“The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century… It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.”
Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone
I only found the above quote recently and, aside from now really wanting to read that novel, it pretty much sums up what I love about Prague. This is a city that has an almost other-worldly quality to it. It has insanely beautiful buildings, like those in Vienna, but here they have a distinct bohemian feel – with such intricate details on windows and balconies, and artwork all over the walls. Everywhere you walk, you stumble across unexpected little discoveries – of art, music, history or culture – and they are tucked away in little laneways, or behind unassuming doorways, or even overhead.
One of the first things a friend told me about Prague was “to remember to look up”. He was talking about the ‘hanging man’, which I surely would’ve missed if I hadn’t heeded his advice. Of course, I have a vivid and often dark imagination, so I thought the ‘hanging man’ would be some sort of garish reminder of medieval times, when hangings were a common occurrence. Instead, it was just this guy casually hanging from a beam off the top of a building. I laughed out loud when I saw it; and I can’t help but wonder how many people just walk underneath him, totally oblivious to his existence.
I only had two full days in Prague, which in hindsight wasn’t long enough. I rushed around like a crazy person and, as a result, retained plenty of the visual, but not so much of the history. Hopefully I’ll return to Prague one day and spend a week or two there.
For now, here are some of my photographs and a few of my rambling memories…
All the buildings in the Old Town were incredibly beautiful and ornate, including the famous Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the opera in the Prague National Theatre – I desperately wanted to see the interior of this incredible building and, of course, experience the opera. I got to see a wonderful performance of the Czech Opera Prodaná nevěsta (The Bartered Bride).
I think the most exciting thing for me, about being in Prague, was finding the artwork of Alfons Maria Mucha (also known as Alphonse Mucha) all over the place. Mucha was an Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist, whose work I adore. I studied his paintings at college and actually have two framed prints of his work in my apartment; they are from his ‘The Times of the Day’ series of posters.
As well as visiting the Mucha Museum, I also saw his artwork in the beautiful Municipal House and at St Vitus Cathedral – the latter being a spectacular stained-glass window.
The walk from the Old town to the Prague Castle is delightful… meandering across the iconic Charles Bridge and through the streets of the gorgeous Little Quarter. I also passed by the beautiful Church of St Nicholas.
The World Heritage-listed Prague Castle is the largest continuous castle complex in the world – comprising of numerous palaces and churches – and you could easily spend a few days here. The highlights for me were St Vitus Cathedral; climbing to the top of the Renaissance bell tower for great views over Prague; the Old Royal Palace, where rooms were covered in paintings of coats of arms; and the Golden Lane.
Just to reiterate, I absolutely adored Prague 🙂