Town built by Charles IV. at the break of the Middle ages, where you can sit in the shadow of a Gothic church, get very American burger or traditional Czech beer and food, and paddle a boat on the river – all within 30 minutes walk.
Wenceslas and Charles
Prague was built in the 9th century, as the seat of the Bohemian kings. Most famous of them was St. Wenceslas, a patron saint of Czech Republic. He was murdered in a plot masterminded by his brother Boleslav the Cruel. Wenceslas square with shops and restaurants was named after him.
Another great king of Czechs was Charles IV in the 14th century. He also became the Holy Roman Emperor. Charles was very educated, spoke five languages, and started the first university in Czech bearing his name. He also built most of the late medieval Prague. City centre Prague has been included on several lists of top cities to visit in Europe, even in the world.
What I like about Prague is the gothic atmosphere, especially when you walk across the Old Town Square at night. The combination of cooler climate, medieval buildings and narrow streets in the historical centre with many gates and arcades create the atmosphere of the middle Ages. It is topped by the Týn Church at the Old Town square, whose two towers patrol over the square like two knights from Star Wars.
The church is connected to many historical events, including hussites – a Christian movement and the subsequent reformation. Several mysterious murders, remnant of the reformer Jan Hus and connection with the astrologer Tycho de Brahe result in many legends about ghost in the church.
Opposite the church is the town hall with astrological clock. Every hour a machine inside comes into action and you can see the twelve apostles appearing in the clock’s windows. Find a good place because the place is crammed by tourists who come to see the show.
If you prefer enlightenment, visit the castle hill with the gothic cathedral or have a walk along the river, when you come across different architectonic styles, for example Art Deco and house inspired by Cubism.
Shadow of communism
Prague was the capital of the communist Czech Republic. However, it was located close to the Western Europe and the life was very vivid. Yet, the ghost of communism is still present in some of the Gothic corners of the city. John Lennon’s Wall has been a monument of oppression against the rule, as well as a group of statues walking out of communism. Wenceslas Square, one of the squares largest in Europe with many bars where smoking is tolerated, witnessed the declaration of the first Czechoslovak Republic 1918, protest marches against the Soviet occupation in 1968 and the Velvet Revolution 20 years later.
In the 90s, Prague started to take in the western culture and capitalism, yet I did not realize commerce lurking at every corner. Stalls near the Old Town square sell different souvenirs, including “šmejdy” – a word by which the seller denoted small figures. The prices are quite reasonable and Czechs even try to promote their culture and products. Familiar names create the atmosphere of homeland even if you are surrounded by English signs, Italian gelato and an African guy calling people to join a pub crawl.
Czech me out
Apart from the American fast food and Chinese bistros, you can see many stalls selling typical Czech sausage with roll, twisted pastry (which actually originates in Slovakia) and restaurants offer Czech menu. I saw a Starbucks fitted into a historical building.
Beer is one of the Czech main exports. Even at discos and the very American Hard Rock Cafe Prague they serve good Czech unfiltered draugh beer. Small glasses usually aren’t on the price list because they do not expect the customers to order a half pint… Half-liter of beer starts at 39 Czech Crowns, which is about 1.50 EUR. Prices in the centre are higher but still reasonable.
There are good job opportunities around Prague (there are many foreigners, including Slovaks, seeking better job), housing is more affordable than in Bratislava and Vienna and the city offers lot of options for free time. There are regular concerts of big stars, festivals and international events, well connected by public transport. Three tube lines get you to all main spots in a few minutes. Whole day ticket costs about 110 Czech Crowns, which is around 4 Euro. People in the shops are friendly and appreciate when you speak a few Czech words. However, when they realize that you are actually a Slovak (the languages are similar) attempting to speak Czech, they become somewhat disappointed.