Golden City of 10,000 Spires

Trip Start Jan 07, 2004
Trip End Jan 27, 2004

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Hlavní Mesto Praha,
Saturday, January 10, 2004

Dobry den,

Greetings from Eastern Europe!  I arrived safely in Prague, the golden city of 10,000 spires.  The city is an architectural treasure.  Unlike many European cities, Prague survived both WWII and communism.  Throughout the city it is easy to see Romantic, Gothic, Art Nouveau, Renaissance, Baroque and even Romanesque buildings.

One of my favorite treats was visiting the performance halls.  The first night, I went to the Estates Theater for a performance of Mozart's Magic Flute.  It's an opera performed in Czech with German subtitles.  I've never appreciated a libretto more.  It was fun to watch the ballet corps alternate with the opera chorus in the same performance.  I love the audience here too, very quiet and attentive.  All in a very baroque hall.  The second night, I went to the National Theater.  On the schedule was Krapp's Last Tape, a play by Samuel Beckett.  One of the slowest and darkest performances I've ever seen.  But audience still ate it up.  Both venues were very ornate, intimate and affordable.  The arts here seem to be more revered than back home.

Prague is renowned for all its crooked streets.  I paid close attention to my map and still got lost.  But it was good.  I stumbled across a farmers' market with lots of artists selling hand-made crafts.  Too tempting to pass up!  So I picked up several sketches of the city's main sights.  My last night here a light snow started falling.  All around town people were taking an evening stroll.  Kind of like a European Norman Rockwell painting.

There's one thing I noticed about all the cities on my itinerary - the layout.  Specifically, a castle on a hill overlooking a river.  I think that was essential for a city's survival throughout different eras.  Prague is no different.  The King's Walk is an old path used by royalty.  It proceeds from the castle, down the hill, across a bridge and into the old town square.  The reverse route was taken by prisoners condemned to die.  Along St Charles Bridge are many statues at which many would stop to pray.

To cover all the cities on this trip, I brought along three different travel guide books.  One characterizes Prague as having a long struggle for independence.  I saw reminders of that throughout the city.  Many remember Wenceslas Square, where the Velvet Revolution of 1989 forced the communists out of power.  Next to the Old Town Clock Tower are 27 white crosses, memorializing 27 Protestant rebels who were beheaded in 1621.  In the center of Old Town Square is a statue of Jan Hus, a priest who was burned at the stake in 1415.  Also, the Jewish Museum was actually designed by Hitler as a remembrance to his extinguished race.


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