IM Austria Prague 2014 Tour : Prague # 1

Attached with a piece of scotch tape on my wall is a postcard given to me by a friend.

The postcard was a picture of a town square in the afternoon, with a clock tower in the

background. I’d look at the card from time to time, imagining how it’d feel to stand there, be

there. A year after he gifted me the card I found myself standing in the exact same place the

picture was taken, Prague’s Old Town Square.

But before we get there, we made our first visit to Prague Castle. The official residence

of the President of the Czech Republic, Prague Castle is also the largest ancient castle in the

world. The castle grounds don’t just contain the state rooms, however, they also include

Golden Lane and the Basilica of St. George. Colored bright, vibrant shades of light blue, yellow,

and red today the street is home to a series of souvenir shops. The name of the street comes

from the legend that 16th century alchemists used to work and produce gold there, but aside

from a fortune teller’s house there was probably no magic happening there. Though the squat

buildings resemble children’s book houses, House no. 22 was where Czech-Jewish writer Franz

Kafka spent two years writing in peace. It was hard imagining how peaceful it could be since I

was stuck in a massive crowd of people inching their way through Golden Lane.

The colorful façade was a common theme that day since the St. George’s Basilica had a

striking Baroque style, dating from the late 17th century. After plenty of experience seeing

dreary Gothic churches, it was a bit of a surprise taking in the red, white, and green that

wouldn’t have seemed out of place in Santa’s workshop. Today the building houses the 19th

century Bohemian Art Collection of National Gallery and also serves as a concert hall.

At daytime the castle is lively and energetic, but at night the floodlights around it give it

an aura I can only describe is as awe-inspiring as Hogwarts Castle itself. The view is especially

beautiful across the opposite side of the castle by Charles Bridge. A gothic construction with

around 30 baroque statues, the Charles Bridge is an art museum on water. Depicting various

saints and patron saints, the bridge is also home to a flurry of street performers and artists. And

let me just pause this article for a moment to give a standing ovation to the street performers

in Prague. They provide one of the sweetest soundtracks to a beautiful city.

And what better place to listen to music then at the John Lennon Wall. From 1988, the

wall has been filled with poems and songs calling for love and peace. It was also an annoyance

to the communist regime of Gustav Husak since young Czechs would write grievances on the

wall, leading to a clash between students and authorities at Charles Bridge. The wall is

continuously changing as people from around the world add their own mark with poems, art,

and flowers.

While the majority of Prague is lovely to see at night, the Jewish quarter is definitely

something better appreciated in the day. Including Franz Kafka’s birthplace and a multitude of

16th century synagogues, the quarter itself is an enduring statement to the years of abuse flung

on the Jewish population. The Nazi German occupation overtook the quarter when it was

already destroyed to six synagogues, the old cemetery, and the Old Jewish Town Hall; however,

the area was preserved to become an, “exotic museum of an extinct race.” Nazis gathered

Jewish artifacts from all over central Europe to display in the quarter. Today more modern

buildings populate the area, but remnants of the culture still stand and serve as museums and

memorials to Holocaust victims.

Perhaps not as emotionally heart-wrenching but just as enduring is the Prague

astronomical clock in the Old Town Square. First installed in 1410, it is the third oldest

astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one to still be working. The four figures to the

clock’s sides represent what was despised in the 1400s. The first on the left is Vanity (man

holding mirror), Greed (miser holding bag of gold), Death (skeleton), and Pleasure and

Entertainment (Turk). On the hour the skeleton will strike the time and the figures will shake

their heads. It isn’t too much of a spectacle, but was enjoyable watching from the café as I

drank an iced coffee.

The Old Town Square is surrounded by numerous souvenir shops and cafes, but is

ultimately a place for social gathering. You’ll see crowds of people from tourists to locals

enjoying the nightlife and the scenery. Historic buildings surround the square, all to the

soundtrack of—yes, those street musicians I won’t shut up about. But sitting by the curb,

watching the sun set to an acoustic rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” was

honestly one of those moments I don’t think I’ll find myself forgetting. My memory works in

mysterious ways when it comes to traveling on these trips. Rarely do I ever remember too

vividly the main tourist landmarks or the famous historical sights. Instead it’s moments like

these, of pure bliss when I have no compulsion to look at the time of day.

That postcard is still on my wall stuck with a piece of scotch tape that’s slowly losing its

stickiness, but that image will always be with me even when my lack of cleaning habits finally

loses that postcard.


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