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marianne Praha - A travel report by Marianne
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Praha,  Czech Republic - flag Czech Republic -  Hlavni Mesto Praha
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marianne's travel reports

Prague: A Second Visit

  15 votes
Page: 1 2 3 4
My second visit to Prague was in November. This time of year Prague people have the city to themselves again, and only small groups of tourists walk up and down Charles Bridge.

Praha travelogue picture
Much has been written about Prague and I wonder what words to apply to this mysterious, jumbled, fantastic city. The city of Mozart, Dvořak, Smetena and Kafka. The city of art nouveau passages, cobbled streets, Bohemian crystal, souvenirs and tourists. The city that survived the communist take-over in 1948, the Russian invasion twenty years later. The city that emerged unscathed from the Velvet revolution in 1989, joined the European Union in 2004 and embraced European ideals but not yet the Euro.

My first visit to Prague was in September 2006. I wandered through Malá Strana, Staré Město, Nové Město and had my first Czeck mini lesson in the metro:

ukončete vystup a nástup - finish getting on and of

dveře se zavirají - the doors are closing

přišti stanice ... -The next station is ...

My second visit was early November 2007. Rain, wind and low temperatures made me resort to indoor activities. On more clement days I went to Charles Bridge to see if it was as crowded as in the tourists season, walked up and then down along Nerudova street in Malá Strana, went in search of cubist architecture and enjoyed window shopping in Národní Trida, Na Příkopě and Pařížská. I looked up at renaissance and art nouveau façades and looked down to admire the mosaic inlaid pavements.

During my first visit I admired David Černý's babies crawling on the TV tower. This time I wanted to see more of his works, but rain and storm prevented me from seeing them all. I searched for the only Cubist lamp post in the world (don't know if this is true). Supposedly it can be found in Nové Mesto, at Jungmannova Namesti. I found the square but not the lamp, but I saw a photo of it in the Cubist Museum and will continue my quest next time when I visit Prague.

I was more successful in following the cubist trail, which started at the Cubist museum and took me to Cubist villas in Vysehrad and Baba. (north of Dejvicka)

Favourite spots:
Philosophy Hall
Philosophy Hall
Charles bridge is never deserted and one of world's most densely populated spaces, all day long and most of the night, every day all year long. I decided to cross the bridge on a cold November morning when popularity was low due to strong gusts of wind and sleet. I shared the bridge with only about a hundred others and enjoyed the views. On my right looming above me Hradcany, the most photographed sight in Prague.

I crossed the bridge as it is the shortest route to Strahovský Library. Last time I skipped this because the queue waiting to get in was too long. This time only four other tourists were waiting for the staff to get back after lunch.

The photo poster outside shows the Philosopy Hall with floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with books. The frescoed ceiling and the wooden floor with the red carpet attract the attention and are an invitation to buy an entrance ticket.

What's really great:
Theological Hall
Theological Hall
But what the poster doesn't show is the red-velvet cord spanned across the entrance door of both the Philosophy and Theological hall which makes the library into an access prohibited zone, less attractive and not worth the long wait in summer.

One exhibit, the Library Rules, makes up for it. The rules are in beautiful calligraphy and written in latin. It advises on what the librarian should do in case of misplaced or damaged books and other things librarians are suppose to do. The last instruction reads; should the librarian notice a book went missing... We will never know what action he has to take because that's on the next page.

Another exhibit is the Stratov Gospel, a gem-studded book dating back to the 9th century and the oldest book in the library. It is on display in the hall and next to it is a glass cabinet with books containing documentation of Czech trees. Each tome has the bark of the tree on its spine.

Opposite the Strahovský Library is Muzeum Miniature. It takes 30 minutes to see all and well worth a visit (see Tips section for more detail)

The way back to Charles Bridge is via steep, cobbled Nerudova; a true architectural delight with renaissance and baroque façades. Especially noteworthy are: # 47 The House of the Two Suns where 19th cent writer-journalist Jan Neruda lived (hence the name of this street), # 32, the old pharmacy, u zlathéno, now restored and renamed Lékárna Dittrich with a small pharmaceutical exhibition which includes leech bottles, # 20 Thun-Hohenštenjnský Palác, now the Italian Embassy.

On the right unrestricted views of the pictoresque jumble of Malá Strana red-tiled roof tops, the green slopes of Petrín and the vast vista of Prague beyond the Vltava river and the Zizkov telecommunication tower, a true landmark. Looking back Stravovsky Klášter stands out against the sky.

King Wenceslas on a dead horse
King Wenceslas on a dead horse
(See tips section for accommodation)

David Černý's works of art are controversial to say the least. His first act of rebellion was painting pink a Soviet tank which served as a war memorial and he was arrested for this civil disobedience. His babies crawling on the Žižkov TV Tower were my first encounter with this artist.

Lucerna Passage between Štěpánská and Vodičkova and close to Wenceslas Square is home to another quirky work of Černý. A dead horse dangles upside down from the ceiling, King Wenceslas astride the belly.

'Brownosers' are two huge puppets depicting politicians. Climb the ladder to look into their rear. This statue can be seen at Futura Gallery, Holeskova 49 in Smichov.

'Man Hanging Out' is a statue of Sigmund Freud dangling by his fingertips from a pole in Husova Street corner Skorepka.

Praha travelogue picture
More works of David Cerny:

'Quo Vadis' is a work of art consisting of a Trabant car on stilts with feet. It can be found in the garden of the German Embassy at Vlašská 19 in Malá Strana. A reminder of the summer of 1989 when thousands of East Germans camped out in the embassy's garden waiting for West German citizenship. They left their Trabant cars in the streets of Malá Strana. The embassy itself is also worth a closer look. It is a Baroque palace built early 18th century for Lobkowicz noblel family.

The original 'Quo Vadis' is in Zeitgeschichtliches Forum Leipzig, a museum that looks at events in the recent past and the historic developments since 1989.

Cerny's 'Pissing Men' stand in Cihelna Street in Mala Strana, just north of Charles Bridge. It depicts two men urinated into a pool. The stream of urine writes quotes of well-known Prague residents. The urinating can be interrupted by sending a text message, which will then be 'written' in water.

House of the Black Madonna
House of the Black Madonna
Cubist architecture is well represented in Prague. Cubism originally referred to (mainly) French painters such as Picasso, Gris and Braque. The principal idea is that the basic shape is a cube and every other work of art is derived from this shape. The works of art consist of pyramids, prisms and cubes and was also applied to architecure.

The House of the Black Madonna in Celetná Street is probably the most famous. It was designed by Josef Gocar as a department store, later it was divided into offices. Today it houses the Museum of Czeck Cubism, with two floors of cubism related exhibits. Paintings, a settee, a dressing table, vases and a tea set all with angles folded like origami. Sketches and scale models for homes and public buildings made it possible to see the finest details.

The central stairwell alone is worth a visit. (see my pics section). The re-constructed grand café on the first floor is another good cubist design example and a good place for a coffee with apple struddle

Kovarovic Villa
Kovarovic Villa
My favourite cubist building is Kovarovic Villa, Libusina 3 Vysegrad, next to the railway bridge across the Vltava river. Not just the building itself, also the frontdoor and garden fencing show cubist details. Just round the corner from Libusina are three more cubist houses. Neklanova numbers 2 and 30. Four houses on Rasinova, just to the left from Kovarovic Villa, on the road along the Vltava.

Another one is in Nové Mesto, at the junction of Lazarská and Spalena and finally a building in Josefov at Elisky Krasnohorske 10-14.

As I was quite in the mood for more architecurally interesting houses I took the metro to Hradranska and hopped on the #131 bus that took me to Baba district. The houses are all very similar white cubic forms with flat roofs and gardens. They were designed in 1947 as high-quality, low-cost housing as there was a shortage of houses. When the communist came to power the houses were confiscated and divided into smaller units or given to communist dignitaries.

Other recommendations:
Cubist detail
Cubist detail
What I was really looking for was the Palicka House built in 1947 and located on Na Babě 9, a modernist house in the style of Müllerova vila in Nad hradním vodojemem 14, south west of Dejvice.

I also wanted to see the assembled villa on Matějská Street also from 1947. It has two apartments per floor and looked quite nice. However, when the communists took over it was decided that high-rises would be more efficient. These high-rises were constructed with pre-fabricated concrete slabs. They had modern plumbing but wafer-thin walls, so that everything a neigbour says can be heard.

November late afternoon (4.45 pm) is too dark to see details or to take photos. Therefore, I will return to this district next time when I visit Prague so that I can see more details.

If you like to know more about Prague, read my first Prague report, have a look at my Prague slide show and go to my 'travel tip' section for Prague for full addresses and websites.

Published on Friday January 4th, 2008

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Sat, Feb 09 2008 - 02:08 PM rating by eirekay

I like the subway language lesson!!! Beautiful report - it conveys well your love of this city!

Thu, Jan 17 2008 - 11:01 AM rating by bineba

Thank you for another great report Marianne. I have never visited Prague and had been put off by the reports of British hen and stag parties marauding through the city, but I believe that they have moved on somewhere else now. So maybe now it's the time to go, especially off season.

Tue, Jan 08 2008 - 11:44 AM rating by fieryfox

Great report Marianne, Its nostalgic for me and brings back fond memories, especially the walk up Charles Bridge. Thanks for sharing this wonderful journey. Cheers!

Fri, Jan 04 2008 - 04:18 PM rating by rangutan

Interesting report with some very heavy cultural details. I was wondering what else the local people do. Perfect and suitable images too.

Fri, Jan 04 2008 - 12:18 PM rating by mistybleu

Great report. My normal stance is never visit a place twice, as there are so many other places in the world to see. But you have highlighted such an important point thatt can only be seen if you dig a little deeper.

I enjoyed taking this journey with you.

Fri, Jan 04 2008 - 11:49 AM rating by davidx

Congratulations - first for the bravery to attempt a second report on a place and second for doing such a good one. I have the feeling there will always be something worth saying for a new report on Prague.

Fri, Jan 04 2008 - 11:08 AM rating by zrusseff

Awesome report Marianne. I like the bit of history in the introduction of the report. I have been wanting to go Prague but it is great to have such vivid writing through which I visit vicariously. Thanks for sharing - the photographs are absolutely gorgeous. You write really well. Great job!

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