Prague, a community dating back to 880, is a stunningly beautiful and impressive city. It served as a movie set standing in for Vienna for “Amadeus” and “Mission Impossible.” Unfortunately we visited on May 8, a national holiday commemorating the Czech Republic’s liberation from the Nazi regime, when government offices and schools were closed.
But we took advantage of the opportunity to tour the city and learn a little of the fantastic history of the Czech Republic. Just in the 20th century alone it witnessed control by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, independence as part of Czechoslovakia, German occupation, communism, capitalism, and the amicable splitting of Czechoslovakia into the Czech and Slovak Republics.
The earlier history is likewise convoluted and too dense to summarize here. One of the most famous incidents in its history was the “defenestration of Prague” when rival officials were thrown out of castle windows (fenestre), an event that precipitated the Thirty Years War (1618-48) between Catholic and Protestant states in the Holy Roman Empire.
Suffice it to say, the foundations for Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral (below) were laid in the 10th century. Among the cathedral’s remarkable collection of altars and artifacts is the silver mausoleum to St. John Nepomuk, tortured to death by King Wenceslaus in the 14th century for refusing to reveal the names of the queen’s lovers.
Then it was on for a quick Cook’s tour of the city, including, below, views of the Vitava River, the historic Charles Bridge, built in the 14th century, with impressive statuary of Christian saints added subsequently, and a wonderful glockenspiel, (the Prague Astronomical Clock). Installed in 1410 and the oldest glockenspiel still functioning, each hour, on the hour, it displays the position of the sun and moon in the sky, provides a variety of astronomical details, and offers the “walk of the Apostles,” as death, represented by a skeleton, tolls the time.
Next stop: Nuremberg and the Martin Behaim Gymnasium, a selective high school.