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3.Prague, showing a foreigner around

6. 1. 2008

Prague –capital city of the Czech republic

Prague is a capital city of the Czech republic. It has a population of about 1,21 million habitants. It is a centre of the culture, sport and transport and seat of the government in the Czech republic. You can find a lot of places of interest in Prague.

One of the most popular is the Prague castle. This huge complex of buildings tells the fascinating history of Prague.. It is the largest ancient castle in the world (570 m long, on average 128 m wide, area 7.28 hectares). It was built in the 9th century by Prince Bořivoj. Prague castle has had four major reconstructions, but it keeps its classical facelift. The last reconstruction took place in the 18 century during the reign of Maria Theresa. The castle has three courtyards and it has always been the seat of Czech rulers as well as the official residence.

St Vitus Cathedral 

The long and complicated construction of this city’s largest church begun in 1344 by desire of Emperor Charles IV. The first architect was Matthias of Arras, after his death Petr Parler continued in this work and completed much of the structure in late-Gothic style. Over the following centuries renaissance and baroque details were added and the job was completed in 1929. There are many superb examples of 20th century Czech stained glass and marvellous pieces of art, for example a wooden relief by Caspar Bechterle that shows the escape of Frederik of the Palatinate from Prague in 1621, and wooden Crucifixion by František Bílek. The Royal Crypt contains the remains of Charles IV, Wenceslas IV, George of Poděbrady and Rudolf II.

Golden Lane 

Named after the goldsmiths who lived here in the 17th century, Golden Lane is popular with its little colourful houses built right into the Castle walls in the 16th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries they were occupied by squatters, later it was the home of the writer Franz Kafka (house 22) and the Nobel-laureate poet Jaroslav Seifert. Most of these houses are souvenir shops and contain galleries today.

Nerudova Street 

Named after the poet and journalist Jan Neruda, who lived at No 47 in the House of Two Suns, it is the picturesque steep street that leads up to Prague castle as a part of Royal Way. There is an unique selection of heraldic beasts and emblems on the houses, for example the Red Eagle, the Three Fiddles, the Golden Horseshoe, the Green lobster and the White Swan. There is also a number of grand Baroque buildings, such as the Thun-Hohenstain Palace, the Morzin Palace, the Church of Our Lady of Unceasing Succour.

Lesser Town Square 

Started as a market place it has always been the centre of life in the Lesser Town. Today, there are official buildings and restaurants. The important buildings include the St Nicholas Church, the Town Hall, the Sternberg Palace, the Smiřický Palace. On the facade of the Baroque Kaiserstain Palace is a bust of the great Czech soprano Emma Destinn who lived there between 1908 and 1914. There is also a lot of foreign embassies there.

St Nicholas Church 

It is the dominant of the Lesser Town Square and one of the central Europe's finest baroque buildings. Its construction was begun by Kristof Dientzenhofer, then continued his son Kilian and finished Anselmo Lurago. The statues, fresçoes and paintings inside the church were painted by leading artists of the day, such as Karel Škréta and Johann Kracker.

Kampa Island 

Known as the Venice of Prague, Kampa Island has been formed by a branch of the Vltava called the Devil's Stream. Originally there were only gardens on the island but it was also used for washing clothes. In the 17th century the island became well known for its pottery markets. Today it is an elegant part of Prague with a village-like character.

Charles Bridge 

Named after the Emperor Charles IV the Charles Bridge is Prague's most familiar monument. Petr Parler, who was just 24 years old, took this job of building this bridge across the Vltava and finished it in 1400. This bridge connects the Lesser Town with the Old Town. There are thirty statues on the bridge, many of them have been replaced with copies. Originals are kept in the Lapidarium of the National Museum and at Vyšehrad. The magnificent Gothic Old Town Bridge Tower was designed by Petr Parler and built at the end of the 14th century. It is considered the finest Gothic tower in central Europe, mainly for its decoration.

Petřín Hill 

With a height of 318 m the Petřín Hill is a network of eight parks offering magnificent panoramas of Prague. Most of the vineyards from the 12th century were transformed into gardens and orchards by the 18th century and today it is a great place for quiet walks easily accessible from Hradčany and Strahov or by funicular railway from Újezd. Up the hill there is the Štefánik Observatory, the 60m high Observation Tower – an imitation of the Eiffel Tower, the Hunger Wall that was built by the poor of the city exchange for food in the 14th century, the Mirror Maze, the Church of St Lawrence and the wooden Church of St Michael.

Prague Jewish Quarter

Named after the emperor Josef II, whose reforms helped to improve living conditions for the Jewish, the Jewish Quarter contains the remains of Prague's Jewish ghetto. There are two people connected with this part of the city, Franz Kafka (1883 – 1924) and the mystical humunculus Golem created by Jehuda ben Bezalel, also known as Rabi Löw. The most famous of the six synagogues is the Old New synagogu – this synagogue is also one of the oldest synagogues in Europe.

Municipal House 

Built on the site of the royal court between 1906 and 1912, it is Prague's most prominent Art Nouveau building. Above the main entrance there is a huge mosaic “Homage to Prague“ by Karel Špillar. Inside, there is the Smetana Hall – the biggest concert hall in Prague; number of smaller halls, conference rooms and offices, cafés and restaurants to relax and enjoy the inner decoration by Alfons Mucha. On 28 October 1918, the Czechoslovakian Republic was proclaimed here and meetings between Civic Forum and the communist regime were held here in November 1989.

Old Town Square 

The Old Town Square has been Prague's heart since the 10th century and its main market place until the beginning of the 20th century. This square has been the scene of great events, both glorious and tragic. There are beautiful pastel-coloured buildings of Romanesque or Gothic origin with fascinating house signs. Some of the most prominent examples include the Kinský Palace or the House of the Stone Bell. There is also the Old Town Hall wit its world-famous astronomical clock – “orloj” – and the memorial to the Bohemian religious reformer Jan Hus and imposing Týn church and the baroque church of st. Nicholas. The Old Town Square offers visitors a tourist information office, number of restaurants, cafés, shops and galleries.

Wenceslas Square 

Originally a horse market, it got its present name in the middle of 19th century. The Wenceslas Square is the main centre of modern Prague surrounded by shops, cinemas, office blocks, hotels, restaurants and cafés. The 750 m long and 60 m wide square has been the scene of a great deal of Czech history. In 1969 a university student Jan Palach burnt himself to death in protest against the Warsaw Pact invasion and in November 1989 protest meetings against police brutality were held here and led to the Velvet Revolution and the end of communism in Czechoslovakia. In the middle of the square is a monument of St Wenceslas on a horse accompanied with sculptures of four Czech patron saints. There is also the National museum here.

National Theatre 

This theatre was founded by private donations and created by the most important artists of that era, the Neo-Renaissance National Theatre has always been an important symbol of the Czech cultural revival. Opened in 1881 with the opera “Libuše” by Bedřich Smetana, the architect Josef Zítek's masterpiece burned down two months later but it was founded again and restored within two years by the Czech people themselves. The stage curtain is the work of Vojtěch Hynais, the ceiling paintings are by František Ženíšek. Today, the theatre is used for ballet and opera performances, as well as drama. The New Stage of the National Theatre was built by architect Karel Prager in the 1970s from Cuban marble plates and glass. It houses Laterna Magica , one of Prague's best-known theatre groups.



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