Prague has had a long interesting past and half the fun of visiting is finding these sights to see it all for yourself. Some history can be slightly morbid but you won’t find anything like it anywhere else in the world. Although Prague is a filled with fun and entertainment for whole family its also good to know a few facts of interest before you go. Here are some I dug up that are more than interesting I’d say some are outright fascinating.
A slam dunk
The Charles Bridge was not just a way to cross over between New Town and Old Town, for centuries it was a form of transformation for dishonest merchants. In fact Prague quickly became a place for honest dealings. Why you ask? Due to the punishment of being held over the edge of the bridge by ropes and even drowned if you were caught over charging or even stealing from customers. Winter time dishonesty would not be in their best interest.
Rise up and touch the stars
The story goes Libuše the daughter of a powerful Czech ruler, later to become queen was known to be a successful prophetess. Taking a short trip was meandering through the brush she found herself on a tall rocky cliff above the Vltava River. While looking over the river these words came to her “There will be a city built here whose glory will touch the stars.”. She immediately made plans to build a castle in that exact location now known as Prague Castle.
A royal stick house
Money must have been at an all time low when Prague Castle was first built. The first palace was built only of wood and stone.
Give him a hand
Like mentioned before, dishonesty and crime doesn’t pay. One thief found this out the hard way 400 years ago at the Church of St. James in Old Town Square. Apparently a man came into the church to steal jewels surrounding the Madonna from the high altar. Legend has it that Madonna grabbed his arm and held him secure until the Monks came in the next morning. They tried to pry his arm out of her hands without success. The only thing they could do is cut the arm off to set him free. The arm is still there today as a warning to those who might have unscrupulous thoughts about taking a little treasure home with them.
A Star is born
If you have walked along the Charles Bridge more than likely you have wondered about the story behind some of the statues. The most interesting is St. John of Nepomuk a trusted confidant to the Queen of Bohemia in the mid 1300’s. She divulged all her secrets in detail to him. King Wenceslaus IV insisted that the monk tell him but Nepomuk took his vows seriously and would never tell. The king was so angry that he was taken to be tortured then thrown off the bridge to his death. When he hit the water 5 shinning stars appeared over his head and then he was gone.
Burning for the truth
Before Martin Luther or St. Francis of Assisi for that matter there was Jan Hus of Prague. The reformist who wanted to see equality throughout the church. As an educated conscientious student he was at first highly respected by all. When he started to notice that being part of the church did not necessarily mean you were treated with respect he set out to make changes. When the priests were allowed to have bibles but you were not allowed to look at the writings yourself it was time to fight. He felt everyone and anyone should have access to the book. Not only that the only ones allowed to have communion were those on the pulpit. Another reason to speak out, along with the corrupt dealings within the papal community. That is until he was savagely burned at the stake for being a heretic. After his death the people of Prague believed him to be the savior of the Czech nation or if any. It supposed that he would come riding in heroically on his horse from the Blank Mountains to save the day. And, they are still waiting!
No Sunburn for this wicked one
Mark your calendars for a modern burning at the stake. April 30th each year in different locations throughout Prague and the Czech Republic a witch is set on fire. No not a real live one but one as dastardly! She does not want to let go of the frigid weather and wants to freeze residents and tourists alike daily. The burning of a stick made witch and broom does the trick to bring on better weather. Or so its believed. Whether or not it makes a difference its a total party for all who join in. The favorite is on Petrin Hill if you happen to be in the area it will be a night of fun and revelry!
Truth about liquor
You may have heard that beer is the drink of choice in Prague but in reality there are two fave’s. The second is a plum brandy called Slivovice pronounced Slee-voh-veet-seh.
The crosses of remembrance
Old Town Square has plenty of eye catching scenery but for this one you need to look down. Memorialized by 27 mosaic white crosses is the site where 27 martyrs were beheaded by Austrians in 1621. This was a vicious punishment for rebelling against the Habsburg dynasty at the White Mountains. The day became known by the Czechs as the “Day of Blood” one of the atrocious days in Czech history. On another note the Battle of the White Mountains was the start of the 30 years war. It is also believed June 21st every year on the anniversary of the execution, ghosts of the martyred return to the clock tower.
Let’s lighten up the mood
In Prague on the summer solstice and very unique thing happens. From the Bridge Tower on the Old Town side of Charles Bridge you can see a remarkable sight. As the sun goes down over the horizon what’s left of the sun shines exactly on the spot where St. Vitus is buried at St. Vitus Cathedral. I want to see that one!
Now you know some very special facts about Prague, some well known, some not so much, some a little gross and others quite fun. Next time you make it to the Czech Republic you might want to check some of these sights out!