Cathedrals, Castles, and Communism in Prague, Czech Republic

Photo Credit: Ietf.org

Photo Credit: Ietf.org

Prague is an easy city to fall in love with. Rich with history, architecture, and art, Prague sits at the heart of the Czech Republic in Central Europe as the nation’s capital. A gorgeous castle and endless cathedrals earned the city the name “City of 100 Spires.” Anywhere you walk down the cobblestone streets you can find a story written in history and waiting to be explored.

Two summers ago I was chosen to be a part of a photography class studying abroad in the Czech Republic. This was my first trip outside of the US besides the quick thirty-minute drives across the Mexican border. I was nervous, but I soon learned that Prague felt a lot like home.

Prague is a huge tourist destination. Its history with visitors started years ago. Because of Prague’s central location in Europe, many traders and merchants passed through the Czech Republic during their travels. This created a country that mixes western European and eastern European cultures. The Czech language is spoken along with German, Russian, and English. You can try some potato pancakes and dumplings, or you can play it safe and grab a bite at McDonald’s. A huge five story mall offers a day of shopping, or you can discover some of the small shops on the streets. There is something for everyone.

Getting around to the exciting destinations is easy. The city is packed with things to do, but is smaller than it appears on a map. Walking is a good option in the main city area. If you want to travel a little farther, you can take one of the street trams that go just about anywhere. Just make sure it is going the right. The metro was my first time on a subway, and they can take you to large attractions very fast. Make sure you have a ticket, because officers are strict about fare and will fine you or even arrest you. No one wants that!

So what are some of these amazing attractions? Prague Castle is a must-see. The castle grounds contain the giant St. Vitus cathedral built in the mid-1300s and a garden with a bird-eye view of the city. The castle is said to have inspired the Disney castle. A smaller version of the Eiffel Tower sits in the middle of the gardens at Petrin Hill. Old Town Square has a clock tower with mechanical figures that put on a show for tourists. It was once consider on of the Wonders of the World.

My favorite memory was a festival held in a Prague every summer—the King’s Parade. The King’s Parade is a reenactment of the journey the king and queen would take every year from Prague Castle to their summer home. The parade is like nothing I have seen in the United States. Actors dress up as king, queen, pages, and stable hands. The procession traverses the streets riding on horses and playing music. Unlike parades I have been to before, there were no barriers. People from the crowd could join in and walk with the actors. Photographers darted around horses trying to get the perfect shot. Children waved to the queen and shook hands with the jester. There was so much energy and excitement and I got to be a part of it!

Of course, exploring the quieter sides of town was nice too. This is where I got to see and meet the people at the heart of Prague. Storeowners and strangers on the bus were excited to practice their English with me. I took pictures of a father and son roller skating on one of the only sunny days that month. There was a gypsy festival the first week where Roma people taught a crowd of people to dance.

At the same time, there were plenty of Czechs that were reserved and quiet. We were told that the older Czechs were usually more reserved because they grew up under totalitarian rule. The Czech Republic was under Nazi rule during WWII. The communist party was strong in the Czech Republic and still has an active party in the nation. But through this dark history, the Czechs have prevailed.

In fact, many Czechs have made their mark on art and literature. Author Franz Kafka is from the Czech Republic as well as art nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha. Rococo and cubist architects designed incredible buildings that have stood for centuries. The Czech Republic has a lot to be proud of.

With so much to do and so much history to explore, the Czech Republic made me realize that every place has a story to offer. If you go to Prague, don’t forget your camera, because you won’t want to miss a thing while you’re making some memories of your own.

Speak Your Mind