Put A Pin In It! En­chant­ing Prague and Be­yond

Luxe Beat Magazine - - News - By Deb­bie Stone

No Czech city has been writ­ten and talked about as much as Prague, the coun­try’s pic­turesque cap­i­tal. It’s a mag­i­cal place where his­tory comes alive and the mys­ter­ies of the past are re­vealed through the town’s uniquely pre­served his­tor­i­cal cen­ter. A UNESCO World Her­itage Site, Prague boasts Ro­manesque chapels, Gothic cathe­drals and Baroque palaces and gar­dens, mak­ing it a show­case of ar­chi­tec­tural mas­ter­pieces dat­ing back cen­turies ago. Nick­named “the city of a hun­dred spires” for its nu­mer­ous tow­ers, this Euro­pean cap­i­tal is re­garded as a me­dieval jewel.

Prague is not merely a pretty face. It has the cred to back up its claim to fame. This is the city where the most in­flu­en­tial men in Europe came to­gether – rulers, gen­er­als, al­chemists, Jewish schol­ars, writers, artists and mu­si­cians. It was here that Rabbi Loew is said to have brought the clay Golem to life; Giuseppe Arcim­boldo cre­ated his unique por­traits from fruit and vegeta­bles; Franz Kafka put pen to pa­per and wrote his sem­i­nal works; Galileo, Coper­ni­cus and Ke­pler made their astro­nom­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies; and the com­po­si­tions of Mozart, Smetana, Liszt and Dvo­rak were met with thun­der­ous ac­claim.

All of the ma­jor high­lights of this fairy tale city can be ex­plored on foot via an­cient cob­ble-stoned streets. One of the must-see sights is Prague Cas­tle, the largest me­dieval cas­tle com­plex in the world. It’s home to the Old Royal Palace and nearby St. Vi­tus Cathe­dral and serves as the seat of the pres­i­dent of the Czech Repub­lic and the burial place of the most im­por­tant Czech rulers

and saints. You’ll be daz­zled by the richly or­na­mented fres­coes, stat­ues and semi-pre­cious stones adorn­ing the 14th cen­tury gothic cathe­dral, which glis­tens in the sun­light. Hard to be­lieve that such a grand project was com­pleted us­ing only hand la­bor!

The coun­try’s most valu­able his­tor­i­cal ar­ti­facts, world fa­mous paint­ings and hand an­no­tated manuscripts by many of the great­est com­posers of the 17th cen­tury are care­fully safe­guarded within the cas­tle com­plex, along with the Bo­hemian Crown Jew­els and St. Vi­tus Trea­sure. Time your visit to see the cer­e­mo­nial chang­ing of the guard at noon and make sure you catch a mid­day clas­si­cal mu­sic con­cert in the Lobkow­icz Palace for the full ex­pe­ri­ence. You’ll feel like priv­i­leged no­bil­ity as you sit in the palace’s exquisitely dec­o­rated 17th cen­tury Baroque Con­cert Hall while lis­ten­ing to works by Vi­valdi, Bach, Mozart, Bizet and oth­ers. Then head out­side and walk through the lovely ter­raced gar­dens be­neath the cas­tle be­fore am­bling down the steep, nar­row streets and wind­ing al­leys of the Lesser Town.

Your visit to Prague should also in­clude a stop at the Old Town Square, the true heart of the city, with its famed Old Town Hall and Astro­nom­i­cal Clock. The clock, which has adorned the façade of the build­ing since 1410, is equipped with a mech­a­nism con­sist­ing of stat­ues of the twelve apos­tles. Ev­ery hour, a skele­ton sym­bol­iz­ing death in­verts an hour­glass and pulls a rope, which opens two win­dows where you’ll see St. Peter lead­ing a pro­ces­sion of the apos­tles. Then there’s the crow­ing of the cock and sub­se­quent chimes to note the time. The clock also shows the move­ment of the sun and moon through the signs of the zo­diac. At the top of the tower is a view­ing gallery, of­fer­ing a spec­tac­u­lar bird’s eye per­spec­tive of the en­tire city. From this van­tage point, you’ll be cap­ti­vated by a panorama of spires, domes, tow­ers and col­or­ful red roofs as far as the eye can see.

The 14th cen­tury Charles Bridge with its mag­nif­i­cent Baroque stat­ues is an­other high­light. Span­ning six­teen arches, it’s lined with thirty Baroque stat­ues of re­li­gious fig­ures, each with its own story to tell. The bridge crosses over the scenic Vl­tava River and serves as the main pedes­trian walk­way between the Cas­tle Dis­trict and Prague’s Old Town, New Town and the Jewish Quar­ter. It is best to visit the Charles in the early morn­ing be­fore it’s be­sieged by crowds of tourists.

There are nu­mer­ous other sights to take in dur­ing your stay in the city, in­clud­ing the Mu­nic­i­pal House, the most mag­nif­i­cent Art Nou­veau build­ing in the coun­try; the Jewish town of Jose­fov, with the old­est ac­tive syn­a­gogue in Europe; Petrin Hill, a peace­ful forested park in the heart of the me­trop­o­lis with an ob­ser­va­tion tower built as a mini ver­sion of the Eif­fel Tower; and Es­tates Theatre, where you can watch a pro­duc­tion of The Mar­riage of Fi­garo.the opera was per­son­ally con­ducted there by Mozart in 1781 and has been per­formed at the same lo­ca­tion ever since.

Prague, though, is of­ten as far as most trav­el­ers go when it comes to the Czech Repub­lic. It’s clear that the town is the undis­puted crown and mother of Czech cities. How­ever, if you limit your­self only to Prague, you will miss so much more. The coun­try is full of many unique trea­sures and won­ders, par­tic­u­larly in the Vysocina or high­lands re­gion, which has the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of mon­u­ments on the UNESCO Cul­tural and Nat­u­ral Her­itage List within the Czech Repub­lic. Among them is Telč, the “Town of In­spi­ra­tion,” with its famed tri­an­gu­lar-shaped vil­lage

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