I don’t think we really knew what to expect from Prague and it turned out to be a very interesting city. You can read about the history but it isn’t until you are looking at the various sections that you begin to appreciate it. For example, in the Jewish Quarter you have the New Old Synagogue which is over 700 years old on its own. They would have named it the Old Synagogue, but because the Old Synagogue was still standing at the time, it needed a different name to avoid confusion and that’s the name it still goes by.
To help us with the history and just to navigate the maze of twisting streets we took Prague Walks for a walking tour of the city. Even thought the temperature was in the low 30’s a walking tour was recommended because a bus tour just can’t do it justice. As we darted between narrow streets using pedestrian only walkways we understood the advice. The Astronomical clock was designed over 500 years ago and the upper clock tells the time, tracks sunrise and sunset and displays the phases of the moon. The lower clock documents 365 Saints and each day points out the saint for that day.
Prague’s “Old Town” is roughly divided into a number of “Quarters”, which doesn’t mean there are 4 of them. The Jewish Quarter resulted from the Jews being herded into a distinct area and required to wear yellow caps whenever they left that area. Interestingly, this requirement was enacted centuries before the Nazi’s came to power.
The Czechs were very successful with a line of royal family members, including “Good King Wenceslas” of Christmas carol fame. When the line was broken in the 14 or 15th Century they asked to Hapsburgs in Austria were asked to be the Royal family. This lasted for approximately 400 years. In recent years, occupation by the Nazi’s and Soviet’s have left the country at roughly 75% atheist, 20% catholic and 5% protestant. Despite this, it seems that everywhere you turn in Prague you find another church.
As you wind your way through the streets you find small markets with fresh produce and just about every corner has a store offering to sell you a “Czech Me Out: Prague” T-shirt. On the other corner is a store selling Bohemian crystal. We stayed at a small hotel just around the corner from the “Dancing House”.
After winding through the Old Town, we made our way across the Charles Bridge to start the walk up to the Castle.
The Charles Bridge is simply a mass of people walking, talking, selling sketches of the town (and of course the bridge itself). We walked briefly through the Little Quarter as we started the climb to the the castle at the top of the hill.