The lure of Prague

There is a history in Prague — and the rest of Europe — which suspends these places in time. Freezes them in moments only my brain can whisk me to.

The view from the airplane of Prague

Old communists blocks in Eastern Europe, bombed out buildings in the former Yugoslavia which wear their pock marks like badges of honor, of a reminder of the dirty past, hopeful future and the cruelty and beastly tendencies of man.

Here, in Prague, the former capital of Bohemia (it even sounds so whimsical), the winding Vlatava River etches its vein through the city. Graffiti sprinkles crumbling brick; old apartments with grand chandeliers hang in the entry ways to apartments where people who have their own stories and will never meet live; the contrast between what goes on under the veil of darkness and the light of day is apparent and beautiful.

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Daily Wanderlust: The skyline of Prague

Prague. A beautiful, magical city that instantly whisks visitors into a world of old and new merged together. Where palaces and modern life smash together in the most beautifully chaotic way.

The city first took its hold on me in 2002, when I spent time there during my month-long European experience. In the dead of winter, I wandered the streets of the city, being left breathless at the moments I was being caressed with. The little instances where I felt like I was in an entirely other world. The eye-opening experiences I was being treated to.

In 2010, when I returned, it was more of the same. Except this time, it was May and the sun shone down and the grass glowed an electric green as crowds came out en masse for May Day.

Blue skies overhead, I set out to explore the city. To get lost. To wander down alleyways, in search of nuggets of culture I had missed the time before.

It is one of the only cities in Europe I have returned to more than once — and for good reason. There is a charm here, the colors, the shops, and, of course, the views.

The Prague skyline

Czech Republic Destinations Europe

Daily Wanderlust: the old woman of Prague

There is something so magical about Prague. From the colors of Prague’s Baroque buildings to the “alien” tower to the spires that pierce the skyline, to the outdoor art dotting the streets, the beauty of this city is never-ending.

Prague was one of only a handful of cities I returned to during my long-term travel, and I am glad I did. It was my free therapy, and I spent days with my camera, just wandering and taking in all the city had to offer.

One of my favorite things I came across (other than the colorful buildings and the art), were the handmade crafts. Stores display their goods on the sidewalk, and this shop caught my eye immediately. I loved the selection of puppets that took me back in time. And, of course, this woman standing guard of the shop.

 

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Outdoor Art in Prague

Prague, considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world, is a smorgasbord of style ranging from renaissance to gothic to baroque, contemporary and more.

It’s easy to spend days just wandering the city, taking in the hundreds of churches with spires that pierce the skyline, the colorful buildings on quaint tree-lined streets, the parks set against historic and modern backdrops at the same time. There are plenty of things to do in Prague, that’s for sure.

The colorful old buildings of Prague.

Prague is certainly breathtaking.

As it has emerged as a hot spot on the tourist path, the city, which has always been seeped in culture, has taken on an identity as an art attraction. Museums throughout pay homage to a wide-range of works of art, including the Museum of Decorative Arts, The National Gallery, Old Town Hall and Prague Art Gallery, The Fine Arts Museum and more.

But, for those on a budget, simply walking out the door of a hotel or hostel can result in an artistic experience in the pulsing capital of the Czech Republic. Street art and installments are stumbled upon while engrossed in an entirely different exploration in the whimsical Bohemian city.

It’s these little gems that add a certain charm to a city that has already captured the world’s heart.

Love Lock Bridge

Couples in love make the pilgrimage to this bridge with padlock and sharpie in tow.

Believed to signify the eternal love of a couple, starry-eyed romantics affix their own padlock with their names inscribed on the metal up and down this pedestrian bridge that crosses over the Vlatva River.

Supposedly, clicking the lock on to this bridge (and other similar Love Lock Bridges in Europe) means good luck in a relationship.

With a view of the charming old neighborhoods, the bridge isn’t just an ode to romance, it’s romantic!

John Lennon Wall

A quick walk from Love Lock Bridge is the John Lennon Wall, a colorful outcropping of graffiti on one long wall in Velkopřevorské náměstí (Grand Priory Square), Malá Strana.

It used to be a normal wall, but then in the late 1980s, when the country was under the communist regime of Gustáv Husák, younger residents began to show their disapproval in the form of writing on this wall. This led to fighting between students and police on the famed Charles Bridge.

The students were described as following “Lennonism,” hence a large amount of graffiti dedicated to the namesake of the movement, John Lennon.

You won’t see the same wall twice. Visitors and locals regularly add their own piece of history to the wall, from Lennon quotes designed to inspire peace and love to their own portraits of Lennon to works of art and everything in between.

For those artistically inclined (and even those who aren’t), grab some paint and leave your own mark on this historic wall. (I only had a pen, but you get the point!)

Revoluce Key Sculpture

Unveiled in March 2010, the key sculpture was created by renowned Czech artist Jill David.

Standing at a towering 6 meters high in Franz Kafka Square, it spells out “Revoluce” (“Revolution” in English) with more than 85,000 keys.

David’s work signifies the non-violent Velvet Revolution which used keys as its symbol. The revolution, which took place from November 17 to December 29, 1989, was a largely student-led protest against Communism.

Have you been to any of these places? Are there other free art attractions you recommend for Prague? Leave your comments below!

 

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Colors of Prague

 

 

I’ve been to Prague twice in my life, and was taken by the city both times.

As someone who is not used to seeing the gorgeous myriad of architecture in Prague (stuff like this just doesn’t exist in America, sadly), every turn down a new street delighted my eyes. The colors. The shapes. The details. The buildings in Prague just leave me in awe.

I took this photo on my big walkabout of the city on May Day. I love how the buildings appear so alive and aged.

Czech Republic Destinations Europe

That One Time in Prague

Prague.

One of the most colorful and stunning cities I have ever encountered.

This visit to Prague marked my second time in the city. The first time was eight years ago when my frame of mind was, well, crap (see “‘Twas the night before London“). It is the only city I have been back to thus far that conjures up memories of  myself as a very different person.

I can recall bits and pieces about my first visit. I stayed at the Clown and Bard. I walked across The Charles Bridge, up to the palace. I peeked through the gates of the Jewish cemetery. I ate pizza and drank Bud (the mmmgood Czech version).  I went to Kutna Hora to check out the Sedlic Ossuary.

And then there were the memories that popped back into my brain while I was there.

Some of those little memories were OK. Like, remembering I went to get sushi near the Charles Bridge. Or, that I stopped into an internet cafe to check e-mail.

What wasn’t expect were those lovely supressed memories. The ones that, when recalled, make me feel like bitch-slapping them across their ugly little faces.

I was on my Prague walkabout when it hit me.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, May 1, so the city was buzzing with celebrations. I had just walked through Prague’s largest cemetery and had turned down another road when, BAM! Right there, smack in my face, was a building.

The Communist-era building hung, gray in the air, rusty and sagging, in front of me. The little porches looked as if they were hanging by nails, as if a foot coming down on it would cause its demise.

I knew this building.

I had come across this building the last time I was there. When my sadness reflected off of the sad structure. I had stood next to this building on Valentines Day, 2002.

A pile of stress and tears due to T (the man who I allowed torment my heart for years), I had walked outside of Clown and Bard to find a phone card so I could call him. Wish him a Happy Valentines Day.

It was nighttime and cold, and I was outside, searching frantically for a pay phone so I could call him and send him my love before he went to work back in Baltimore.

I walked and walked, my desperation growing every minute that passed without coming across a phone.

Then, I walked by the old, depressing apartment building.

It gave me the chills. It intimidated me. It made the area seem so … creepy, so foreboding.

I held the phone card in my hand, an airbrushed little girl with blonde ringlets spilling out of her head. I remember being jealous of her.

I bet, when she grows up, her boyfriend will love her.

I picked up the phone and dialed T’s number.

And then the memory is gone.

Blissfully. Perfectly. Sweetly.

I was brought back into the moment. Walking in Prague. Enjoying the sunny, warm day. Headed to the Lennon Wall.

Creating new memories that won’t be supressed.

Prague was my free therapy.

30 Life Crisis Blog Czech Republic Europe Travel

A BRIEF intermission: Chasing spring … two months in

Today, May 7, is my two month anniversary of traveling. It is the longest time I have been away from home. The longest time I have been away from family. The longest …

For two months now, I have chased spring. It started in Spain, with the first buds on the trees, the first field of little yellow flowers, and has followed me since then.

Spring is an amazing time of year. It is about birth. About starting new. And, it signifies a lot to me, since this trip is a birth of sorts for me. I have literally taken my entire life’s work, my dreams, my desires, and washed them from my mind and here, have begun to reconstruct the wheel, to re-identify what my dreams and desires could be/are.

A year ago, when I lived in Atlanta, I remember marveling at the city’s sheer gorgeousness with the changing of the season. The pink flowers that would sprout from the winding trees. The bright green grass that would pop up overnight. The light wind that would gently blow during days spent at Piedmont Park, taking in the South’s spring.

I would never in a million years have imagined spending my spring 365 days later in Europe, living in a prolonged (and amazing) spring for nearly two months.

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