Back to Prague for a few days…
After road tripping and exploring southern Bohemia for a few days, we made our way back to Prague to explore some of the most popular tourist spots. We checked back into the Lindner Hotel, which is such a great location to walk to many of the city’s popular attractions. First up was a stroll around the Prague Castle, which is the largest coherent castle complex in the world, with an area of almost 70,000 m². This UNESCO World Heritage site consists of large-scale palaces and ecclesiastical buildings of various architectural styles—from Romanesque buildings that date to the 10th century, through Gothic modifications into the 14th. It really is an extraordinary place to explore.
We then walked to Lesser Town, which slopes below the Prague Castle and is probably the best preserved part of Prague, dating back to 1257. Coming from America, it is simply extraordinary to walk the streets that so many generations before me have. In America, if something is 50 years old, it would be considered “old,” and often ready for demolition. In Prague, many of the buildings have been standing and occupied for hundreds of years. Something interesting we learned was that before the numeric address was introduced, each house had a figured relieve, such as a cat or a snake, which identified the owners and/or the building. Most of these images still exist on the buildings in Lesser Town.
From Lesser Town we strolled across one of the most famous bridges in all of Europe, Charles Bridge. This iconic pedestrian-only bridge is the oldest bridge in Prague and was commissioned by Charles IV in 1357. There are 30 Baroque statues on both sides of Charles Bridge along with a host of artists and street performers on any given day. Toward one end of the bridge is a flight of stairs we walked down to access Kampa Island, which is sort of an oasis of calm from the hustle and bustle of Charles Bridge. This artificially constructed island is separated from the Lesser Town by a millstream known as Čertovka, which for centuries drove the local mills. Charming houses by the water and the island’s location earned it the nickname “the Venice of Prague.” In a couple days I have a boat cruise scheduled to further explore this area.
Shown below is a commission by artist David Cerny, who created these crawling rug rats which can be seen guarding the entrance to the Kampa Museum. These Lynchian creatures, with imploded slot-machine faces, are also part of Cerny’s “Babies” project–a commission to make the notoriously ugly Zizkov Television Tower more attractive.
After our tour of the most historic parts of Prague, we boarded our transport vehicle and headed to the other side of town, where we met a local businessman who shared something he was very passionate about…civic responsibility. Do-it-yourself resident Ondrej Kobza, café owner (Café Neustadt) and community activist got permission from the city council to better his neighborhood by adding art to a local park know as Peace Square (Church of Saint Ludmila). Mr. Kobza was able organize volunteers and get donations to install a piano, chess set, jukebox of poetry and other installations to beautiful the park, and, to make it more interactive and engaging for area residents. Mr. Kobza is trying to inspire others to do the same for their communities. His philosophy is to live in a community verses rushing through everyday life.
After our park tour we headed to dinner. While there is no shortage of outstanding restaurants in Prague serving international dishes, what is unique, are vegetarian, vegan or even raw restaurants. After getting our fill of Czech food, we was delighted to be introduced to Plevel Restaurant, a hip little place in the up-and-coming Prague 10 neighborhood (located on Krymska Street, near the Grebovka vineyard on the border of the Vinohrady and Vrsovice districts).
If you missed my update yesterday, click here. To read tomorrow’s Road Diary report from the Czech Republic, click here.