Click here on Prague, Castles And Cathedrals to read about the first part of our Czech adventure.
Prague is a gorgeous city in ancient Bohemia and in the current Czech Republic. Every corner we walked around we were so excited for the surprise that awaited us.
Streets like this, with little gas-lit lamps and flower boxes on the windows.
The biggest must see of Prague is the Old Town Square. And located in the Old Town Square is the Prague Astronomical Clock, or Prazský orloj. The clock was first put up in 1410 and it is the oldest astronomical clock still working.
We decided that was something we really wanted to see, so we headed over to the clock at noon to watch it chime.
The clock was made even less impressive by the fact that at least half of Europe and a third of America was visiting Prague this weekend. I stood in the square and more than once uttered, "Who in the heck are all these people?!"
I may have also thought, "What made them think they could come to Prague the same time I did?" I'm kind of a snot, huh?
You see, I feel like Europe is mine. Like mine personally. Like I'm the first American to come to Europe and to fall in love with it. We've lived in Germany for 10 months now and other than our first trip to Paris in August, 2012, we've done all our traveling off season. With the arrival of June and higher temperatures and sunshine, tourist season is upon us. Prague had also flooded the week before so Matt and I were sure that people would have cancelled their trips and we would have Prague to ourselves. Nope. Maybe all these people thought the same thing. Boy, we were all in for a surprise. I guess I'm going to have to learn to share Europe with the rest of the world.
At the center of the Old Town Square is a memorial to Jan Hus, a Czech priest who lived between 1349-1415. He thought all the same things as Martin Luther did, only a century earlier. He was burned at the stake for heresy against the Catholic Church. He is considered the first church reformer. Why was Jan Hus burned at the stake and Martin Luther heralded as a reformer? Mostly because Jan Hus was Czech and Martin Luther was a German. The Catholic Church thought it was a lot easier to make an example of Hus. Burning a German at the stake would have caused much more of an uprising.
Every which way you turn in the Old Town Square gives you glimpses of the true beauty of Prague.
Prague can trace it's beginnings to a Celtic settlement that started in 6th century AD. Prague flourished during the 1300's as capital of Bohemia. It was an important city for the Habsburgs (those guys in charge of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). The city became an economic powerhouse in 1771 and rich merchants filled the city with churches and palaces. They gave Prague the Baroque architecture that it is known for around the world.
This church looming like a specter from behind the jaunty pink and yellow buildings is the Týn Church, or Church of Our Lady before Týn. It was built in the 14th century. It gave my husband, Matt, the willies. He said it looked just like that place in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where the guy with the big nose took the children. He kept giving the church sideways glances. I think he was having memories surface about nightmares he had as a child about being stolen away by a man with a big nose. I stroked his arm and told him that nobody was going to steal him away now.
We followed the crowds over to the Charles Bridge. The Charles Bridge connects the two halves of Prague over the Vltava river. It is the oldest stone bridge surviving and still in use in Europe today.
Here we are walking over the bridge with all the other tourists. It wasn't just the fact the Prague was crowded that we were having a hard time with. It was also really warm and we were totally unprepared. We brought shorts and T-shirts so clothes weren't the problem. We just really weren't ready mentally to battle that kind of heat. After the cold temps and rain we had just had on our trip to Berlin, the heat and sunshine were a shock.
This is King Charles who laid the first stone on July 9,1357 for the bridge. Prague is really into statues. They are in the squares. They are on the bridges.
They put statues on the tops of their buildings.
They even stick them on the sides of buildings. Heck, if you hold still long enough they might put a statue on you.
Not that I'm complaining. Prague is a breathtakingly beautiful city. One of the reasons that Prague is so beautiful is because it suffered relatively low bombing damage during World War II. Hitler entered Prague in 1939 and claimed it to be part of Germany. Prague was liberated from Nazi Germany by the Soviet Red Army in 1945.
After seeing the main sights and attractions in Prague, I just aimlessly wandered around the Old Town. Aimless wandering is one of my favorite things to do in a new city. You never know what you are going to come across or discover when you turn the corner.
I love walking along the streets, mixing with the locals, finding little shops and eateries. And mostly just seeing the city. Marveling at the architecture. Unfortunately, my children tire quickly of aimless wandering in crowded hot cities so there often has to be promises of ice cream to be eaten in the shade.
But after all the aimless wandering and scoops of ice cream and pastries eaten, what I'm really hoping is that these trips, this time in Europe changes them. Like it's changed me. I hope they realize how big the world is, yet small at the same time. How beautiful it is. I hope they learn that you don't need to be scared of cultures or people that are different from you. How beauty is in the differences. I hope they learn to act local, but think global. I hope they learn that with all the history out there that they are a part of it. No matter how small, we are all a part of it. I hope as adults they will sit around in some cafe in Paris or Madrid and have a sibling reunion and remember their childhood in Europe. I hope that after all the hot car rides and miles walked and shoes worn out and strange beds slept in, that they will still have a love of new places, languages, and stories. I guess I hope that by showing them the world they will want to make it a better place.