Prague, Czech Republic (Praha, Ceské republice)

History

In the 9th and 10th century, The Premyslids of the Cechove or Ceši tribe came to power. It is from this tribe that modern day Czech derive their name. Wenceslas (Vaclav) III became Duke of Bohemia in 922. Wenceslas allied Bohemia with the German Empire. His brother Boleslav had him assasinated in 929. His remains are buried in St Vitus, and one-hundred years later he was canonized.

The golden age of Prague was the early 12th century. Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV chose Prague as his imperial residence. Charles University was founded in 1348, becoming Central Europe's first university.

In 1414, the religious reformer Jan Hus was burned at the stake. In Bohemia and Moravia, the followers of Hus, known as Hussites, rose up against the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund, King of Hungary. The demands of the Hussites prefigured the Protestant Reformation, and many Czech nobles became Protestants.

In 1618, another uprising by the Czech Protestant nobility led to the so-called Thirty-Year War. In 1619, the Habsburg army defeated the Bohemian army at the Battle of White Mountain (Bila Hora). Czech nobles were forced to convert to Catholicism and for the next 150 years, the Germans ruled the country.

In 1848, the Czech's rebelled against the Austrians. Czech was re-established as a national language. During this period, the National Museum and National Theater were built. In 1965 the Orloj (Old Town Clock Tower Calendar) was repaired and a new calendar disk added.

During World War I, Tomáš Masaryk and other expatriates agitated for a united Czech and Slovak state. Following the defeat of Germany and their Austria-Hungary allies, the modern Czechoslavakia was created. Masaryk served as president until 1935.

The new Czechoslovakian was not homogenous. The Czech state was more educated, industrialized and urban than their agrarian Slovakian southern neighbors. Also, Czech rejected church authority, while Slovakia was primarily Catholic. In the west in the so-called Sudetenland, indigenous Germans became resentful of their reduced stature and worsening economic situation.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, Vaclev Havel led the so-called Velvet Revolution that ushered out communist rule. In 1989, Havel and Marian Calfa, a former Communist, began to reinstate democratic institutions. In 1992, Slovakia declared its independence, federal parliament voted to dissolve the republic, and on December 31, the Czech and Slovak Republics were formed.

With just over 10.5 million citizens and a per capita income of 5.450 USD or 14,920 USD in purchasing power, Czech Republic joined the European Union (EU) in May 2004. Czech Republic is a source of outsourced engineering and call center talent. As an outsourcer in the coming years, Czech Republic will see its role deminished by China, India, and other low cost providers.

The country has a number of famous and important figures. Gregor Mendel is known as the father of modern genetics. Mendel was born in Hyncice (Heinzendorf) and taught technical school in Brno. Two famous National Hockey League players are Dominik Hasek and Jaromir Jagr. Existensialist Franz Kafka and psychologist Sigmund Freud were born in Prague and Pribor respectively.

World class tennis and hockey players also come from Czech Republic. During the 1980's many top ranked tennis players came from Czech Republic; these included: Ivan lendl, Hana Mandlikova, and Martina Navratilova. Czech supermodels include Daniela Pestova, Paulina Porizakova, and Veronika Zemanova.

Points of Interest

Prague Castle (Prazsky Hrad A Hradcany) was founded in the 9th century by Prince Boleslav I. This was the center of the Premyslids kingdom. Boleslav killed his brother St Wencelas and proceeded to liquidate his enemies. He resisted German absorbtion by creating a united Bohemia.

Much of the castle was destroyed by fire in 1541, and buildings were rebuilt in the Renaissance style. St Georges Basilica (Bazilka Sv Jiri 915-921 AD), St Vitus Cathedral (Katedrala Sv Vita 1344 and 19th century), and St George's Convent (Klaster Sv Jiri 973 AD) are at the center of the grounds. In the 1960's and 70's the convent was reconstructed to house the National Gallery.

North of Hrad A Hradcany sits the Royal Summer Palace (Kralovsky letohradek), the Belvedere, and the Royal Garden (Kralovska Zahrada). Completed in 1564 by an Italian Renaissance architect, most of its artwork was plundered by an occupying Swedish army in 1648. Today, Belvedere serves as an art gallery.

East of Kralovsky letohradek is Letna Park (Letenske Sady). Not noted on most tourist guides, the park offers excellent views of the Praha and buildings along the Vlatava River. Apparently, here, one can buy beer (pivo) at 9 a.m. from local street vendors.

In 1338, King John of Luxembourg built Old Town Hall to house the Praha Town Council. The Old Town Tower stands 70m high and offers panaramic views of the city. The Astronomical Clock (Orloj) was added to the building by Hanus in 1490 and perfected in 1572 by Taborsky. Today, vendor stalls, cafes, and beer gardens take up the majority of the public Old Town Square.

A twenty minute walk wouth of Old Town Square is New Town and Wencelas Square. Here, even more vendors have set up stalls for tourists. At the northwest end of the square is the National Museum (Narodni Muzeum) and State Opera House (Statni Opera). On Metro, take the yellow or green line to Mustek and walk the length of Wencelas Square to the Museum stop on the green and red line. The main train station, Hlavni nadrazi, is one metro stop away or a fifteen-minute walk from the State Opera.

The most famous tourist attraction is the Charles Bridge (Karluv Most). Built in 1357 to replace the Judith Bridge, today, Karluv Most is home to many artisans, street performers, and musicians. Charles Bridge crosses the Vlatava River to link Old Town and Little Quarter.

Little Quarter (Mala Strana) joins Hrad A Hradcany and Petrin Park. Since the 18th century, building virtually stopped. The area is historic and charming. Little Quarter Square (Malostranske namesti) and St Nicholas Church (Kostel Sv Mikulase) form the physical and psychological center of this area

North of Mala Strana towards the Hrad are The Loreto (Loreta), Capuchin Monastary (Kapucinsky Klaster), Strahov Monastary (Strahovsky Klaster) and the Observatory (Rozhledna) in Petrin Park (Petrinske Sady). Petrin Hill rises to 318 meters above the city. Take the winding path upwards for scenic views of Praha and Hrad. The Rozheledna is a quarter-size replica of the Eiffel Tower. Climb 299 steps to add another 60m to the city view. Take the Funicular Railway (Lanova Draha) back down to civilization. Prepare to have exact change for the fare.

The National Theater (Narodni Divadlo) sits along the Vltava. Started in 1868 by Josef Zitek, the theater was destroyed by fire prior to opening day in 1881. Voluntary financial contributions and many Czech artists helped to rebuild the Theatre for an opening in 1883. Architect Karel Prager added the New Stage Auditorium, and the entire Theater was restored again in the 1970's and 80's.

Helpful Links

History of Orloj
Czech Rail Map
Radio Prague
On-line Czech Translator
Czech History
DK Essential Travel Guide


Central Europe:Cesky republice Cesky replica: Hussite Empire Praha: Map Celebration: Wencelas Square, 1998 Olympic Gold Medalists Petrin Hill view Prague Castle (Hrad a Hradcany) Royal Garden (Kralovska Zahrada) view Katedrala Sv Vita Klaster Sv Jiri Letna Park view Old Town and Little Quarter Changing of the Guard Belvedere view Royal Garden (Kralovska Zahrada) Pivo and Tobak at 0900, Letna Park Ground Level view of Old Town Square Tower view of Old Town Square Astronomical Clock (Orloj) on Old Town Tower National Museum view of Wencelas Square Inside the National Museum (Narodni Muzeum) Little Quarter Tower view Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) Little Quarter view St Nicholas Cafe in Little Quarter Little Quarter view of National Theater on Vlatava Hlavni nadrazi

  • Stephan@RacingSquirrel.com
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  • 2004-2005, Stephan Lau-- Chicago Illinois USA