Prague. A city with two faces

05/03/2014 by .

Over five million visitors stayed in Prague in 2013. Why? the answer is straight forward: Prague is one of the loveliest town in central Europe. Personally, it reminds me of an hand-made chocolates box. Every building is breathtakingly decorated, each historical period bought new beauty to the town and yet all the styles merge perfectly.

But be aware, Prague is like the double-faced masques in Mozart’s operas:  one smiles, the other frowns. This is a town which will entice and repel at the same time. Each edifice has a flip side. No matter how many times you’ll visit the Czech capital, you’ll always find beauty and encounter frustration.

Prague biggest single draw is the hourly spectacle presented by Orloj, the 14th century astronomical clock on the Old Town Hall. From 8am to 8pm, wooden automatons emerge from trap doors, while below the saints, a lesson in medieval morality is enacted by Greed, Vanity, Death and the Turk. As the crowd disperses and as the last trumpet sound fades away……..

Circle the clock tower and this time, look down at the 27 white crosses on the black stones each representing a leading rebel decapitated on the 21st June 1621.

In all likelihood visitors will find themselves in Wenceslas Square where a statue of the proud Wenceslas rides a horse. In the adjacent Lucerna palace, inside the atrium the same statue can be seen only this time the horse is upside down and dead as a dodo, leaving Wenceslas to flog a dead horse

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The Czech artist David Černý who is also responsible for the sculpture is also known for several other controversial work of art doted around Prague. The mirrored woman which can be walked in via her vagina, the two peeing guys, opposite the Kafka Museum and the highest tower in the Czech republic, the Zhizhkov TV Tower complete with panoramic viewing platforms and crawling Babies.

The Czechs are top of the world beer-drinkers chart,  beating the Irish and the Australian and the best known Czech beer is Pilsner but small breweries offer a huge variety of top-brews. Best are U Medvídků,  U Houdků, U Provaznice and the lovely U Fleku which offers tours and traditional meals on long communal wooden tables at a very reasonable price, agreemented with accordion music.
Famous composers, folkloric musicians, Prague has always been an important music scene in the past, looking at the flip side, the scene has not changed much and it’s in this city that one can find the largest club of central Europe. Karlovy lázně with its five storey, each space dedicated to a genre of  music, going back to the ’50s.

If sound doesn’t make your heart beat but visual art does, don’t miss the Lennon Wall located at Velkopřevorské náměstí which in the late 80’s was the place where young Czech activists would write their grievances along lyrics from Beatles songs. Old and new, bad and good, life and death there is a perfect symmetry to Prague.

Prague Perils:

* There is a lot of sight-seeing involved. Streets are cobbled, good functional shoes are a must.

*  Prices are inflated and everything has a price tag. For example, ask for a glass of water with your espresso and your bill will double. Tap water is charged for.

*  Always validate your bus tickets, especially coming from the airport, fines are 30 Euros, having just a ticket doesn’t allow you to travel. Inspectors are on the lookout for unaware or foolhardy tourists

* Never change money in the street and avoid money changers if you can, use a bank, scams are too many to mention.

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