Prague: New Favorite European Destination

by Willie “Tatang” Vergara




It all started out a few years after Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution in 1989, turning its government system from Communism to a working democracy. Before this, Prague (1.2 million population) was not so popular as a tourist destination and its beauty was quite unknown to many. Famous people spent considerable time in Prague, some of them are natives of the city -- Philosopher Franz Kafka, Renaissance, the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Neo-Romantic composer Antonin Dvorak and Alphonse Mucha, the father of “decorative art”.


Prague is to the international community, as Praha is to the locals. Still others call it Praga. It is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. (Czechoslovakia was split into Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993). Some describe Prague as a "city of a hundred spires"; still others like to call it as "the golden city". Situated on the River Vltava in central Bohemia, Prague has been the political, cultural, and economic centre of the Czech state for more than 1100 years. For many decades during the Gothic and Renaissance eras, Prague was the permanent seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and thus was also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire



For the tourist, 4 areas are of utmost importance, namely: (a) The Old Town, where that include the astronomical clock at the Old Town Square, the Jewish Quarters, and many more  (b) The Castle Quarter, where most of the medieval attractions could be seen, (c)  The New Town and the Wenceslas Square which has a lot of modern structures because of renovation; it is also where one could see their “Plaza Miranda” (d) The Lesser Town which includes the Charles Bridge (favorite site of moviemakers) and the Petrin Tower (Prague’s version of the Eiffel).


My daughter Ria, my wife Tess, and I decided to visit Prague for a few days in July 2009. We were booked at the Bellagio Hotel.


Though one of the most beautiful hotels in Prague,

it is not as magnificent as the one in Las Vegas.


One thing sure: it offers the most sumptuous breakfast buffet at its cellar dining room.

Having made quite a substantial research on the place, Ria hired a personal guide named Jana

 only for two half-days (only $240!) and she also gave us tips on where to go on our own.


Bellagio Hotel is strategically located at the edge of the Old Town very near the

 Vltava River and within easy walking distance from 80 percent of all the major city sites.


If you think that the Tyn Church Twin Towers are identical you are wrong. One of them is

in fact a bit more solid and it is said that it represents the man – the stronger side of family.

                      The Astronomical Clock shows a medieval perception of the universe. It is a popular tourist attraction.

                      There are three circles on the dial show different time: the outer circle with shows the Old Czech Time

                      (“Italian Time”), the circle with Roman numbers shows the Central European Time and the inner circle

                      with Arabic numerals shows the “Babylonian Time”. The length of an hour differs there according to

                      the season – it is longer in the summer, shorter in the winter.


                                 It pays to have a camera with a powerful zoom lens (Canon SX10 IS) and take details

                                 of a distant object like the astronomical clock. Here, the “apostles” come out every hour.



This drunk lady under the clock steals the show with her theatrics.




The Old Town Square is where many festivals are held, like this one, which is the first ever celebration of the City of Prague.




The pictures above show the first festival celebrating the anniversary of the City of Prague.


There are lots of architecturally and historically important houses at the Old Town Square.


Medieval houses at the Old Town Square dating back to the 12th century


Church of St James. Legend says that the Virgin grabbed the thief’s arm who tried to steal the jewels and held

  on so tightly that it had to be cut off. Architecturally, its excellent acoustics makes for many concerts and recitals.


The Powder Tower was built at the end of the 15th century both as the castle's defense and one of the entrances

 to the Old Town. Today it is a museum of alchemy, bell-and cannon-forging and Renaissance life in Prague Castle.


Wolfgang Mozart held his premiere of Don Giovanni at the Estates Theatre.


The Alfons Mucha Museum is a must-see for the artist. Mucha, the national artist of the Czech republic was

the father of decorative art and a lot of his revered artworks, including the national currently, are inside this museum.


Photography is strictly prohibited inside, but what the heck. I had a camera

with a tilting LCD that I could take photos (without flash) without being noticed!





The Old Town Square assumes a different and lovely character at night.


Czech Beers are best in the world? And so they claim.

We ended a long day of walking with a liter each of Czech beer.


I find Kozel Beer the most tasty of them all, and yet so affordable.

The Jewish Quarter contains the remains of Prague's former Jewish ghetto.

 But certainly it is no longer a ghetto as one thinks it would be.

Every male visitor is required to wear a “kippah” (literally means dome)

 as a sign of respect while inside holy Jewish shrines.


The Old Jewish Cemetery is Europe's oldest surviving Jewish cemetery. People had to be buried

 on top of each other because of lack of space -- 12 layers, over 12,000 gravestones and 100,000 people!


Beside Franz Kafka’s statue.

The Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world (570 m long,

on average 128 m wide, area 7.28 hectares) and is Prague’s biggest attraction.

Castle By Day


Castle At Night


One can see the changing of the guards every hour at the Castle Gate

and Courtyards, with the most ceremony and music at noon.


       St Vitus Cathedral is the most crowded part of the castle complex. There are many superb examples of 20th century Czech

       stained glass and marvelous pieces of art. Vitus is considered the patron saint of actors, comedians, dancers, and epilectics.

       He is also said to protect against lightning strikes, animal attacks and oversleeping, and is the patron saint of Bohemia.


Inside is a stained glass by Czech national artist Alfons Mucha, showing his stirring nationalism.


Founded in the 10th century, the Basilika of St George is the best preserved Romanesque church.

 The acoustics make it a good venue for classical concerts.


Schwarzenberg Palace now houses the National Gallery’s collection of Czech Baroque paintings.

 Note that guy playing a violin at the foot of the palace.


Again, this illustrates what one can do with a powerful zoom lens (20x optical)


Archbishop's Palace was a powerful symbol of Catholic domination of the city as well as the Czech lands.


Černín Palace has been home to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1918.


In 1948 the foreign minister, anti-communist Jan Masaryk fell to his death from one of the bathroom windows.

It is still unclear whether it was a suicide or a murder planned by the communist secret service.


The Loreta has been a hit with pilgrims due to the bell tower and peaceful and plush cloister.

It is an extraordinary baroque church and was part of Ferdinand II's campaign to re-catholicize the Czechs.


The Gardens below the Castle Quarter provide a refreshing spectacular view of the Lesser Quarter.


Enjoy a relaxing walk through the gardens and vineyards down the Lesser Quarter.


THE LESSER TOWN. It is on the slopes bellow the Prague castle.

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, and the Sternberg Palace.


Nerudova Street is a steep, cobbled street named

 after Jan Neruda, a gifted 19th century journalist.


Note the doorway signs that once served as street address. This street is now

generally used as  foreign embassies and offices of the Czech Parliament.


St Nicholas Church is one of central Europe's finest baroque buildings;

inside are statues, fresçoes and paintings by leading artists of the day.


This Modern Art building lies beside the Vltava River.


John Lennon’s music gave the Czech some hope and a vision while Lenin’s ideas were being imposed on them.

 This Lennon Wall is the only place where graffiti is permitted.


Near the wall is a small gate leading to a quiet courtyard dedicated to John Lennon and George Harrison.


This beautiful Baroque garden called Vrtba Garden offers a good view of Prague Castle and the Lesser Town from the terrace.


Inside the Church of Our Lady Victorious is the miraculous Infant Child of Prague,

 one of the most revered images in the Catholic world, dating from the year 1628.


Maltese Square is opposite the John Lennon Wall. The largest building, Nostitz Palace,

is home  to the Dutch embassy and in summer there are concerts given at the palace.


Known as the Venice of Prague, Kampa Island has been formed by a branch of the Vltava

 called the Devil's Stream. Today it is an elegant part of Prague with a village-like character.



To one who loves action movies such as Mission Impossible, Triple XXX and Blade II,

 the Charles Bridge must be the most popular place in Prague.


But it is more than just a movie location shooting. It connects the Lesser Town to the Old Town.



Souvenir vendors, musicians and peddlers also take advantage of the most populated part of Prague, which is the Charles Bridge.


From the Charles Bridge are marvelous views of the Castle Quarter,

Vltava River Valley, the Old Town and the Lesser Town.


My Czech officemate said construction, as on this one on Charles Bridge, used to

be everywhere 2 years ago in the city to prepare for the coming of more tourists.


At steps of the Petřín Hill are bronze statues walking down the stairs and is the

Monument to Victims of Communism. Notice the symbolism of the figure of man slowly disappearing.


The Petrin Tower sits on a hill so high that when measured

 from street to the top of the tower, it is as tall as the Eiffel Tower.


It has eight parks offering magnificent panoramas of Prague. At the basement of the tower

 is an interestingly funny museum about Jan Cmrman, the man who never was.


One can see the best panoramic view of Prague at the summit of the Petrin Tower.

 Do your regular exercise and don’t miss this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reach the top of the tower.


                       The carefully planned New Town was founded by Charles IV in 1348. The modern area of Prague was

                       mainly inhabited by tradesmen and craftsmen. During the late19th century its outer fortifications were

                       demolished and redeveloped to its present appearance.



                 Wenceslas Square is the main centre of modern Prague surrounded by shops, cinemas, office blocks, hotels,

                 restaurants and cafés. It tells a great deal of Czech history. In 1969 a university student burned himself to death

                 in protest against the Warsaw Pact invasion and in a series of protests that led to the Velvet Revolution and

                 the end of communism in Czechoslovakia.


There are also quite a number of “art noveau” buildings here, just like in most of Prague. Note that

 one building has a different design from the other. At the end of the square is the National Museum.


If you feel tired walking in the centre of Prague, just a few steps away, between Wenceslas Square

 and Jungmannovo Square, you’ll find picturesque Franciscan Garden, an oasis of calm.


A set of white benches, pretty flowerbeds and a children’s corner make

 you forget that you’re close to the busiest streets of Prague.


The Dancing House is considered one of the most unique buildings in the world.


Dancing House “zoomed” from the Petrin Tower. Its original name is Fred and Ginger

 (after Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers).


The Museum of Communism depicts the life of the Czech people during the times of the Soviet Union.


The objective is to project a good understanding of the way things were during the communist era;

 the propaganda, and the good and bad times experienced by the Czech people.


The State Opera, a Neo-Rococo building, was designed by famous architects

from Vienna and built around 1886 to rival the Czechs' National Theatre.


Café Louvre is one of the best (ranked 21 of 894 restaurants in Prague). It is big but cozy.

 Many famous people have eaten here, including Einstein and Kafka.


This fresco Mobius Strip at a parking area somehow describes what the Czech have been

 through: War Reconstruction War Reconstruction War Reconstruction in an endless journey.



National Theatre At Night


It takes an extra wide lens to get a full view of the National Theatre. It is one of the symbols of Czech national identity.


National Marionette Theatre. Puppet theatre enjoys a long tradition in Prague and throughout

 the Czech Republic. A master puppeteers' creations are true gems of artistic craftsmanship.


The National Marionette Theatre is the original puppet theatre and offers

the finest shows in Prague. We saw Don Giovanni and we didn’t regret it


Black Light Theatre is a world of illusory creations and hidden secrets. Stories are told with a mixture of mime,

 song, dynamic dance routines, ballet, animated film, state-of-the-art visual effects, actors and puppets.

Just Walking Around Town

War Memorial


At the Old Town with Malmon Shirt


Bricks sold for charity


There are many palaces like this one


Quite an interesting store selling organic products


Obama is popular here but this ad surely is unauthorized


The Czechs are fond of symbolism


This couple prefer to go around town with a Model T.


Others prefer a romantic ride on horse carr





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