Prague Golden City

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Romantic legend attributes the foundation of Prague to a woman, Princess Libushe, famous for having sent her horse to find her a husband. She chose the site of her future city, in prophetic ecstasy, there beside the river that flows through Bohemia from the south to the north. It would seem that the woman’s hand that pointed to Prague’s birthplace has left its gentle mark on the whole character of the city. Charmingly it spreads its softly curving contours on either bank of the Vltava, but there is a subtlety and ever-changing variety to its beauty, so that its many admirers must always conquer it anew.

Like Rome, Prague is built on seven hills, in perfect unison with the river. This marriage of Prague and the Vltava, concluded sometime in the ninth or the tenth century, is as perfectly harmonious today as it was a thousand years ago. Other towns have their rivers, many of them broader and more imposing, but there is no other place in the world where a city and a river merge their identities with such delightful aesthetic effect as in Prague.

This can be best observed from the Charles Bridge (Karluv Most), one of the jewels of Prague. It was not the first stone bridge to span the Vltava at this point, for it replaced the stone bridge of Queen Judith, but it is still amongst the oldest stone bridges in Central Europe. It is over half a kilometer long, ten meters wide and not perfectly straight, as you may notice looking down from the Old Town Tower. It rests on sixteen pillars. To this day it is the loveliest of Prague’s bridges. Its special charm lies not only in the gallery of thirty statues and groups of sculptures, set up on its parapets at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, but also in the bridge towers at either end and in the glorious backdrop of the Mala Strana and Hradcany against the western skyline.

To this day the stone-built Romanesque and Gothic houses attest to the ancient importance of Prague, which was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire under Charles IV. 144 years before Columbus discovered America, Prague already had a university of international repute, the first in Central Europe. No less than one hundred and thirteen churches, which earned Prague the epithet “hundred-towered” as early as in the Middle Ages, and dozens of aristocrats’ palaces that still adorn it testify to the glory of its past. It is also the city of Franz Kafka, the most discussed author of our time, who grew up in the narrow winding streets of the Old Town.

To know Prague is to take a shortcut through ten centuries of history, from the past into the present of Central Europe. Here you can touch base with the Romanesque or Gothicism and immerse into the mood and the temper of Renaissance, Baroque or Classicism. Indeed, we may venture to say that no other place on Earth takes such loving and professional care of the treasures of its past like Prague.

A city with a million inhabitants is no rarity in Europe, but Prague is not to be allowed to grow much bigger so as not to disturb the happy harmony of the city and its setting, the secret source of much of his charm.

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