Our adventure in Prague continues. Having crossed of the Guinness Book of Records’ largest castle in the world from our tourist list, it was time to get serious and nail a couple of other Prague sights.
Next up was Charles Bridge, which is probably the one thing most people associate Prague with. Crossing the mighty Vltava River, construction on the bridge began under the rule of King Charles IV in 1357 but the bridge itself only became known as the Charles Bridge in 1870, having previously been called the Stone Bridge and Prague Bridge. Legend has it that actual construction began precisely in the year 1357 on 9 July at 5:31am - a perfect palindrome, which was supposed to imbue the bridge with additional strength.
Measuring approximately 600 metres long and 10 metres wide, the pedestrian-only bridge connects Prague Castle with the district of Malostranka and the Old Town. This utility, however, is supplanted by the splendour of the spectacular statues that adorn either side of the bridge. Numbering 30 in total, they were originally built in 1700 but have all now been replaced by replicas, which nonetheless are spectacular in their own right.
While all the statues have their own fascinating back stores, St John of Nepomuk’s has to be one of the most interesting. He was ordered drowned in the Vltava River by King Wenceslaus, then king of the Romans and Bohemia, due to him being the confessor of the Queen of Bohemia and refusing to divulge the secrets of the confessional. In doing so, St John is considered the first martyr of the Seal of the Confessional, which is the “law” prohibiting priests from disclosing anything that they learn during confession. Due to the way in which he was killed, St John is now bizarrely considered a protector from floods and drowning.
Prague receives more than 7 million visitors per year which means that most of the sights are fairly heaving with tourists. Charles Bridge certainly is no different and probably the only way you’re going to get quiet contemplative time is if you were to visit in the wee hours of the morning. Still, strolling over the bridge affords the opportunity to people as well as statue watch. We probably spent too much time doing both as while walking across the bridge we managed to lose the kids. They were probably only “missing” for five minutes, but that was long enough to get a little bit worried about where they might have got to. Thankfully, we heard Belle before we saw either of the girls and everything was put right before any tears were shed. Keeping more of a watchful eye on them, this time, we then headed off to the Old Town Square, a short 5-10 minute walk away.
The Old Town Square dates from the 12th century AD, having started life as the central marketplace for Prague. Since that time Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic styled buildings have been built around the market providing it with a large dose of grandeur. The main attraction of the square is definitely the Astronomical Clock which is built into the façade of the Old Town Hall and was constructed in the 15th century AD.
Every hour on the hour, little windows open above the clock face and Jesus Christ then sets of on his ambulation followed by the Twelve Apostles. Half of Prague seems to turn up for this event, or at least they did when we were there, but getting a good vantage isn’t too difficult as the height where all the action jtakes place means that the crowd doesn’t really obstruct your view. Also on the same facade, just below the Astronomical Clock, are beautifully crafted signs of the zodiac which were added in 1865.
For those inclined, it’s also possible to enter the clock tower and either climb the stairs or ride the elevator to the top, where you can take in beautiful views of the Old Town.
The Old Town Square is a lovely place to sit down in one of the many cafes and grab an expensive cup of coffee while soaking it all in. However, with all the beautiful surrounding architecture, it’s equally as nice to just wander around and gaze at what is on display.
While at the Old Town Square, it’s also worth taking the five minute stroll to Prague’s other main square, Wenceslas. Technically, Wenceslas Square, is actually a boulevard, measuring 750m long by 60m wide. Here you can run the gamut of fashion stores, hotels and restaurants on your way up to the resplendent National Museum, with the Prague State Opera house which stands just over to the left.
St. Wenceslas’ Statue stands in front of the Museum. The Patron Saint of the Czech Republic, Good King Wenceslas (you might recognise the name from the Christmas Carol) was murdered by his younger brother Bolesaius the Cruel and three of his companions at the age of 28 in 935 AD.
Having seen GKW and with most of Prague’s main attractions now nailed, we’re now looking forward to chillaxing a bit and checking out some of the lesser visited sights in Prague.