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Prague, Czech Republic

05 Mar, 2009

Prague: The Middle Age European City as a Poem

Prague, Czech Republic

According to a poet from the Czech Republic, even the littlest things in Prague are “real poems.” This perfectly describes the beauty and the history of Prague, Czech Republic’s capital and one of Europe’s oldest cities. Prague is well-known around the world for its Middle Age history. In fact, one of Prague’s attractions, the Prague Castle, is considered as the world’s biggest castle, while the historic center of the city is listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, a proof of the city’s importance in Europe. And why shouldn’t it be? Prague has been in existence and important center in Europe even during the pre-historic era. With this, it is only natural that poets from Czech—and even casual visitors and tourists—see Prague as beauty as a poem.

Rich history

It is only expected from a city like Prague to have a deep and rich history. People have been settling in the land now known as Prague since the Paleolithic Age. It was during 200 BC when the area had an actual settlement. The Celts settled here, although they were replaced by other tribes such as the Marcomanni and the Eurasian Avars later on. During the late 9th century, a castle called the Vltava was founded. This castle, which is located on what was later to be known as the Prague Castle, was erected by Premysl and his wife Libuse, the founders of the Premysl Dynasty. At this point, Prague was starting to develop into what it is today: a major center of trade and tourism. Even before the rise of Prague, merchants and travelers passed by this city on their way to other major European cities.

It was during the time of Charles IV that the city flourished into one of the major European centers. He was responsible for the building of a number of major infrastructure such as the Charles Bridge, monuments and churches such as the Saint Vitus Cathedral, and major educational centers such as the Charles University. Charles IV was also responsible for the Nove Mesto, also known as the New Town, a part of Prague’s historic center. For its size and the mere construction of the area, Prague’s New Town was an important achievement for the Czech Republic then.

Prague was also plagued by a number of problems, which lead to its destruction. From the 1600s to the 1800s, Prague dealt with fires, plagues, and revolutions, although the city was eventually fixed.

Perhaps one of the reasons why the architecture of Prague is distinct is because of these calamities and disasters; due to the constant renovations, different styles were employed and are still evident within the city premise. Another reason for the different styles is the numerous cultures and nationalities residing within the city. The German and Spanish merchants, for instance, were responsible for the Baroque style that Prague is known for. The Jewish too had a settlement in Prague, and that also created a different kind of style that melded with the other styles and cultures evident within the city. Nonetheless, after the Iron Curtain’s fall, Prague became one of the most visited cities in Europe and, perhaps, also in the world.

Old charm

The city’s unmistakable old charm and varied stylistic influences make Prague an unbelievably beautiful city. Just like a poem, Prague is as clear-cut as a crystal—every nook, every cranny, every small detail fits into a cohesive whole. Perhaps nothing can demonstrate the beauty Prague more than the Prague Castle, a destination known around the world.

With a history that can be traced way back from the 9th century, the Prague Castle wasn’t the first castle that served as the center of the country, although it certainly became that and more later on. Prague Castle only became the seat of power in the country during the 10th century, although the castle’s actual flourish into what it is now came about during the reign of Charles IV. He rebuilt the castle and gave it the Gothic style it is known for today. Today, majority of the Prague Castle is open to the public. Within the castle are a number of castles, churches, parks, and other buildings, all of them noted for their exquisite styles and designs.

The Old Town and the New Town, too, are notable sites in the country, more so since it demonstrates the progression of the city. The Old Town (or Stare Mesto) houses a number of notable sites, such the Old Town Square, the Astronomical Clock, and the Old New Synagogue. The Old New Synagogue may not be as spectacular or grandiose as the other churches in churches in the city, but it is notable for being Europe’s oldest active synagogue. It is also a testament to Prague’s Jewish heritage. Czech’s Old Jewish Cemetery is also located in Prague. There are around 12,000 graves here, the oldest dating back to 1439. The Old Town Square, on the other hand, is a popular meeting place. It also serves as the venue for a number of important celebrations, such as New Year, Easter, and Christmas celebrations. Quite predictably, the Old Town Square is also a common venue for protests, as this lies within the center of the area and it can therefore attract attention. The New Town houses the National Museum and the National Theater.

Of course, Prague isn’t all about the antiqued and the aged, as sites such as the Andel could prove. The Andel is perhaps one of the more modern locations in Prague—and in Czech Republic. This neighborhood is known for its modern shopping malls and modern architectural designs. Prague also boasts of locations that lend its popularity to popular culture, such as the Franz Kafka Museum and the Lennon Wall (named after the author famous for “Metamorphosis” and John Lennon, the musician-songwriter member of The Beatles respectively).

Prague, with all these, is definitely just like a poem, as implied by the famous Czech poet Jan Neruda said. After all, Prague, like a poem, lends its appeal from traditional, but its general beauty is due to its universality and its ability to adapt. Just like anything worth its while, Prague is timeless.

Prague, Czech Republic

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