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The Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) in Prague, Czech Republic: Put it on your bucket list!
Back when I was studying the Czech language, my teacher had told me an interesting story about Charles Bridge. He said that when King Charles was running it's construction, he had ordered for thousands of eggs to be delivered from the townspeople, so that they could include the shells into the foundation of the cement. He believed that the egg shells would help it maintain it's strength over the test of time. However, his orders to the citizens got confused and instead of bringing whole eggs, they discarded the shells and just brought buckets full of egg whites and yolks! So it was a funny (but evidently frustrating) mis-communication of the ancient times. Whether this is true or not, he said that it was a story taught to him growing up in Prague.
A bridge to remember....
One of my favorite places in the world, hands down, is the Charles Bridge in Prague. It is a true representation of it's time, and has been standing over the Vltava river for centuries. Every time I return to the Prague area, this is always my first stop. In the early morning hours it's a great place to take a stroll, as you will find it to be one of the most peaceful places on earth. Depending on the time of year, part of the bridge's charm is seeing the fog rise above the water in the wee hours of the day. By late morning to early afternoon, it becomes alive with hundreds of visitors, entertainers, and merchants. While it may not seem appealing to head somewhere that you know will be packed with people, I've never had it seem like we were all elbow-to-elbow. It is a very wide bridge and it is only allowed for pedestrians (with the exception of the occasion city vehicle or police car) to cross over it. As you walk across putting the view of Old Town Square behind you, you can see the Prague Castle on the horizon in front of you. The famed photograph of the bridge with the castle in the background is 100% real! And it is truly as gorgeous as it looks in the pictures, if not even more stunning in person. The other notable feature about this bridge is the 30 statues of various saints and patron saints of the old times. Don't feel like a dork taking a hundred photos, as everyone does it!
The Love Locks on Charles Bridge
The idea of having "love locks" on bridges did not originate in Prague, but they do exist on Charles Bridge. Basically the legend has it that if two people write their names on a padlock, lock it up on the bridge, and throw the key into the river that it will be an everlasting love. The hot spot for placing these locks is on the small statue that depicts St. John being thrown into the river and drowned, hence the symbolism behind throwing the key into the river at that exact spot. This statue is said to have been the location of where this happened.
Bring the bridge home with you!
About the statues who live upon the bridge
Charles Bridge was originally constructed in 1357 AD. Actually according to some sources, the exact time and date of which it began being built was July 9 at 5:31am. It survived battles, floods, attacks, and still stands completely stable today. It's most famous feature would be the several statues placed all along the bridge. Most of them were erected over the years of 1683 to 1714, and they are a representation of saints during the Gothic and Baroque era. They were designed by the most prominent and important Bohemian sculpters of the time, some of whom include Jan Brokoff, Ferdinand Maxmilian, and Michael Joseph. While the originals lasted on Charles Bridge for a long time, the statues were slowly replicated and substituted with replacements to preserve the first editions. Those could be seen in the National Museum in St. Wenceslas Square. The most famous of all the statues is the one of St. John of Nepomuk. It is said to have some sort of magical powers to grant wishes, and also bring good luck into your life! Beneath him you will notice two very polished plaques, one which has a knight petting his dog. It is said to rub the dog for good luck, and you will know that people have by how shiny he is! The other plaque depicts an image of St. John falling off a ledge. It is said that if you rub this one, you are ensuring yourself that you will come back to Prague someday.
Here is a list of the all the statues, and who they are supposed to represent: A lot of them have religion connotations, but even aside from that, they are really cool to look at even if you have no idea who they are (like myself....or most of them anyway)
- St. Ivo
- Saints Barbara, Margaret, Elizabeth
- Lamentation of Christ
- St. Joseph
- St. Francis Xavier
- St. Christopher
- St. Francis Borgia
- St. Ludmila
- St. Francis of Assisi
- Saints Vincent Ferrer and Procopus
- St. Nicholas of Tolentino
- St. Luthgard
- St. Adalbert
- Saints John of Matha, Felix of Valois, and Ivan
- St. Wenceslas
- Madonna and St. Bernard
- Madonna, Dominic and Thomas Aguinas
- The Crucifix and Calvary
- St. Anne
- St. Cyril and St. Methodius
- St. John the Baptist
- Saints Norbert of Xanten, Wenceslas, and Sigismung
- St. John of Nepomuk
- St. Anthony of Padus
- St. Jude
- St. Augustine
- St. Cajetan
- St. Philip
- St. Vitus
- Statue of Holy Savior with Cosmas and Damian