A Sunday afternoon at Lx Factory

A Sunday afternoon at Lx Factory

Lx Factory

Sunday I decided to go for an afternoon walk at Lx Factory. This is a space of the Portuguese capital, renewed a couple of years ago, and is quite close to the river, in Alcântara. This area is already a bit far from the Lisbon’s downtown, but several bus lines and trains can take us there on a regular basis. Already there, one must carefully look for an iron gate, given that it is a quite discreet entrance.

Lx Factory emanates a good vibe, due to a mishmash of factors. It has an abandoned and decayed appearance, the stores and the offices are super original and irreverent and the people who go there appear to be quite interesting. All this environment is even better on Sundays.

The Lx Market takes places on this day, between 11 am and 8 pm. Some of the streets get jam-packed with stands from Portuguese vendors and some are from abroad. Clothing, jewellery, fruit and vegetables, sodas and alcoholic drinks, natural and décor products, all these are sold. But it’s worth going to this market even if you do not want to buy anything at all.

What was Lx Factory in the past?

As you walk through streets of Lx Factory you will notice that this area used to be an industrial place. Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense, a textile company, opened its doors here in 1849. It was one of Lisbon’s major factories.

Companhia was inaugurated in 1838 but its factory in Alcântara had the intent to gather all the activity-related buildings in just one spot, since they were scattered. João Pires da Fonte, the Portuguese architect, was the one responsible for the project.

The first manufacturing building inaugurated had 4 floors, an enormous chimney and a steam machine inside, which allowed spinning and weaving. In the following years, 5 more buildings were edified and the whole unit amassed more than 300 looms at one point, made in England. It was the activity’s golden era.

Can you imagine the number of people who worked at the factory? A workers’ village was built right next to the factory by the Companhia, in order to lodge the workers and their families. If you want to see it, go to Rua 1º de Maio. And, by the way, just to spike your curiosity, I must add that there are many other workers’ village in Lisbon, even though the one of Rua 1º de Maio was the first.

After enjoying some prestige, Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense started to face some issues (caused by the establishment of the Portuguese Republic), which eventually led to its closure. The industrial buildings were all sold, first to Companhia Industrial de Portugal e Colónias and then to the typography Anuário Comercial de Portugal e Gráfica de Mirandela.

The industrial activity in Lisbon gradually decreased and the space once occupied by the factory was degraded. And, therefore, this huge area of 23000m2 remained concealed in Lisbon.

What is the Lx Factory?

The project Lx Factory was born in 2008. It is an island that breathes creativity and inspiration. The obsolete factory came back to life and is nowadays a mandatory cultural hallmark for those who visit (or live in) Lisbon.

Phrase written on a wall of Lx Factory

Phrase written on a wall of Lx Factory

The old facilities are now occupied by companies related to architecture, design, restoration, advertising, fashion, plastic arts, music, photography, as well as some restaurants and cafés, among other fields. Seeing what is taking place in the creative minds of the Portuguese is a breath of fresh air.

On Sunday, in addition to all these business activities that I have just mentioned, there is also the Lx Market. There is an immense array of more or less original product stands, and having the chance to check them and perhaps buy something is just great. Maybe some tomatoes or figs of Torres Vedras, a new, unique and original bracelet (handmade), a cute shirt or a typical tile of Lisbon to have a city souvenir and also this afternoon’s walk.

3 spots where one can find Kafka in Prague

3 spots where one can find Kafka in Prague

Franz Kafka

Life

Once upon a time there was a Czech known as Franz Kafka. Born in Prague on 3 July 1883, during an era when the Czech Republic was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Habsburgs.

Kafka was the eldest of six children, offspring of a middle-class Jewish couple (of German ascendancy). His parents were Hermann Kafka and Julie Löwy and a great part of their daily lives was spent away from home and their children, due to a family business. This separation, alongside some sort of authoritarianism, would eventually be decisive in Kafka’s life (and work).

His academic career did not have any hassles. He attended high school in what is now the Kinský Palace and, later, Law School. After finishing his degree, he had a few jobs to survive, but his unhappiness was too much to bear. Literature was his true passion.

In 1917 he contracted tuberculosis and had to stop working, forcing him to spend the rest of his life in sanatoriums and bathhouses. Kafka asked to have all of his writings burned to ashes, but his best friend published his work, after his death. And fortunately so… Otherwise we would never have the chance to read magnum opus like The Process.

Work

The writer did not have any acknowledgement during his life, having only published seven small books. Now is regarded as one of the most influent writers of the 20th century.

Kafka (and his work) is deeply associated with Prague. In addition to having been born there, spending most of his 41 years in the city, he loved it. He once wrote in a letter to a friend: “Prague doesn’t let go. Of either of us. This old crone has claws. One has to yield, or else. We would have to set fire to it on two sides, at the Vyšehrad and at the Hradčany; then it would be possible for us to get away.”

Everything he wrote is engulfed in Prague’s gothic, sombre and mysterious environment, having as well all the marks of his Slavic and German past. Thus, visiting the Czech capital is, somehow, to visit Kafka and feel the environment that surrounded him for many years, even though Prague has changed a bit and so did its ambience.

I only had the chance to read some of the numerous works by Kafka, and I deeply enjoy his unique and chaotic style. I must confess that my desire to visit Prague was also related to this writer. So while I was there I wanted to see a bit of the city where he lived in. It’s not hard to find Kafka in Prague, one just needs to know where to look at. But it should be emphasized that Kafka does not explicitly name the places of Prague, he rather mentions them through his own interpretation, his unique way. It’s the city’s metamorphosis…

Of all the places that I visited I have to make reference to three that were part of the author’s life and where interesting works were edified to honor him.

Statue of Kafka

The writer worked in several locations in Prague, one of them an insurance company in the New Town, where today is the Quadrio Shopping Center.

As a tribute to Kafka, in 2014, a giant sculpture named “K on Sun” was built right next to the shopping entrance. Seeing this rather original sculpture was something that I enjoyed immensely.

Finding it is not easy, I actually had to ask some people on the street and at the tourist office. I was left with the impression that not even the locals know about it… Kafka’s works were banned for many years in the country, and perhaps that may serve as a justification as to why the people of Prague are not that acquainted with him. The Metamorphosis, one of his most important works, was translated into Czech in the recent year of 1929.

The statue is an enormous bust (with 11 meters), mirrored with 42 independent layers in stainless steel (which rotate in any direction), weighing 45 tons and is always moving. The layers can rotate in any direction, therefore the bust can assume different shapes. Only for brief moments we can see the 42 layers fully aligned. And then we see the face of Kafka.

As I watched this piece moving for a while, I recalled the works I’ve read and the complex and chaotic personality that I imagine Kafka had, and the things that tormented him.

Statue of Kafka

Statue of Kafka

 Franz Kafka Museum

Kafka lived in several different houses, on both banks of the Vltava, the river that crosses through Prague. One of the locations where we lived was an apartment in Mala Strana, a building which is now occupied by the American Embassy.

About 700 meters from this apartment one can find the Franz Kafka Museum, located in an old brick factory, right next to the river. In my opinion this is a mandatory point of passage for those who want to have a better idea of the life and work of this famous writer. For me, it was particularly interesting having the chance to see Kafka’s handwriting and imagining him writing all those letters to friends and lovers, as well as those works I’ve read and enjoyed so much.

The exhibition that constitutes the museum was first located in Barcelona, then it was moved to New York and its arrival in Prague would only take place in 2005. It’s possible to divide it into two sections, the existential space and the imaginary topography. The 1st part explains how Prague influenced the life of the writer and the 2nd approaches the way he saw Prague and transformed it in his imagination.

A piece lies in the access to the museum, one that slightly resembles the head of Kafka, given that they both were outlined by the same artist. Both sculptures are formed by layers that move independently. The one found in the access to the museum is constituted by two men (2.10 meters tall each), facing each other, urinating on a part of the floor that has the shape of Czech Republic.

Both men move as they urinate, making the scene astonishingly real. At the time I wasn’t aware, but already after leaving Prague I found that is possible to send a message to the number displayed right beside the sculpture and then wait for the men to “write” in urine the message we have sent!

Statue next to the Franz Kafka Museum

Statue next to the Franz Kafka Museum

Statue of Franz Kafka

 Close to the area where Kafka’s father had his business one can find, since 2003, a bronze statue of a man riding on the back of an empty suit (without anyone to dress him). It has 3.75 meters and weighs 800 kg.

It is one of those things that probably no one will actually grasp what it really means, in the first glance at it. Only those who have read Description of a Struggle will understand what served as an inspiration for the statue, in what was one of the first stories of the writer.

As I walked through Prague I felt that Kafka and the city are closely related, meeting my expectations. Everything that the writer was and everything that he wrote is impregnated with all the mystery and mysticism which one can imagine that Prague had several years ago.

Statue of Franz Kafka

Statue of Franz Kafka

The square of the old town of Prague

The square of the old town of Prague

The historic centre of Prague is something magnificent, with stunning buildings, an impressive castle and one of the most famous bridges in the world. Since 1992 it is part of the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO.

The centre of the Prague is crossed by the country’s longest river, the Vltava. It has 435 km, its source is found in the Bohemian region and the mouth is located a few kilometres north of the Czech capital. The river splits Prague into two banks.

On one side, Malá Strana, where the castle is found, and Hradcany. On the other bank, Staré Mesto (the old town – the medieval area), Nové Mesto (the new town), Josefov (Jewish quarter) and Vysehrad.

The Old Town

The square of the old town is the oldest and most important of the historic centre of Prague. It started, in the 10th century, as a trading post for the European trading routes. The bourgeoisie funded this area in order to compete with the Cathedral, located on the other side of the river.

It had bakers, potters, herbalists, gingerbread makers and several other artisans who would sell what they produced. Mushrooms, strawberries, cakes, fish and many other things were also sold.

A few centuries later, in addition to being an important economic centre, the square became part of people’s daily lives, due to the establishment of the Town Hall and the Church Of Our Lady before Týn. Tragic events also took place in this area, such as uprisings and public executions. I must emphasize the execution of 27 Czechs who rebelled against the Habsburg Dynasty. If you look at the ground of the square you will see 27 crosses, in a tribute to the 27 deceased.

The square has undergone several changes over the years, but it still is a beautiful and absolutely unmissable place when visiting Prague. This place has already witnessed several historic events.

Main Buildings

All buildings of the old town’s square are mesmerizing. Right below, I stress those that can be regarded as the most important.

Pick a nice café and sit outside. Thoroughly behold all the buildings in the square.

Old Town Hall

The Town Hall building was created in 1338 and its initial purpose was to be the headquarters of the town’s administration. Some years later, a tower was added to the south and then its façade welcomed the astronomical clock in 1410.

This watch is one of the most emblematic points of Prague. It is one of the world’s oldest and more elaborate. In addition to telling the time, it also shows the moon phases and movement of the stars… It’s a monument to sky observation.

If you are interested in knowing everything about the astronomical clock then read the piece I exclusively wrote about it.

Astronomical clock in the old Town Hall

Astronomical clock in the old Town Hall

Church of Our Lady before Týn

The Church of Our Lady before Týn is one of Prague’s most impressive gothic buildings. It is easily recognizable due to its black towers, which have different heights.

Its construction started in the 14th century, in a place where an old Romanesque building was located, which lodged traders from abroad. This temple is located next to the courtyard of Týn, hence its name. The courtyard of Týn was the place where taxes on the goods sold in Prague were charged.

For a long time, the Church of Our Lady before Týn was a place of Hussism worship, a reforming movement started by Jan Hus. This temple has been part of the Catholic Church since the 18th century.

The church was renewed several times over the years, but it keeps its grace, therefore the inside thoroughly justifies a visit. You can find the tomb of the famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and the oldest organ in Prague (1673).

Church of Our Lady of Týn

Church of Our Lady of Týn

St. Nicholas Church

The St. Nicholas Church was the most prominent in the old town, before the edification of Church of Our Lady before Týn. It was taken by the Benedictine monks during the counter-reformation movement and was later rebuilt in Baroque style.

Inside of it lies a stunning décor and murals depicting the life of St. Nicholas and also of St. Benedict. Also impressive is the candelabra offered by Tsar Nicholas II.

We can attend classical music performances, in the evening, at St. Nicholas church.

Kinský Palace

Some extremely old buildings have already occupied the same spot where today we can find the Kinský Palace. The Rococo palace that we can currently see was built in the 18th century for Count Jan Arnos Golts. After he passed away, the palace was bought by the prominent Kinský family, who lived in it until 1949. After that it became a property of the National Gallery.

The Kinský Palace has already been a plateau for quite interesting things, among them:

  • The 1st woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was born there;
  • It was a school of German grammar, having in the famous Frank Kafka one of its students;
  • Klement Gottwald spoke from its balcony, something that led to a coup d’état.

The palace’s façade has white and pink hues, standing out a little bit from the other buildings in the square.

Kinsky Palace

Kinsky Palace

Stone Bell House

The Stone Bell House is a gorgeous example of gothic architecture in Prague, having been edified in the 13th century. It is believed that it was built as a palace for the royal family, for Elisabeth of Bohemia.

The name emerged a bit after, due to the existence of a stone bell, a replica of what we can now see in the corner of the house.

The house’s façade was changed several times, but an attempt to retrieve its original form was conducted in the 20th century. Fortunately that is what we can see today.

The interior of the house has been an exhibition gallery since 1988, as well as a bookstore and a café.

 Monument to Jan Hus

There’s a monument made of stone and bronze conducted by the Czech sculpture Ladislav Šaloun, in the old town square. It’s an interesting Art Noveau endeavour, and something unmissable in this place.

The figure towering the whole monument is the one of Jan Huss, a religious philosopher and reformer. He launched a movement that would later be known as Hussism, posing strong criticism against the Catholic Church. He was excommunicated and burned alive at the stake. The monument itself shows Huss in an upright position, glancing the Church of Our Lady before Týn. During his life, this church became Hussite.

Groups of people are also part of the statue, the fighters, and, on the opposite side, another group of humiliated individuals, depicting those who had to go into exile after the Battle of the White Mountain.

This work was completed in 1915.

Monument to Jan Hus

Monument to Jan Hus

Monument to Jan Hus

Monument to Jan Hus

The Prague astronomical clock

The Prague astronomical clock

Prague

Prague is the capital of Czech Republic and, in my opinion, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. I visited it last month and I loved it. I’m sure I’ll be back.

The historic center is gorgeous, with exceptional buildings, an imposing castle and a bridge which is one the world’s most famous. The whole historic center has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992.

The astronomical clock

The astronomical clock

The city of Prague has two banks, divided by the Vltava river:

  • On one side, Malá Strana and Hradcany – The Castle is located in this side;
  • In the other bank: Staré Mesto (old city), Nové Mesto (new city), Josefov (Jewish quarter) and Vysehrad.

On the facade of the old City Council, located in the city’s heart (old town), we can find one the most emblematic points of Prague. It’s the astronomical clock, one of the world’s oldest and most elaborate. In addition to telling the time, it also shows the moon phases and movement of the stars… It’s a monument to sky observation.

Actually, the main function of the astronomical clock was to describe the movement of the celestial bodies, showing the time was just a secondary element…

I’ve passed by it several times and the number of tourists looking at it and photographing it is unbelievable. This building is being repaired since June 2017, the access to its interior is closed to the public and the outer side is partially covered. You will see that in this article’s photos.

If you are thinking about going to Prague, do it next year preferably. The works will finish at the end of 2017.

The construction of the clock

The building of the City Council was created in 1338 and its initial goal was to be the administrative headquarters of the old town. Some years later, a tower was added to its southern part. In 1410 the astronomical clock was installed in its facade.

This masterpiece was achieved by the royal clockmaker Mikuláš de Kadaň and was perfected, at the end of the 15th century, by the hands of the master Hanuš de Růže. There is a legend that says that Hanuš built the clock, but this is not true. The legend also affirms that, in order to ensure that the clockmaker wouldn’t build an identical clock, the counselors of Prague gave the order to blind him. But, in a revengeful act, Hanuš stopped the clock…

In reality, the astronomical clock stopped indeed, but that happened many years later, already in the 19th century. Its mechanism was repaired by the clockmaker Ludvík Hainz.

Prague was constituted by 4 cities which, in the 18th century, came together and so the City Council became the city’s headquarters. Back then, a proposal to remove the clock from the tower’s facade was made. Fortunately it was not accepted.

Since then, several actions were conducted to enhance the clock, in order to preserve it and improve some mechanisms. Even though the clock already has several centuries of age, some parts of it are still the original ones.

The 3 parts of the astronomical clock

Part 1 – The 12 Apostles

On the top, there are 12 mechanical statues which depict the 12 apostles. These images were added to the watch in the 17th century. During the fire of 1945, these statues were destroyed, having been replaced by wooden statues made by Vojtěch Sucharda 3 years later.

When the clock strikes the hour, between 9 am and 11 pm, you can see a parade of statuettes in 2 small windows under the roof. You will recognize each of the apostles, since they have attributes that make them identifiable.

In addition to the apostles who show up every time the clock strikes the hour, some other statues also “come to life”. The skeleton, which has in its hand an hourglass that measures time, pulls the thread and unleashes the parade. It nods its head to the Turkish, who symbolizes extravagance. The Turkish refuses it.

The miser moves his head and shakes his cane and bag, as a threatening gesture, while, right by his side, the statue that represents vanity is looking itself in the mirror. These figures are symbols of Prague’s medieval society.

When the rooster sings, all movements come to an end and the astronomical clock sleeps for another hour.

Part 2 – The astronomical display

The astronomical clock has more than 600 years of age and is unique in the world. From its astrolabe we can get different sorts of information. The astrolabe is an astronomical instrument used to determine the local time, as well as the position of the sun, moon and stars.

What exists in the tower of the old Prague City Council is an enormous circle with 2 circular discs kept together in the center. The upper part represents the day and the lower part the night. In the lower part we can see 2 colors with the sunrise and the sunset, on the left and on the right, respectively. One just needs to look at the position of the sun and we can confirm what time of the day we currently are!

When looking closely to the astrolabe we can also be acquainted with:

  • The time of the old Bohemian – Gothic numbers indicate the hours that have passed since the sunset, which was the beginning of the new day;
  • The time of Babylon – the Arab numbers measure the hours between the sunrise and the sunset, therefore the summer and winter days have different lengths;
  • The time of Central Europe or the Old German Time – the golden hand indicates the time used by all of us. The day starts at midnight;
  • The time of the Stars – it’s shown on the Roman numeral display and derives from the movement of the stars;
  • The sunrise and sunset – the location of the sun in the regions of 3 different colours indicates if it’s day or night. The sunrise and sunset happen in the boundaries of these colours;
  • The Zodiac signs – marked by the 12 zodiac symbols;
  • The position and phases of the moon – a ball travels through the display, performing a round of 29 and a half days (lunar month), changing its aspect based on the phases of the moon;
  • The declination of the sun – based on the position of the sun on the golden circles, which represent the Tropic of Cancer, Capricorn and the Equator;
  • The equinox and solstice – based on the position of the sunlight on the bars that connect the Zodiac ring to the clock.

This is the medieval perception of the universe.

Part 3 – Display of the calendar

This is the newest part of the astronomical clock, having been added to it in the 19th century.

The most important part is the Cisiojanus. This is the mnemonic display used to remember the most important festivities on a certain day of the month. This information is found on the outer ring. The man responsible for this device was Karel Jaromír Erben, a Czech historian, poet and writer.

On the calendar’s display there is also information on the zodiac signs, as well as on the days and months of the year. To verify the current date one just needs to check what’s at the top.

In addition the symbol of the old city, we also find statues of the philosopher and Archangel Michael, an astronomer and chronicler.

Calendar display

Calendar display

The Prague Castle

The Prague Castle

When visiting Prague, the castle is an absolute cornerstone. You are going to see it when you cross the Charles Bridge, the city’s most famous and oldest. I also recommend that you do not confine yourself to this part and devout some time (one morning or afternoon) to visit its interior.

The castle is a super important symbol, not only of Prague, but of the whole Czech Republic. It’s the seat of political and religious power, having been the residence of the royal Bohemian family and the Bishop of Prague, and also of the presidency of the republic since 1918. It’s the world’s largest complex of castles, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, occupying an area of 70.000 m2. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In my opinion these are 2 really strong justifications to consider a visit (or a comeback) to Prague in the near future.

What is its history?

The castle of Prague was founded approximately in the year of 880 by Prince Bořivoj, the 1st Duke of Bohemia. This prince was the 1st royal figure of the Přemyslid Dynasty, who ruled Bohemia throughout 400 years, until 1306.

Bořivoj had the ambition to establish himself in a place whose location offered more benefits, on the top of a hill, by the river Vltava. And thus the huge complex we see today was started.

The 1st construction of all was a wooden fortress and, later on, stone buildings were built. The Church of St. Mary, which no longer exists (just some ruins of it) and the St George’s Basilica were the first ones.

Over the years, on the initiative of successive monarchs, several churches and other buildings were constructed. In the 14th century, on the initiative of Emperor Charles IV, the semblance of the castle underwent some changes. The name of Prague’s most famous and oldest bridge derives from this Emperor. During his era, the construction of St. Vitus Cathedral began and some changes were made to the fortifications of the castle and to the palace. The royal family started to live in the castle itself.

Many changes have already happened so far, given the specific context of different kings and emperors, the styles that were the major trend of their eras, the fire that took place in 1541, or due to different belligerent conflicts. The vast array of events which took place over the centuries produces a complex with buildings that have totally different styles.

What can we visit?

Inside the castle there are several palaces, church buildings, offices which represent several architectural styles, built throughout several centuries. Up next I will talk a bit about those places which may be regarded as “mandatory”.

The Old Royal Palace

The underground area is the oldest of the whole complex. The Palace was the residence of princes and kings of Bohemian until the 16th century, having been built on the top of the ruins of a Romanesque palace, an edification on the initiative of Prince Soběslav.

There are several points of interest, but perhaps one should emphasize the Vladislav Hall. It’s an enormous room built between 1492 and 1502 by Vladislav, who gave it his own name. This space has windows 5 meters high, a wooden floor of the 18th century and tin chandleries (only 3 of 5 are made of tin).

Vladislav Hall has already been used to hold several events, such as banquets, commendations, assemblies or tournaments. Currently this room is used for ceremonies of state and presidential elections.

Equally noteworthy in the old Royal Palace is the Church of All Saints. It was built by Petr Parler on the spot where once a Romanesque church was, also devoted to all Saints. This Church was decorated in a similar way to the Saint Chapelle of Paris, until it was partially destroyed by the fire of 1541.

St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral is the largest and most important church in Prague and the Czech Republic. It was founded in 1344 and it took 600 years to be built in its entirety. Saints, princes and kings were buried here.

Inside we can find the arm of St. Vitus and the crown jewels. If you are interested, take a look at the cathedral’s treasure, it’s the country largest and also one of the most important in Europe. But the hallmark is the gorgeous Chapel devoted to St. Wenceslaus, the country’s patron saint. It was created in the 14th century by Charles IV and it’s a well-known space for its décor.

From the top of the Cathedral south tower, with almost 100 meters in height, you will be able to have a breath-taking panoramic view of Prague. Climbing its 287 stairs it’s well worth it!

The construction of this tower began in the 14th century and was finished 3 centuries later. We can find in it several bells, one is the biggest in the Czech Republic. It’s known as Zikmund and weighs 15 tonnes.

The legend says that, when the Emperor Charles IV died, the city’s bells started to toll on their own. Another legend says that if the heart of Zikmund breaks something really bad will affect the nation. It already happened once, in 2002, and floods happened throughout the country a couple of weeks later…

Detail of the exterior of the Cathedral of S. Vito

Detail of the exterior of the Cathedral of S. Vito

Cathedral of S. Vito

Cathedral of S. Vito

St. George’s Basilica

St. George’s Basilica is Prague’s 2nd oldest church, having been founded in 920. One can easily identify it much due to its 2 bell towers with 41 meters of height, made of white stone.

It started as a convent of Benedictine nuns, but the damage caused by a fire prompted changes to the building. When visiting it we can see really old walls and a rich collection of Gothic and Baroque art.

If you have time, watch a music concert in this Basilica. The acoustic is just astonishing!

Golden Lane

The Golden Lane is a tiny street with several coloured small houses, which are quite beautiful indeed. It was one of the things that I enjoyed the most in the entire complex.

They were built at the end of the 16th century to serve as housing for the snipers who safeguarded the castle. There was a total of 24 houses and, since there was a lack of space, they had to be built really small. The Emperor forbade windows facing the Deer Moat and the houses couldn’t be sold or rent.

Throughout the years, some houses were destroyed and the snipers were no longer needed. The street was then occupied by people with other jobs. The renowned writer Franz Kafka lived at number 22 and a fortune teller named Madame de Thebes occupied the 14th, having predicted the fall of Nazism, something that led to her arrest (and murder).

The name of the street derives from the time when houses were inhabited by goldsmiths.

Mihulka Tower

The Mihulka Tower is the largest of the cannon towers. It was built in the 15th century and was part of the castle’s new fortifications.

It already has served as an alchemy lab, gunpowder warehouse, dungeon and, as we speak, its interior hosts a permanent exhibition about the Castle Guard. The tower has had several names, with Mihulka appearing only in the 19th century, due to the presence of gunpowder inside of it.

Rosenberg Palace

The Rosenberg Palace started, in the 16th century, as a Renaissance building which was the property of the homonymous family. Later, it was rebuilt in the Baroque style and used as an Institute of women who were part of noble families. 30 noble girls were educated there who, for several reasons, ended up penniless.

The Palace has been occupied since 1919 by government offices.

When visiting the Rosenberg Palace, check the chapel, the main room and an exhibition where you can get to know the Institute a little bit better.

 

To know more about so many centuries of history of the complex, I recommend visiting the permanent exhibitions on the castle’s history and the European art gallery (painting) between 15th and 18th centuries.

If you visit the city in the summer, as I did, you can also see the gardens and an enormous ravine named Stag Moat.

On a perfect day, start by crossing the magnificent Charles Bridge and climb your way up to the Castle. Take your time to see the surroundings and step inside. Save some hours to see everything calmly.

The most famous bridge in Prague

The most famous bridge in Prague

Prague is the capital of Czech Republic and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful European cities. I’ve visited quite recently and I loved it. The historic centre is gorgeous, with exceptional buildings, an impressive castleand a bridge renowned as one of the world’s most famous. The whole historic centre is a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1992.

The castle

The castle

The centre of the Prague is crossed by the country’s longest river, the Vltava. It has 435 km, its source is found in the Bohemian region and the mouth is located a few kilometres north of the Czech capital. The river splits Prague into two banks:

  • On one side, Malá Strana (a tiny city) and Hradcany – The Castle is located in the small city;
  • In the other bank: Staré Mesto (old city), Nové Mesto (new city), Josefov (Jewish quarter) and Vysehrad.

The city has more than 300 bridges… over the Vltava and also over other water courses found there. This is why it is aptly named the city of the hundred towers and also of the 100 bridges.

The most famous of all is the Charles Bridge. It’s the oldest and, for 450 years, it was the only connection between both banks of the Vltava.

Who ordered the construction of the bridge?

The Emperor Charles IV ordered the construction of a bridge in Prague in 1357, with 1402 being the deadline. The old Judith bridge needed a replacement, since it had been shattered by the 1342 floods. The Emperor assigned the bridge’s drawing and construction to the architect Petr Parleř, but the work was finished already after his death.

The legend says that Charles IV consulted astrologers to know what would be the most favourable day to launch the construction. The 1st stone was placed by the Emperor himself at the exact moment the astrologers recommended him to. It was at dawn (5:31 am), on July 9 of 1357.

Some say as well that, at the time of its constructions, eggs, wine and milk were all used to make sure that it would last many years… the fact is that it’s almost 660 years old already!

It was initially called Stone Bridge and the name of Charles was only given to it in 1870, as a tribute to this ruler.

What the bridge looks like and what can see in it?

Charles Bridge is 515.76 meters long and 9.5 meters wide approximately. It’s a construction made of sandstone with 16 arches.

The arches

The arches

I’d say that, first of all, the most important of Charles Bridge is the view we can have to the castle and river, and all of its dynamics.  Quite probably you will cross it coming from the old area and so you will have this gorgeous monument right in front of you. It’s a magnificent complex located on the top of a hill. Quite interesting as well is being able to look at the river, both banks and to all the ships that placidly sail the Vltava.

Secondly, the bridge itself. It has 3 towers (one located in one of its ends and 2 in the other) and 30 statues depicting important saints, spread throughout its length.

Thirdly, the whole frenzy caused by the perennial streets artists and small jewellery merchants. I don’t recommend buying anything given how high the prices are, but checking and being part of this is really worth it.

Street artists

Street artists

The bridge has been car-free since 1965, so you can walk on this precious gem as freely as you want.

The towers

The towers found on the edges of Charles Bridge are regarded by many as the world’s most beautiful gothic constructions. On the old city side, there is one and, around it, there’s the statue of the Emperor Charles IV, from whom the name of the bride derives. This tower was built in the same period of the bridge and it holds gorgeous sculptures, also authored by the architect Petr Parleř.

It’s highly likely that your crossing will start precisely here. Get ready for a journey back in time. After half a kilometre of bridge, already on the side of the castle, there are 2 towers with different heights. The smallest is also the oldest and it was part of the Judith Bridge. The highest is more recent, from the 15th century, just like the portico between both towers.

Tower of the old city side

Tower of the old city side

Castle side towers

Castle side towers

The statues and sculptural groups

The 30 statues and sculptural groups that are found in the bridge were placed there between 1683 and 1928, many years later after its construction. It’s a rather interesting mishmash of styles, since the bridge is still medieval and there are baroque statues. They were donated by judges and noblemen who were part of the Counter-Reformation movement, since it resembled the Sant’Angelo Bridge in Rome.

I just have to mention that what we see today in the bridge are replicas, if you want to see the originals you will have to visit the Prague National Museum.

The statues depict saints in their vast majority, with these being Saint Ivo; Saint Barbara, Saint Margaret and Saint Elizabeth; – the sacred virgins; Pietà; Saint Sigismund, Saint Lugardis, Saint Albert or the rather popular statue and tribute to Saint John of Nepomuk. This is the bridge’s oldest statue.

The legend says that this saint was the queen’s confessor priest and, when he refused to tell the king what the queen was telling him in confession, he was killed and his body thrown into the river.

There are a statue and a tribute carved in iron dedicated to this saint. In both monuments it’s possible to check the 5 stars in his head, a depiction of what is said to have happened with his body in the river…

Yet another sculpture found on the bridge is the Calvary, which underwent several changes over the years. Death sentences were consummated in this place.

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