Travel Guides: Prague

Gabriel Popa

Written by Gabriel Popa
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Prague

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic. The city is situated on the Vltava River in central Bohemia, and has nearly 1.2 million inhabitants.

Prague has several nicknames, including Prague urbium mater (“mother city”), “the city of a hundred bell towers” or “The City of Gold”. Since 1992, the historic center of Prague has been included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites.

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Prague has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and worldwide. Prague is the sixth most visited city in Europe after London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Berlin. Among the places of great tourist interest in Prague are included: Old Town (Stare Mesto) and Old Town Square; Astronomical clock; Charles Bridge; New Town (Nove Mesto) and Wenceslas Square; Malá Strana; Prague Castle and St. Vit; Old Hebrew district, Josefov; Hill Lennon; Vinohrady; Museum Operation Anthropoid (the assassination of Heydrich) in the crypt of Sts Cyril and Methodius Church.

Other interesting places: National Museum; Castle Vyšehrad; Petrinska rozhledna a 1:5 scale copy of the Eiffel Tower; Television Tower; Hebrew Cemetery in Olšany and the grave of Franz Kafka; Prague metronome. Prague is a major European cultural center, hosting numerous cultural events. In Prague, are located several Czech cultural institutions such as: National Theater; Rudolfinum, the seat of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra; Opera; National Museum; Museum Náprstek; National Library.

Prague

In the city there are hundreds of concert halls, art galleries, cinemas and music clubs. Prague is home to several film festivals, music, meetings of writers, hundreds of exhibitions and fashion shows. Gross domestic product per capita of the city is nearly two times higher than the average for the Czech Republic, € 33.784 (purchasing power standard) in 2004, which is 157.1% of the EU average, which places Prague among the richest 12 EU regions.

In addition, price levels are much lower than in other cities. European headquarters were established by several international companies. The last decade of the last century, Prague has become a major location for international companies and Hollywood film producers. Unlike other European cities, Prague has suffered great destruction during the Second World War, the town being used as the setting for different scenes in cities like Amsterdam or London wars. The combination of interesting architecture, Low prices, tax exemptions and a pre-existing infrastructure for art cinema has proved very attractive for film production companies.

National Museum

In the city are located several universities and colleges, including the oldest university in Central and Eastern Europe. These are: Charles University (Karolinska), founded in 1348; Czech Technical University (ČVUT) founded in 1707; Academy of Fine Arts, founded in 1800; Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (VŠUP), founded in 1885; Institute of Chemical Technology (VŠCHT), founded in 1920; Academy of Dramatic Arts (AMU), founded in 1945; Czech University of Agriculture (UDC), founded in 1906/1952; University of Economics (VSE), founded in 1953; Institute of Information Theory and Automation (UTIA), founded in 1959; New York University – branch in Prague (UNYP), founded in 1998.

The public transport infrastructure consists of an integrated system with three lines and 54 metro stations, trams (including the “nostalgic tram” no. 91), buses, a funicular to a lift hill and the zoo Petřín. All transport services were a common payment system and are part of Dopravní podnik hl. m. Prahy (Transport Company of Prague, the capital city). The city is the center of the Czech railway system, which serves the entire Czech Republic and neighboring countries. Prague has two international railway stations: Hlavní Nadrazi (sometimes called Wilsonovo Nadrazi) and Praha Holesovice. There are a number of stations for suburban transport. For the future it is envisaged to increase the importance of rail transport in the capital.

Prague At Night

Prague is served by the Ruzyne International Airport, which is the head-airport of the Czech Air Lines. The city is linked to several European cities via low-cost airlines. Ruzyně International Airport is considered one of the most modern airports in Europe. Taxi services in Prague are divided into three sectors: large transport companies, transports by minibus and taxi drivers are independent.

In Prague there are several stadiums and offices of some famous sports clubs and sporting events take place here are of national and international importance: Prague International Marathon; Sparta Prague; Slavia Prague; Sazka Arena; Strahov Stadium; Floorball Open in Prague – prestige Floorball cup. In Prague, many organizations have their headquarters and institutions of the Czech Republic and Central Europe. Some Of them are: Czech Presidency; Government offices and the Czech Parliament; Czech Television and various radio and TV stations; Radio Free Europe – Radio Liberty; Institute for Global Urban Development.

Vltava Canal

In Prague took place different international conferences: 2002, NATO Summit; Summit International Monetary Fund and World Bank 2000; International Olympic Committee Session in 2004; International Astronomical Union General Assembly 2006; IETF 68, March 2007. Personalities linked to Prague: Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor; Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor; Jan Hus Bohumil Hrabal; Rainer Maria Rilke; Franz Kafka; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Antonín Dvořák; Vaclav Havel; Albert Einstein; Milan Kundera; Jan Švankmajer; Madeleine Albright; Jaroslav Hasek; Alexander Dubček; Thomas Masaryk.

Although the Czech Republic is a former communist country, it remains the richest country in Eastern Europe, after Slovenia, making Prague look like very much the great cities of Western Europe. In fact, Prague has a Gross Domestic Product by 25% higher than the EU average, the most visited city in Central Europe and one of the most visited parts of Europe. Although, after the “Velvet Revolution” of November 1989, Prague was fantastic insufficiently prepared for the influx of tourists, now the situation has changed much, the city is endowed with a considerable tourist infrastructure worthy of a cosmopolitan and prosperous city.

Bridges In Prague

The city can be visited in any season, because in Prague there is little seasonal “low”, when come fewer tourists. Although Prague is probably the most cosmopolitan city in Central Europe, transport to the Czech capital is relatively difficult, because neither the airport nor the bus stations, you will not find tourist offices, Prague is not so well connected with European transport network like Vienna or Budapest, for example.

Prague has two international railway stations: Hlavní Nadrazi – read: Nadraji (Central Station, abbreviated hl.n.-Praha) and Praha Holesovice Railway Station (Holešovice – read: Holesovice). Hlavní Nadrazi (in the interwar period: Wilson) is a great station and most international trains arrive here. At this station you will find a good office of tourism and other services. The Czech capital is accessible by train across Europe, although not quite as easy as other European cities. However, this small inconvenience does not mean that the links are bad, because the train remains the most accessible way to travel to Prague, if you come from Europe.

Prague

Many tourists come to Prague; city tour incorporates Western Europe, because it is so far from countries like Germany and Austria. Although there are direct connections from cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels, there are direct trains from Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart and Dresden, cities that are important European trading points. If you come from Austria or Italy, there are fast trains from Linz and Vienna.

Prague, although it is closer to Germany, and often has a living standard comparable to that country remains a country in Eastern Europe. Because of this, it is visited by many tourists from Eastern Europe, and is incorporated in many tours to other countries in Central Europe. Train connections in Eastern Europe are relatively good, especially from other parts of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Direct connections can also be found in Katowice, Moscow, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Košice, and Bratislava and, of course, in every major city in the Czech Republic, including Brno and Ostrava.

Prague

Prague has an efficient and inexpensive transportation (Dopravní podnik), with three metro lines and dozens of suburban lines. Prague metro system is fast, comfortable, ultra-modern and ultra-clean, however, as most of Central Europe and possibly throughout Europe. In peak hours, there are trains every two minutes. Although it is not a travel experience as good as the metro, trams are some of the good transport system of the city. Trams are fast and frequent enough, but the best part is that they have a very extensive system of lines and stations – virtually anywhere you are in Prague, you can find a tram stop in the surroundings.

The buses in Prague are little-used by tourists, since most routes pass through the suburbs. Buses are not as frequent as trams, especially on weekends, and plants in general are not the best quality and are a bit harder to find your way to the bus schedule. Karlovy Most is the most famous medieval bridge in Prague, built of stone; Pražký Hrad (Prague Castle); Prague Zoo is the second zoo, largest in Europe, 10 km.

In the 1990s, when Prague was assaulted by the huge influx of tourists, were not found too many hotels. Now Prague is full of places, although their prices have risen very quickly and is hard to find a place to stay in the central area at an affordable price. Low budget: Clown and Bard; U Kriz (Cross), Újezd; Julian Elisky Peskov; Hostel Center – located 2 minutes away from Fred and Ginger Dancing Building. Average budget:
Dientzenhofer, Nosticova – a small hostel with only seven rooms – comfortable and relatively inexpensive because it is located downtown. The hostel offers access to people in wheelchairs; Axa, Na Porici – a modern, comfortable, but quite commonplace in the Nové Mesto.

Although of best quality, luxury hotels in Prague are often more expensive than other European cities: Hoffmeister, Pod Bruskou; U KRAL Karla, Uvoz; Savoy Keplerova; Radisson SAS Alcron, Stepanska.

The history of the city: as ruler of the Austro-Hungarian throne was proclaimed the son of Emperor Franz-Josef, Franz Ferdinand d’Este, after the principal Rudolf committed suicide. Ferdinand married Sophie von Chotek from a Czech aristocratic family. They lived in Konopiste Castle, not far from Prague. The new Crown Prince was favored making the dualist Monarchy Austro-Hungarian Monarchy Triple-Czech, but on 28 June 1914, he and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo. The murder was the pretext for starting World War.

The defeat of Austria-Hungary in the First World War led to the dissolution of the empire and the emergence of the new political map of Europe states, territories to form the Czech and Slovak Czechoslovakia. Prague was elected the new state capital. The city has grown both in terms of urban and economic. In 1930, Prague had about 850,000 inhabitants.
Throughout most of its history, Prague was a multiethnic city, with large communities of Czechs, Germans and Jews. If, in 1848, the Germans were the majority of the city population, they represented only 13.52% of people in Prague and in 1910 only 5.97%, mainly due to the influx of Czechs in Moravia and Bohemia who came to thicken the working class city, but assimilated some of the Germans.

German minority and the German-speaking Hebrew continued to live mainly in older neighborhoods, central city, while the Czechs were the absolute majority in the new working class neighborhoods. Since 1939, when Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Nazi Germany, Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust or fled the country. Most Hebrew survivors of the war, in Prague and the rest of the country have emigrated during the communist era, in several successive waves caused by the communists took power, the establishment of Israel and the suppression of the Prague Spring by the Soviet Union and its allies.

At the end of last century Prague Hebrew community numbered around 800 members, and Prague in 2006 about 1,600 were said to be Hebrew. During the Nazi occupation of Prague it has been one of the few European cities un-ravaged by aerial bombing, but city residents were persecuted and oppressed by the Nazis. Czech politicians and intellectuals, as was former Prime Minister Alois Elias, were killed or imprisoned with the help of informers and collaborators of Germans.

Castle In Prague

Prague uprising was initiated on May 5, 1945, the Czech resistance, with temporary support units of the Russian Liberation Army (RAO), formally serving in the Waffen SS, taking advantage of Soviet and American advance units were high the struggle against Nazi occupiers. American Third Army under General Patton was in Pilsen, only a few hours away from Prague, while Red Army troops under the command of Marshal Konev crossed the border to Moravia. General Patton had ordered the attack to trigger the release of Prague, but was unable to carry out the plans by General D. Eisenhower.

General Eisenhower Soviet General Staff requested permission to initiate attack, but he was refused the request. A preliminary agreement at Yalta provided that Bohemia is released by the Soviets. Finally, on 9 May 1945, after the official surrender of Nazi Germany, the Soviets stormed Prague. Only the final on 12 May ended the fighting in the Czech Republic. German occupation has caused – according to some sources – the death of 270,000, including more than 77,000 Czechoslovak Hebrew, whose name is inscribed on the walls of Pinkas Synagogue in Prague.

Prague

Ethnic Germans in Prague have fled or were displaced during the months that followed the issuance of the capital. During the transfer of Germans forced local violence took place an unknown number of casualties. After the war, Prague has become the capital of Czechoslovakia. At first, many Czechs were having feelings of gratitude towards the liberators of Soviet soldiers. Although the Red Army in a few months left Czechoslovakia after the war, the country remained under strict control policy of the Soviet Union.

In February 1948, a communist coup took power, assured political allies of the Soviets. The liberal intellectual life suffered under the totalitarian regime, despite some notable efforts of the new authorities for the restoration of monuments damaged in the battles of the Second World War, as well as support from mass culture. Czechoslovak writers at the guild’s fourth congress held in Prague in 1967 took a very critical position against the regime. They have challenged the new Secretary General of the Czechoslovak Communist, Alexander Dubcek, to proclaim a new way of domestic policy.

Prague Statue

Thus began the brief period of “socialism with a human face.” Czechoslovak new policy, known as the “Prague Spring”, aimed at reforming communist state’s democratic institutions. Soviet Union and its allies in the Warsaw Pact reacted violently in August 1968, occupying the country and stopping the military reforms. In 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution, Czechoslovakia finally freed of communist and Soviet influence, and Prague has blossomed once again under the new economic and social realities in the country.

In 1993, after the peaceful dissolution of the Czechoslovak federation, the new state became the capital of Czech Republic. Prague is the capital of two administrative units in the Czech: kraj Pražský – Region Prague Středočeský kraj – Central Bohemian Region. However, Prague is not geographically part of Central Bohemia Region.

Seventeenth century was considered the Golden Age of Jews in Prague. Community of Hebrew amounted to approx 15,000 members, or 30% of the total population of the city. This population formed the largest Ashkenazic community in the world in those days. Between 1597 and 1609, Judah Loew ben Bezalel was the chief rabbi of Prague. He is considered the greatest Hebrew scholar of the history of Prague, his grave in the Old Hebrew Cemetery became an important place of pilgrimage.

Expulsion of Jews from Prague by Maria Theresa of Austria, in 1745, an act based on their alleged collaboration with the Prussian army, was a heavy blow to the city’s Jewish community. Jews were readmitted to the city after three years, in 1748. In 1848, they opened the gates of the Prague ghetto. Former district Hebrew (renamed Josefov in 1850) was demolished during the so-called “drainage of the ghetto” from the late nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century.11

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