Roaming through the streets of Prague, one cannot help but marvel at the stories that have unfolded here. Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918, after the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. After being subject to Russian-inspired communism from 1948 to 1989, Czechoslovakia peacefully split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Today, Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic. Hints of communist history remain subtle in subway stations and museums. However, the rich architecture of Prague and the new generation’s progressive ideals seem to be swallowing up the period of communist rule.
More than anywhere else in Prague, Old Town is bustling with European tourists, ice cream shops, high-end restaurants, Starbucks cafés and groups of young soccer fanatics aimlessly searching for beer and souvenirs. Once you begin to look past the tourists and start looking up, you’ll be mesmerized by the color contrast between each building and by the medieval-style sculptors. Old Town Square, the day market, the astronomical clock and the National Museum are all must sees. The National Museum serves as a wonderful starting destination; it gives a well-rounded history of Prague. Learning about the past is the first step to immersing yourself in the present!
Finished in the 15th century, Charles Bridge connects Old Town Prague with Lesser Town. The Gothic design is both curious and magical. One might wonder what the people were like who wandered across this space hundreds of years ago. A woman singing opera for spare change elated my ears. Painters, bountiful in number, allow all who pass by to not only experience the Charles Bridge through their own eyes, but to witness it through the painters’ eyes as well.
On the Lesser Town side of the bridge rests Kampa Park. As shown in the photograph, Kampa Park is situated directly on the Vltava river, embracing glorious views of the Charles Bridge and Old Town. Vojanovy sady park — notoriously filled with peacocks and green pastures — and Lennon Wall are located close by.
Known as the “crying wall” in the 1960s, this wall had historically been used by those subjected to communist rule to express themselves through protest art. After John Lennon’s death in 1980, the wall became a space for Lennon-inspired quotes, lyrics and paintings. Today, the surrounding path is buzzing with tourists, folks playing the guitar for a living and love — love radiates across the wall. The Lennon Wall has withstood the tests of time and become a global symbol of peace, love and resiliency. Each time the communist government painted over the art with white paint and harsh words, the people never hesitated to repaint — each time more bold and colorful than the last. If you can, take a long pause to admire the artwork and quotes. Think about the history. Wonder about the future.
Lesser Town is in no way lesser than Old Town! In fact, this part of the city provides a more localized experience. It provides more space for you to internalize and connect with the walls and windows you’re surrounded by. Five minutes from the bridge in Lesser Town sits Vegan’s restaurant. The restaurant offers delicious plant-based cuisine, and its balcony seating allows guests to look out at the wondrous views of both Prague Castle (in close proximity) and Old Town, far off in the distance. Just as the Charles Bridge connects Old Town to Lesser Town, the restaurants in these old buildings now connect the tourists of Prague to the history and current lives of the locals. Vegan’s features a youthful staff, all happy to engage in conversation about Prague’s past and future. The new generation of Prague seems to be very progressive; there are very few hints of communism remaining. As important and easy as it is to get lost in the history of Lesser Town, understanding the present and the emerging progressive mindset of its youth is just as important.
Dating back to the ninth century, Prague Castle is one of Prague’s main attractions. Prague Castle, being the largest castle in the world, is very easy to get lost in for a day or two. It’s not your stereotypical castle, though. The grounds of Prague Castle include religious structures, magnificent gardens and government offices. And they’re all vast and filled with curious, brilliant architecture. The Gothic architecture that defines the St. Vitus Cathedral is sensational.
As you continue up the hillside of Lesser Town, wander up the sleepy Mostecká Street, up to the Strahov Monastery. Within the bounds of the Strahov Monastery, there’s a restaurant named Peklo. If you happen to be a beer lover, trying the blueberry monastery beer here will change your life! A friend recommended this beer garden to me upon arrival, and boy, did it change mine. Never again will I binge-drink PBRs. Thank you, Peklo.
Continue up the rocky path through the Petrin Gardens, and you’ll arrive at the Petrin Lookout Tower, which resembles the Eiffel Tower. When in Prague, make the journey up this tower — it’s paramount. Overlooking hundreds of terra-cotta rooftops and narrow cobblestone streets, the views from the Petrin Lookout Tower are immaculate.
The buildings, walls and doors of Prague have seen the evolution of generation after generation. They’ve seen resilience, poverty and isolation. They’ve seen profitability, wealth and success. The aging walls may decay and become fragmented versions of their past selves, but still, the rich history that never ceases to fill the streets with curiosity will remain. Every corner, every crevice of Prague tells a story of its own.
Contact Skylar Schoemig at [email protected].