Romantic but bustling, medieval and modern: the capital of the Czech Republic, with its beauty and its contrasts, attracts millions of tourists every year from all over the world. With a historic center that has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1992, the pearl of the East is a city with unique cultural wealth. Thanks to an enormous variety of religious, philosophical and artistic influences, Prague is an unmissable destination.
Created in 1784 from the union of four independent towns—Hradcany (the Castle), Malá Strana (the district south of the Castle), Staré Mesto (the Old Town) and Nové Mesto (the New Town)—in 1583 the city of a hundred spires was chosen as the capital of the Holy Roman Empire by Archduke Rudolf II of Habsburg, who preferred Prague to Vienna as a place to house his collection of works of art and developed an unusual passion for alchemy and magic there.
On the tracks of ancient mysteries and archaic legends
Even the origin of the name Prague is shrouded in legend: according to an ancient prophecy, in the 7th century, the Slav princess Libuše ordered a castle to be built on the banks of the River Vltava, on a hill where she had seen a man building the threshold (“práh” in Czech) of a house. The majestic Hradcany, the largest castle in the world, was then made famous by Franz Kafka's narrative nightmare.
In Prague even among the rooftops the nostalgic magic of remote eras can be breathed in: from the Karluv most (Charles Bridge), whose foundations were supposedly fortified by adding thousands of eggs, to the elves who allegedly watch over the river and the souls that lie there. From the Staromestský Orloj (Astronomical clock), made by the master clockmaker Hanuš, blinded so that he could not replicate this mechanical marvel, to number 40 Karlovo Námesti, the disquieting residence of Goethe's Faust.
The esoteric force of the city does not come only from its architecture: lose yourself among the hidden corners of the city with the Ghost Tours, organized by guides who seem to have stepped straight out of horror films and who can reveal the secrets of the old alchemy laboratories and tell you of ancient mystic rituals and folklore stories, such as the one about Golem, the clay creature made by Rabbi Jehuda Löw to protect the Jews from cruelty.
Main dishes and gallons of beer
If the views from the Prague spires are unforgettable, its traditional dishes are no less so. To tantalize gourmets' taste buds, think about a tasty cuisine whose main dishes are polévka, warming soups for snowy winters, Pražská šunka, the famous and esteemed "Prague ham" that recalls the omnipresence of pork at the table and knedlíky, bread gnocchi to savor in home kitchens and to seek out in Art-Nouveau-style restaurants. And to wash everything down, think about the rivers of beer (pivo). As we know, the Czechs hold the world record for beer consumption per head (160 liters).
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© Anders Adermark