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Prague- The City of Hundred Spires
Planning a vacation to Czech Republic? To get a fair look at any country one must venture beyond its prominent cities. Czech Republic has a world of cultural riches outside of Prague. Get beyond Prague and explore the country's medieval towns. As you stroll through the rugged woods and ornate castles, you will feel as if you're walking through the garden of the childhood dreams. The harmonic landscape of Bohemian Massif offers plenty of space for relaxation as you trudge through the Bohemian countryside in the midst of the mountains.
The Czech Republic in Central Europe is well known for its royal castles, lovely chateaux, charming gardens, ancient treasures, legends and mysteries. Prague which is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic is home to a 9th century castle.
Prague : Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic bisected by the Vltava river. It is also the historical capital of Bohemia and of the Roman empire. Prague has been a mix of waxing and waning fortunes during its 1100 year existence. Nicknamed "The City of a Hundred Spires" has one of most rich and diverse culture along with its artistic highlights from many different centuries and architectural aesthetics.
Top Attractions in Prague:
- Prague Castle (Hradcany Castle): Prague castle is one of the largest castle in the world and an ancient symbol of the Czech lands. It is one of the most noteworthy Czech monument and important cultural institutions in Czech Republic. The whole castle grounds are dominated by the monumental St. Vitus cathedral. It is the largest coherent castle complex that covers area of almost 18 acres consisting of ecclesiastical buildings and large scale composition of palaces.
History of Prague Castle:
The Prague castle was built around 880 AD by prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid dynasty. The castle was heavily fortified with a moat and ramparts of clay and stones. The biggest development came in the 14th century during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (1346-1378). The royal palace were rebuilt, fortifications were strengthened and St. Vitus Cathedral was set up. St.Vitus basilica was the main castle since the 11th century where the relics of the patron saints of the land are kept. New fortifications and defense towers were built in 1483 when the king of the new dynasty of Jagellons made the castle his seat. During the course of 16th century, the Royal Garden was created as an Italian garden for exclusive use of royals in the Prague Castle. The Summer Palace, the Ball Game Hall, a shooting range and the Lion's Court were build for entertainment purposes. The Prague defenestration in 1618, deliberately damaged the Prague castle during the long period of wars. In 1848, after Emperor Ferdinand V renounced his throne, he chose Prague castle as his home and later the Chapel of the Holy Cross on the Second Courtyard was rebuilt. For the coronation of Francis Joseph I, The Spanish Hall and The Rudolph gallery was set up which however did not occur. Even today reconstructions and alterations of the ground of Prague castle are still in progress. Apart from being the seat of head of state, Prague castle is an important cultural and historical monument in Czech Republic where the Crown jewels are kept along with the relics of Bohemian kings, precious Christian relics, art treasures and historical documents. Prague castle is considered as an embodiment of historical tradition of the Czech state, linking the present with the past.
- Charles Bridge: In 1357, Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV commissioned the Charles bridge. It is a stone gothic bridge that connects the Old Town and Lesser Town (Malá Strana). It was actually known as Stone bridge for several centuries. This stunning bridge spans 16 arches lined with 30 Baroque statues of religious figures. The bridge is built of sandstone blocks flanked at each end by fortified towers. It is said that to strengthen the construction of the bridge, egg yolks were mixed into the mortar.
History of Charles Bridge:
Charles Bridge is only one among many monuments that were built during King Charles reign. But it is not the first bridge that crossed the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic. Another bridge known as the Judith Bridge built around 1172 was the first stone bridge that used to stand in its place. It collapsed in a flood in 1342.
Old Town Bridge Tower:
A beautiful Gothic tower guarding one end of Charles bridge built by Emperor Charles IV during the mid 14th century.
The statue St. John of Nepomuk, a Czech martyr saint is probably the one noteworthy who was executed during the reign of Wenceslas IV being thrown into the Vltava river from the bridge.
- Old Town Square: It is one of the two main squares in Prague located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge. One of the most splendid historical sites in Europe with its ancient buildings and ecclesiastical hierarchy. A hodgepodge of architectural styles like the Romanesque, The Rococo Kinsky palace, The Gothic Tyn Cathedral and The Baroque St. Nicholas Church are all represented around the square.
- Wenceslas Square: Formerly known as Koňský trh (Horse Market) which was intended to trade with horses. It is another main city square in Prague New Town laid out by Charles IV in 1348, a boulevard with a clear span of 750m long by 60m wide. It is a place where many historical events took place in 20th century which is now a shopper's paradise and nightlife centre of Prague.
- Mala Strana: Malá Strana or Lesser Town district is located around foothills of Prague castle across the Vltava river from the Old Town. It was founded by King Ottokar II of Bohemia in 1257. Mala Strana was devastated twice during the battle between the Hussites and the Prague Castle garrison in 1419 followed by The Great Fire of Prague in 1514.
- Tyn Church: Formerly known as The Church of Our Lady dominates one side of the Old Town Square. One of the most magnificent Gothic religious buildings constructed in 1385. The church's gothic towers soar 260 ft into the sky. The building was once a 11th century Romanesque church where the foreign merchants came to Tyn courtyard for trading goods.
- Prague Astronomical Clock: Prague Astronomical clock or Prague Orloj is a medieval astronomical clock is considered one of the wonders of the world. It was built by Master Hanus in 1410. It is a complicated, ancient Orloj that reveals Babylonian time, Old Bohemian time, German time, sidereal time, sunrise and sunset, different phases of the moon.
- Old New Synagogue: Old New Synagogue is one of the most oldest extant synagogue in Europe built around 13th century.
Legends of Old New Synagogue:
There are numerous legends and tales associated with Old New Synagogue. The synagogue was once defended against fire in the ghetto by the wings of angels transformed into doves. The legend of Golem, an artificial creature made of clay by Rabi Jehud Löwa ben Bezalel during the 16 th century is connected to the Old New Synagogue. The monster was created intentionally to defend and help the Jews during bad times. Due to the aggressive and violent behavior of Golem, he was made dead again by Rabi Lowa.
- Dancing House: The Dancing House or Fred and Ginger is the nickname given to one of the most interesting Prague houses built at the end of the 20th century. Its design is very unique and striking as the house represents a man and a woman dancing together. Architects Vlado Milunc and the American Frank Owen Gehry constructed Dancing House between 1992-1996.
- Powder Tower: The Gothic Powder Tower in Prague stretches back to the 11th century which formerly served as the gunpowder store. The Czech Kings proceeded to the coronation through this gate. The viewing gallery spans 44metres in height. Inside the tower, there is a spiral staircase with 186 steps leading up to the gallery.