaganda promoting the nice life they would have there…until they saw the huge lie they were told). You will also have the chance to see the terrible conditions they lived in. Despite all of us know about this terrible event from history it’s always shocking when you have the chance to be in the same place where so many people lived in terror and went to meet death.
I’d recommend you also visit Terezín Ghetto Museum which is in the same area of Terezín camp. Here you have a permanent exhibition called ”Terezín in the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question ‘1941 – 1945“ and a Memorial Hall with drawings from the children from the Ghetto. Please click the link to find more information.
During our stay in Prague we decided to visit the Karlštejn Castle which is about 29Km from Prague. The small village is also very picturesque and we choose a horse carriage to take us up the hill and there you start to see this beautiful castle surrounded by forest. This castle from the 14th century was built during the reign of Charles IV but belongs now to the state.
The castle has 3 tours:
- The private and representative rooms of Emperor Charles IV (Basic tour) (330 CZK)
- The sacred rooms of the castle with the chapel of the holy Cross (Exclusive tour) (880 CZK) – this one includes the Chapel of the Holy Cross which was the place where the jewels of the crown were safely kept until the 17th
- The Great Tower View (260 CZK)
For more information click the link.
The main attraction in the castle is a wall from the 14th century with the largest portrait gallery in the world of kings of Bohemia in the Czech Republic. You can also enjoy a play during your visit.
Prague is without any doubt a place you should visit. I’d like to go back there once again and explore a little bit more the Czech Republic.