01 November 2011

Prague, Czech Republic

Post-dated from June 28 - July 1, 2011

Prague offered a quick taste of picturesque metropolitan architecture before it was time to settle down and find a home again.

We decided to take part in another free* (* donation based) tour, which turned out to be our most entertaining yet. The guide introduced humour at many turns, but also explored the depths of the city's dark past with a horrific story of the Nazi occupation of Prague. Apparently the Jewish quarter was left preserved by Hitler's orders because he wanted to keep it as one of the only memories of an extinct race. Our guide also enlightened us about the Communist period following the end of the Second World War up to the Velvet Revolution. This tour was quite worth our donation.

The destruction and conflict from Prague's past somehow haven't made for a dreary cityscape - on the contrary its history has created an interesting mixture of architectural styles. From the gothic stylings of the Powder Tower to the art deco (as in the "Koruna"-signed building in the photos) to the modern international style found in the Ceska Narodni Banka, this city keeps you guessing as to what you will get to see next.

One of the main squares also featured Prague's world-famous astronomical clock, the oldest working astronomical clock in the world (installed in 1410). Apart from the obviously awe-inspiring fact that the clock still functions, the design embellishments also make this piece unique. For instance, every hour figurines built in to the clock wake up and tell a story of vanity, greed, death, and pleasure. Understandably, a crowd often gathers to watch the procession.

The nightlife in Prague was entertaining as well, with a pub crawl that visited a number of locations built into the old cellars (and one bar in an old church) through the city.

Prague being my first visit to the Czech Republic, I was again reminded of my family history when our hostel receptionist recognized my last name as Czech. Supposedly long ago (at least 3 generations ago) the Horky family originally came from what is now the Czech Republic, which is how we got the Czech name Horky (meaning hot, spicy). I will look into this family history more when I get a chance.

All in all, Prague provided a visual and historical buffet worthy of the most seasoned of palettes and a great final destination. The Czech Republic will probably demand at least one more visit by this Horky.