Sightseeing

Matej Kren – the author of the sculpture in the Municipal Library

Aug 22, 15:25 Filed under sightseeing

This is how it looks from the outside Have you ever been to the Prague Municipal Library at Marianske Square? If you have not been there yet, you should consider visiting this place. Marianske Square is located in the city centre, very close to the Old Town Square and Staromestska metro station, so you could visit the library on your way to the city centre. If not for reading books, then it is definelly worth of visit because of seeing an amazing sculpture made of numerous books by Matej Kren, a young Czechoslovak artist.

This is how it looks from the inside. A perfect illusion! Matej Kren is quite well-known artist. He was born in Trencin, then Czechoslovakia, today Slovakia. He studied at Art Academies in Bratislava and in Prague. As being very talented, he participated in many exhibitions, was awarded some importatnt awards and after the Velvet Revolution he was even teaching for a while. Since the beginning of the 1990s he has been having many exhibition of his works not only in imporant museums and galleries in Europe, but also overseas. And finally, in 1998, his wonderful sculpture was placed in the Prague Municipal Library, consisted of books, it perfectly fits into this place, and by using mirrors, he created an unusual effect of infinity… but it is hard to be described… should be seen. So when you go by the library, you should take a look inside to see this great piece of Art.

But this is not the only sculpture by Matej Kren made by books and mirrors. He did, for example, another such master piece for the Gallery of Bratislava City. Here, his work called the Passage offers special experience allowing you walking between something which looks like never ending rows and columns of books. But again, it is hard to be described and must be seen.

And as it was already mentioned, Matej Kren is a Czechoslovak artist. He feels to be so, because as he said, he was born in Czechoslovakia. So now he represent both the Czech Republic and Slovakia in various world exhibitions and competitions. But at the moment, he lives and works mostly in the capital of the Czech Republic – in a beautiful town of Prague.

And as we were speaking about the Municipal Library in the beginning of this article, it might be noted, that this place is really worth of visit for also for another things. There are really many interesting books and magazines to be borrowed, and some of them are also in other languages then Czech. You can either borrow them at home or just read them in the library, if you do not want to register yourself here and pay the fee for it. But if you register, you will also get a password for using free wifi internet connection here. And the library is also a good meeting place with intelectual atmosphere, as all smart Prague people come here from time to time. And if you are tired of books, you can have a rest in a not great, but still o.k. coffeteria located here. Opening days are from Tuesday to Saturday, on Sundays and Mondays they are closed.

Praha Stovezatá (The Hundred- Spired Prague)

Aug 12, 14:16 Filed under sightseeing

There’s quite an intriguing net project going on; it consists of panoramatic photographs of the city, taken from 100 Prague spires, especially church towers, using special widescreen lenses and computer editing to manage a 180 degree scope. The city chose the Panoramas company, which does similar deals around the Republic (see www.virtualtravel.cz), to provide the stills.
The page is available in English.

The English version, the Hundred- Spired Prague, welcomes you with a distorted still from a randomly chosen tower, one of the hundred contained of course. You may then click on the choice currently on display in the “Random location” bar, for example Troja Chateau, Prague 1 – Old town. If you do, you will be redirected to the picture, which I recommend to switch to full screen mode. The camera moves slowly from left to right unless you take control, either with help of the toolbar on the bottom of the display, or simply with your mouse, holding the left click button. Using simple controls, it allows you to observe the city underneath, able to turn left/right and up down and also to zoom in on any of the parts of the still. You always see the nearest tower(s), which you could switch to by clicking on an arrow symbol. In case you have a particular spot in mind, click on the “list” button.

The photographs are in high resolution, made in favorable weather and generally very watchable. It’s also an advantage that it is possible to have a look at the spires and towers themselves, since many of them are not accessible to public. It also loads quite easily. You only need a proper Flash software, which is available for free on the Internet.

The project cost around a million CZK and it seems to be money well spent. It works as a powerful ad for a tourist as well as pleasant entertainment for the residents. No matter how well you know the displayed spots, you probably haven’t seen them from this point of view.

By the way, as the authors of the project remind us on the title page, there are more than 100 towers in Prague. A few thousand, actually.
Page: http://stovezata.praha.eu

The Gallus Market (Havelsky trh)

Oct 17, 15:04 Filed under sightseeing

Walking along the Zelezna street from the Old Town Square, you find yourself on the square of the former St Havel’s market. Originally called the New market, in order to distinguish itself from the Old Town Square market. The place, established in the 13th Century was called after the Church, which dominated the then- empty place and was one of the four main churches in Prague at the time. It profited from its position, being in the spotlight, and it was harmed by it, the noise of the market often interrupting the markets.

What was slowly becoming a square often hosted celebrations and feasts in the name of newly crowned kings. The Zbraslav chronicles mention the occasion when Wenceslas II had pipelines laid down to the square, so that wine would pour out of fountains on the occasion of his coronation.

There were different kinds of shops present, some were of stone and there was some sort of a Jewish presentation at the spot. The various shops were a regular source of amusement for the Prague university students, who tended to escape the nearby Carolinum in search of a meal, ale and some entertainment.

Next to the renowned Church, in the place called Kotce (because of the shops), there was a building, which became a ground for theatrical companies and later became the first regular Prague theater in 1738. This was soon overshadowed by the Nostic, later Stavovské divadlo (The Estates Theatre), on the opposite end of the square. It is clear than that the spot turned into a centre of dramatic art, also the Czech- spoken.

The trade is lively in Havelska street close to the square. Inside the passage, in the “U zlate vahy” pub, a secret assembly of Czech radical democrats, who called themselves “Repeal”, inspired by the Irish independence movement, using the same slogan, was born and had their sessions.

The area around the market is visibly different from the Old Town. Unlike the Old Town, this area had an architectonic plan, while the Old Town grew spontaneously. It is one of the striking differences between the Old and the New, but even when compared to the Havel’s Town, you see a complicated net of narrow streets on one hand and an order and utility, streets wide and straight and useful. It’s interesting that the architectural anarchy of the early settlement is one of the reasons why the city center remains special.

Visiting Prague? Maybe Bad Timing

Oct 11, 12:54 Filed under sightseeing

hus reconstruction2 Well, it seems now that all Prague monuments are being reconstructed at the moment. That is great news for all who love Prague and old architecture. However, it is not as good news for those who came to Prague to admire its famous sights.

Take the example of Charles Bridge. It is the number one on every tourist’s must-see list. And yet, they find their symbol of Prague under reconstruction. Yes, Yes, I know that it is really needed. The bridge was in a bad shape for way too long. Nevertheless I can picture myself as an eager tourist who has come all the way to Prague and instead of seeing the celebrated Charles Bridge, he or she gets a building site(even when the other half of the bridge is opened).

And Charles Bridge is not the only sightseeing which is now undergoing some rebuilding. The monument of a philosopher and reformer Jan Hus that is placed in the middle of the Old Town Square is also being renovated. Working conditions can be found on Wenceslas Square as well. I have not deciphered what they have actually been working on there.

hus reconstruction Not to mention other sites like the Memorial at Vitkov or the National Theater where the statues on the roof are in the process of reconstruction as well. In the same condition you may find the Prague’s main train station (Hlavni Nadrazi in Czech).

But it is to say that Prague is not only about Charles Bridge, Old Town Square or Wenceslas Square. Prague has so much more to offer.

I admit, though, that if you are in Prague for the first time, you may be disappointed. I would be mad myself. Pictures with scaffoldings are somewhat not as appealing. Nevertheless, all those reconstructions are necessary. We mustn’t be selfish. We must preserve the beauty of Prague for other generations as well.

Reconstruction of the Charles Bridge

Sep 20, 12:00 Filed under sightseeing

Charles Bridge in the centre of Prague The long-planned reconstruction of Charles Bridge began on 20 August this year. The reconstruction is divided into two stages. The first stage will be completed in June 2010 and the second will last for up to 10 years. Throughout the reconstruction, Charles Bridge will be accessible to experts and to the public that visits Prague to acquaint themselves with the cultural property. People will be able to watch the reconstruction.

The costs of the first part of the reconstruction are about 222 million CZK. Prague uses its budget to pay most of these expenses, but some are paid by contributions of the general public and sponsors.

Reconstruction begins from the Lesser Town Tower and the sewerage system is going to be rebuilt. The roadway will follow afterwards. The company “Stavby mostu Praha” (Bridgesworks Prague) is going to use water crafts on which for example a crane will be grounded. The Charles Bridge should mainly get new impregnation, because current impregnation does not caulk and because its masonry leaks and decomposes.

The second stage follows the first one and constructors will rebuild the stone surface of the bridge. Every blockstone will be registered and experts will decide if they put it back, clean it or replace it with a new one.

Since beginning of the reconstruction a part of the original masonry, that could date back to the 14th century, has been discovered. The expert commission decided to preserve the masonry and the builders thus gave way to archaeologists.

Oasis in the middle of the city

Sep 10, 13:56 Filed under sightseeing

Frantiskanska Garden in the centre of Prague If you are tired of sightseeing and you don´t want to spend a break in a smoky restaurant and you don´t have time for a trip to the nature, you can go to the Frantiskanska garden. This green oasis is located in the heart of Prague, near the metro station Mustek. The garden has two entrances, one from the Mustek and the other from Jungmannovo square. If you step out of the underground at the station Mustek, you can visit the famous Prague arcade Svetozor. You can buy here various refreshment and take it away to the garden. You can find here well-known ice cream bar with various kinds of ice cream and fruit cocktails. So now when you are supplied enough with ice cream and hot dog, we can walk into the garden.

Its origin dates to the early medieval times. It was built in monastical gardens style and has the area of 0,6 ha. In the times of its rise mainly medicinal herbs and aromatic flowers were grown here.

The original character of the garden is now completely changed. The garden is connected with about two metres wide footpaths which are bordered by many seats. You can find here a couple of fountains with drinkable water where you can refresh in hot days. In the rear edge is a nice playground for children. The whole space of the garden is filled with well-built trees which are giving a pleasant shade. The green trees are completed with plenty of roses. When they are just blooming you feel like in the fairy tale about Sleeping Beauty.

The other interest of the garden is the stump of the oldest Prague tree – common yew. It is about 400 years old. The only disadvantage of the garden is a frequent visit rate and it is often very busy. Go there and you will find out why is it so!

The Suicide Bridge in Prague

Sep 6, 19:12 Filed under sightseeing

Nuselsky bridge in Prague [archiv] Yes, there is such a bridge in Prague. What a lovely name for a bridge, isn’t it? Well, actually, this bridge has a different name, but not many people use it – Nuselsky most. Everyone calls it The Suicide Bridge instead. Why? I am sure you can derive it yourself…

Nuselsky most is one of the Czech capital’s most important bridges. It provides almost key connection of certain Prague’s districts, plus it carries the underground (red line C). From the architect’s point of view, it is said to be a really extraordinary structure. Unfortunately, I do not understand much of it, but what I have been told is that this bridge was a kind of experiment at that time. If I am well informed, in the world there is just one bridge built in the same way which is still standing. Hmm, is this a good thing or bad thing? I wonder…

The bridge is really fascinating – built in the 70s, is almost half a kilometer long, forty meters high above the ground, overlooking a nice valley, made out of tons of concrete, with the subway running inside. Cool, right? But!

Magnet for suicides

Because of its height, the bridge has been from the very beginning like a magnet for Czech self-murderers. One is clear – the bridge is high enough to ensure the jumper a successful suicide. That is not a nice promotion, is it?

There is no real statistics about the suicides from this bridge. The number is estimated at 300 men since the bridge was completed in 1973 up to now.

Of course there have been attempts in the past to stop the suicides by building up barriers. However, those barriers have proved ineffective – those who wanted to jump down only climbed over them.

High barriers

Nevertheless, new attempt is here and this time it might actually work. Higher barriers have been erected but this time they are curved inward (meaning towards the road). What is more, the top part is made out of a smooth metal (instead of a net) so that it should be impossible for the jumper-wannabe to overcome them – he/she will have nothing to hold on to and get over. The new system has been tested by experienced rock climbers, and – wait to hear this – they couldn’t get over it!

So maybe a new brighter era is to come for the bridge. I hope so, as well as those who live under the bridge.

You can visit this unordinary sightseeing, but please do not try to be the first to overcome the new barriers. Keep in mind those who live under the bridge in a continuous fear that someone might “land” just in front of them. The Suicide Bridge is right next to the subway station Vysehrad (red line C).

Jewish Ghetto in Prague

Sep 3, 15:08 Filed under sightseeing

Jewish community has always created the important role in Prague’s history. They came to Prague in 960 AD and Prague became the most important Jewish cultural and religious center in Central Europe. Jews worked as merchants and they focused in important trade routes. Their community survived thousand years of natural disasters, pogroms, religious and social persecutions and many ways of injustice.

Now if you wanted to visit former Jewish Ghetto, you would be surprised. Instead of narrow, winding streets with little houses there is newly renovated area in pseudo-historic style and the Art Noveau style built in the first decade of the 20th century. Only the Old Jewish Cemetery, the Jewish Town Hall, and six Synagogues have remained unchanged. In 1994, the Jewish museum in Prague was founded as a non-state organization. Nowadays the Jewish Museum has one of the most extensive collections of Judaic art in the world, containing about 40,000 artifacts and round 100,000 books.

The Maisel Synagogue in Prague You can visit three tours. In the first tour is the Jewish quarter – interior tour, you can see sights including interiors: Synagogue, Old Jewish Cemetery, Jewish Museum and Ceremonial Hall. You will learn something new about Jewish history and heritage. This tour begins at 11 AM and at 2:30 PM. It lasts 2,5 hours, adults pay 550 CZK and students 450 CZK. Tours with interiors are not possible on Saturdays and during Jewish holidays.

Second tour is shorter. It is for visitors who have not enough time. You will see informative tour without interiors: Jewish Town, known first as the Old Ghetto, nowadays as Josefov. Old New Synagogue and Jewish Cemetery. You will learn something about one of the most famous Jewish and Renaissance legends – the story of Golem, a clay monster created by Rabbi Löw (Maharal). You will also visit the Prague Jewish writer Franz Kafka‘s house. This tour begins at 11 AM and at 2:30 PM. It lasts 1,5 hours, adults pay 300 CZK and students 250 CZK.

Third is Terezin memorial tour. It was 18th century military fortress which was turned by Nazis into the only concentration camp on Czech teritory during WWII. There more than 33,000 European Jews died. You will visit the Police Prison, the Museum of the Terezin Ghetto and Cemetery. Tour is organized every day except Mondays and Tuesdays, begins at 9:30 AM and lasts 5 hours. Adults pay 1,200 CZK, students pay 1,100 CZK. If you would like to visit Terezin, it is better to make reservation because of limited availability. Your tickets you can book on: +420 777 069 685.

Meeting point is on the left side of the Watch Tower – Astronomical Clock (the Horologe) on the Old Town Square. Your guide will be holding the White Umbrella and Jewish Ghetto sign. All tours are in English.

The recovered glance of Hotel Imperial

Sep 2, 21:54 Filed under sightseeing

Hotel Imperial in Prague At the beginning of the twentieth century Prague got the reputation of a city where a cheap but high-level accommodation is available. There were located many luxurious hotels in big style there. To the most famous belonged Adria on Wenceslas Square, Alcron, Savoy, Palace and of course Imperial. Its rise dates to the times of the beginning of the World War I. The name Imperial prompts that it should not be anything provincial. The construction begun in 1914 and the fame followed very soon. Among the old times Prague VIPs has especially favoured this hotel – famous writer Franz Kafka and also genius music composer Leos Janacek.

The Hotel was during the so called First Republic storied mainly by the donuts war. Don´t worry that you are not reading correctly ! In the entering hall was lying a big dish of one day old donuts. These donuts could be used for throwing by every visitor, and the aim could be anything or anybody.

The Hotel was neglected during the communistic era but in 2005 the owners decided to renew the old glory. Roofs, interiors and fore side have been repaired, as well as the popular coffee house. But the original character of all interiors and exteriors have been preserved. At the entrance welcome you two lions, the ground floor is a unique mixture of wood, glass and marble. The coffee house is decorated by the ceramic mosaic in oriental style. You can´t find here the donuts on the floor any more, but you get it for free with buying a delicious coffee. The best way how to get to the Hotel is a short walk from the metro station Florenc on line B and C. It is situated in the well known street Na Porici.

How many bridges are in Prague ?

Aug 30, 17:50 Filed under sightseeing

Prague's bridges Prague is called the city of hundred towers, but it could be called the city of hundred bridges as well. Our capital has many towers and is similarly proud of many bridges and boards. The authors of Prague Bridges Encyclopedia have counted more than three hundred of them. They lead not only over Vltava, but also over many other smaller rivers and brooks as Berounka, Botic or Rokytka. Some bridges must pass over field disparities including two well known Prague valleys – Nuselske and Prokopske. And the number of bridges is still increasing due to building-up the city circle.

The most famous bridge is undoubtedly the Charles bridge – the only connection between the both Vltava´s watersides for more than 450 years. This bridge has actually its own museum, where you can see the history of the Charles bridge and its predecessor Judita´s bridge. The second bridge over Vltava was the chain bridge of Franz Josef I.

With the railway development in 19th century came also blustering fabrication of railway bridges. The most beautiful and longest railway bridge is Negrelli´s viaduct. This more than one kilometre long stony bridge is coming from Karlin to Holesovice over the Stvanice island. His author, the Austrian engineer Alois Negrelli, has made the project of Suez canal as well. Thanks to the building of Prague railway bridge was Negrelli highhanded as the knight of Vltava and Labe river.

Other railway unique is so called “Prague Semmering“ which leads over the valley on two high pillars. But not only big and famous bridges have their sense. Small bridges over the Certovka on Mala Strana or steel foot bridge connecting the Prague Castle with Letna are also very pictorial. But the best known foot bridge in Prague is the one which was formerly leading over the fortification drain of old town walls. Its survivals are now decorating the underground station Mustek.

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