Prague was totally amazing. For anyone who likes architecture, it’s a city that should be at the top of your list to visit. I found it particularly interesting for all of the Art Nouveau buildings, in addition to the styles found in other cities we visited.
The Koruna palace above was originally built around 1912 for an insurance company, but it now contains shops. The hotel we stayed at, the Art Deco Imperial Hotel (Art Deco on the outside, Art Nouveau inside, but whatever…) was wonderful, with a fabulous mosaic ceiling. I was really tickled by this sunflower door I saw around town:
Like all the other cities we visited, the historical sections are paved with cobblestone streets. But I noticed that in Prague, particular care was also taken to make the sidewalks decorative:
But of course, there are also the beautiful old buildings. One of the biggest tourist gathering spots is the old town square, and with good reason. It’s a huge square surrounded by beautiful buildings, and filled with activity. What a fantastic place to watch street performers and musicians, or just people watch. All of the cities we visited had a lot of street performers, especially “living statues”, like the gold ones in the photo below.
But it was such a beautiful setting. The green (real) statue in the background is the Jan Hus memorial. Jan Hus was a religious reformer and precursor to Protestantism (predating Martin Luther), who was burned as a heretic in 1415. He has become a symbol of independence.
The palace in the background on the right, with the pink window trim, is the Kinsky Palace, built in 1765. (It’s also on the left in the photo below.) It has a beautiful Rococo facade decorated with sculptures of gods and the four elements. Franz Kafka attended school there, and his father had a haberdashery store on the main floor. It was from the balcony of this building that Communist leader Klement Gottwald held his speech in 1945 proclaiming Communist rule in Czechoslovakia.
Next to the Kinsky Palace on the other side is the lovely Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, built in the 14th and 15th centuries and used by the Hussites, the followers of Jan Hus:
On the other side of the square facing the church is the old Town Hall, with the famous Astronomical Clock.
This is the world’s third oldest astronomical clock, dating to 1410, and is the oldest one which is still working. In addition to the astronomical clock, there there is also a calendar, and animated figures which “perform” every hour. The pair of figures on each side of the clock move (the skeleton Death chimes the hour), and the twelve apostles appear in the little doorways above the clock. If you want to see it in action, I found a pretty good video here.
Also on the square is the Storch House, with it’s mural of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia, and Duke of Bohemia from 921 until his murder in 935. He was well-regarded, and was posthumously declared king (yes, THAT “Good King Wenceslas”).
And are you ready for it? In the nearby “Little Square” is a building that could be the most beautiful Hard Rock Cafe in the world. At least, on the outside. The Hard Rock Cafe is located on the main floor of the Rott House (1890), also called “At the Three White Roses”. The building is now a hotel:
Are you tired of the architecture yet? We will move to the all-important food and drink. I didn’t think to get a photo of the cafe or the drink, but one of the things we quite enjoyed in Prague was the “Prague Hot Chocolate” – hot chocolate spiked with rum and topped with whipped cream. Yummy!
Another thing I had been looking forward to was trying the Budweiser. No, not the Anheuser-Busch Budweiser you are familiar with, but Budweiser Budvar. The name Budweis comes from the kingdom of Bohemia, and “Budweiser” basically means beer from Budweis, just as Pilsner is from Pils, Parmesan cheese is cheese from Parma, and Champagne is a sparkling wine from Champagne (unless you are a U.S. vintner who was using the Champagne label prior to 2006, in which case you still can).
Beer has been brewed in Budweis since the 13th century. Anheuser-Busch developed their Bohemian-style lager in 1876 after Adolphus Busch toured Europe to study their brewing techniques, and the Czech Budweiser companies have been in a trademark feud with them ever since. Despite their agreement in 1938, whereby Anheuser-Busch was only allowed to use the Budweiser name in North America (it uses “Bud” in most other areas), it appears that AB has continued to appeal the decision. In fact, right after returning from Europe, I happened to read an article about AB being banned from using the Budweiser trademark in Italy, and allowing Budweiser Budvar to resume sales.
Personally, I wouldn’t touch “Bud”. But I did have some Budweiser Budvar, both the light and dark lagers. And it was good. Especially the dark.
I also got a kick out of this – at the McDonald’s in Prague, you can get a “McBox”:
Which appears to be 2 Big Macs or 4 Cheeseburgers, plus 2 fries and 2 drinks. All for 199. (That’s Korunas, and comes to about $10 US.)
I know this was a long post, but there’s more to come on Prague. Stay tuned.
All posts for this vacation can be found with this tag: Europe2013