Prague: a medieval flavour seasoned with modern vibes

The streets of the old town in Prague are a red carpet of imposing medieval beauties. And despite the hordes of selfie sticks and thousands of avid tourists, you’ll find a carefree atmosphere in the air inviting relaxation and free flow wandering.

It’s hard to imagine that this cheerful and vivacious city has gone, in the last hundred years alone, through a declaration of independence, nazi occupation, a repressive communist dictatorship and a pacific transition to democracy!

Everything breaths old history in Prague. The settlement in the margins of the Vltava river started as early as the Palaeolithic, and the imposing Prague Castle goes back to the 9th century, a solid fortification against attacking enemies.

In the 14th century, when Charles IV reigned, Prague was the third largest city in Europe, and saw unparalleled growth. It was a rich commercial city that attracted many merchants, bankers and influent families, with a thriving Jewish community. Testament to that period are the Charles IV bridge – uniting both margins of the Vltava – the Charles University and the St. Vitus Cathedral, all symbolising the desire for knowledge (or for fervent religious inspiration).

After a period of intense turmoil, the 16th century saw Prague emerging again as a city of lights and knowledge, under the rule of the Habsburg. Astronomers and mathematicians like Johannes Kepler and John Dee lived here, sharing their knowledge with painters and writers. It was a time of poets and quants!

In the following two centuries the city endured wars, plagues and major fires, but reached the 18th century as an important European hub, fuelled by the advent of the industrial revolution and the rich coal mines nearby.

The end of the First World War and the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire led to the creation of Czechoslovakia, with Prague as the capital and the Prague Castle as the seat of the president. By then Prague was a multi ethnic city, with large Czech, German and Jew populations fuelling a melting pot of traditions. This would change dramatically with Hitler’s invasion in 1939, when the majority of the Jewish population was deported or killed.

Liberation came by the hands of the Russian Red Army. But the liberators soon became oppressors, puppeteering a communist dictatorship that ended only in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin wall. The velvet revolution invaded the streets of Prague, celebrating Czechoslovakia’s newborn freedom.

Czechoslovakia lasted till 1993, when Czechs and Slovaks amicably decided to split the country. In 2004 both Czech Republic and Slovakia entered the European Union, together with several other Eastern European countries.

I’ll leave you with a final interesting bit of trivia (who knows, it might be the winning play in your next game of Trivial Pursuit): most countries have two names, a short one and a formal one (for instance, my home country is commonly known as ‘Portugal’, but its formal name is ‘Portuguese Republic’). Until very recently, Czech Republic had no short name, but one was just approved: ‘Czechia’. Dating back to the 17th century, the name never caught real traction, despite being freely used by some international press. Choosing it for the country’s official short name  was not an uneventful decision, with many Czechs arguing against the “weirdness of the name”, “similarities with Chechnya”, “similarities with Tschechei, a derogatory name given by the nazis to the region”, and the fact that “it excludes from the name part of the Czech Republic territories – Moravia and Silesia”, among others.

See you soon!

Jules*

65 thoughts on “Prague: a medieval flavour seasoned with modern vibes

      1. Thank you! I wasn’t a big fan of black & white till I bought a wide angle lens, now I think it’s a great way to accentuate perspectives. Hope you’re enjoying Peru, it’s one of my favorite South American countries!

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  1. We are in the process of planning a trip to Europe next year and have been oscillating between including Prague (and Vienna and Salzburg), which will mean going flat out or taking a slower pace but seeing less – your photos have just about convinced me that going hard and seeing more is probably the better option 🙂

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  2. Old is good. I’ve been to Prague, I have loved it. Back in the 1990’s. Thrilling old city, historically full. Loved the cathedrals and King Wenceslaus’ tomb. The food was great, the visit too short.

    I love reading your posts. You bring these places to life with your stories, and the simple charm of seeking beauty where others are seeking trinkets! Best wishes to you, Jules & Verne! Keep it up!

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    1. These stories and photographs are all the mementos we need from these trips. I think we would write them even if nobody else read them, but hearing feedback such as yours exponentially increases the joy we get out of it. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you so much!You should definitely go to Prague, it is an outstanding city. If possible just try to avoid August 🙂 It was still an amazing trip, but we would have appreciated a bit more calm and peace!

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  3. Mas que grande lição de História que nos dás, Jules! E belas fotos, também! Destaco a escada em caracol, o túnel de Dear Moat, a escultura da Powder Tower… Ah, duas fotos fabulosas, a Dancing House e a praça ao pé! Dentro do preto e branco. Nas fotos a cores, gostei muito da vista sobre o rio Vltava – e, especialmente bonita, a do “boy” que gosta de eléctricos e comboios!

    Pois, também quero ir a Praga, e não me vou esquecer de fazer bolas de sabão e de tomar um “delicious coffee and cake”, algures na Wenceslas Square! 🙂

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  4. Prague is hands down my favourite of the European cities I have visited, so beautiful and historic! I love how you’ve included so much history and so many facts into your post!

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    1. Indeed, it is an amazing city with such an old and interesting story, that it was difficult to let go of that 🙂 I saw in your blog that you are doing a gap year? Let us know if you are keen to come to Lisbon, we would be more than happy to share a few tips! Best of luck for your travels!

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      1. I’ve written about Berlin in several of my earlier posts. You can find them all at http://www.expatadventurerblog.wordpress.com. Since I am living here for a while to come, I still want to check out all of the weekend street markets and alternative tours. If you have a particular venue in Berlin you would like information about please make a suggestion and I will try to check it out if possible. I look forward to reading more about your travels as well.

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    1. Hi Advaita! So glad you enjoyed 🙂 I don’t think there’s any silver bullet… we usually just write about the things we enjoy and captivate our attention. I guess having fun while doing it is the most important! Good luck with your blog!

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  5. You really captured some amazing photos of Prague. It rained half the time I was there and mine were not nearly as good!
    I was fortunate enough to have dinner with a group of Czech people and they were totally against it being called Czechia for the same reasons you said – it sounds too similar to Chechyna!

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