Thursday, July 16, 2009

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is sometimes known as the “Paris of the east” and it’s not hard to see why. Gothic churches, Baroque theatres, Neo-classical monuments and Art Nouveau mansions rub shoulders with each other by the Vltava River. The landscape is dominated by the 13th century Charles Bridge, lined with statues of luminaries; and Prague Castle, a complex of buildings perched on a hill with St. Vitus Cathedral the most prominent structure.

I came to Prague to visit my friend Roman and to use this as a halfway “rest stop” of my trip across Europe. I had enough time to socialize with Roman and his roommate Mat and even to visit some neighborhoods and sights more than once.

One of my highlights had to be the varied architecture. Prague itself is like a school of architecture throughout the ages, from Romanesque all the way to contemporary. I enjoyed wandering down streets and admiring the ornate facades (e.g., statues, stucco). My favorite buildings include the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, the Neo-classical National Theatre and the contemporary Dancing Building.

I also spent some time discovering David Cerny’s sculptures throughout Prague. Cerny is know for controversial sculptures that are simply wacky. Examples include crawling babies on Zizkov Tower, the tallest TV tower in Prague; and a man riding an upside-down horse.

One interesting observation was that Prague is very Westernized. Prague is just like any other European capital. Vestiges of the communist era remain only in the subtlest forms, such as the refurbished communist apartment blocks, or panelaks.

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