Religion has always been tied to Europe’s past and cultural foundation, especially in Prague. Known for its Baroque architecture, it is now called Europe’s Hollywood. The best examples of both culture and beautiful architecture lies in the heart of its Cathedrals. So come explore Prague’s Cathedrals and see just how much these buildings influenced their culture even to this day.
St George’s Basilica
Address:119 08 Prague 1, Czechia
This is the city’s second oldest church, built around 920AD. If you look closely at the exterior, the two white towers behind the pink façade looming over its visitors are not quite equal in width. This was done on purpose as a point of symbolism. The wider steeple on the Southside is called Adam, the narrower North tower is called Eve and is built at a slight tilt towards Adam.
The Basilica had to be rebuilt in 1142 after a massive fire and was later rebuilt. The Baroque style façade was added later in 1671.
Its ceiling is designed from a deep dark wood when you look up at the ceiling it seems miles away. This is due to the narrowness of the building making it appear as if the heavens themselves are lifting the ceiling right off.
There are often classical concerts in the evenings that you can attend. Going to one of these concerts is quite romantic.
This Prague Cathedral took over 600 years to build and was pivotal in the religious wars that happened in Prague. It houses some of the most important historical artifacts to Prague history including 14th century mosaic of the Last Judgment, tombs of St Wenceslas and Charles IV, a baroque silver tomb of St John Nepomuk, and the lavishly designed Chapel of St Wenceslas.
I found out later that the doors are from 1953, and then the first layers of the church foundation were placed in 1344 (during the time of Emperor Charles IV).
Without taking up too much space this building encompasses several different styles over several centuries. The foundation is a Romanesque rotunda, then a French Gothic style was adopted, after which followed the late-Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque details, and finally, the Cathedral was consecrated in 1929 with a 20th-century modern stained glass window you are able to view as you enter.
Despite not being officially consecrated until 1929 several coronations of Czech Kings and Queens took place here. The naming of the Cathedral was after the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic, Saint Wenceslaus.
Wenceslaus was the son of a Duke and a Mother who was previously a daughter of a Pagan Tribal chief & forced to convert to Christianity. When he was 13 his father died and his Grandmother became reagent, his mother was so angry about this she plotted and killed his Grandmother. Immediately after her death, Wenceslaus’s mother began taking terrible actions against Christians in the area. For 5 years Christians were targeted until Wenceslas was 18 he assumed leadership of the government. His mother was exiled for her crimes against Christians & for the murder of his Grandmother. His brother Boleslav plotted with 3 other nobles to take power and killed Wenceslas after stabbing and lancing him to death at a feast for the Saints of Cosmas and Damian. Immediately after his death, Wenceslaus was considered a martyr and a saint. Different stories and biographies were written and circulated about his life, and thus still remains a legend with many tales being sung and told of his life and legend throughout Prague.
This is the most famous Baroque church in Prague. This charming chapel is located in Lesser town. A former Gothic chapel once stood here and was built over, this chapel was consecrated in 1283. St Nicholas Church was built over this and is considered the most valuable Baroque buildings North of the Alps. It took nearly 100 years to complete its construction. The 259 foot (79 meters) dome makes this the tallest interior in Prague. The Jesuit Chapel was completed in 1710 after a generous donation of a prominent Czech citizen donating his entire estate worth 178,500 gold for the construction.
The Jesuit order was abolished by Pope Clement XIV in 1751, and St Nicholas became the main parish of the lesser town. During the communist era, the church tower was used as an observation deck for State Security. From the tower, the State Police could spy on the American and Yugoslav embassies as well as the access route to the West German embassy.
After the war St Nicholas Church was handed over to the Hussite movement, which utilizes the beautiful building for both its services as well as classical concerts.
Address: Old Town Square, Old Town, Prague 1, Czech Republic
When first seeing the imposing towers, I thought surely Maleficent would poke her head out of one of the upper windows and a crow would caw and circle overhead. Maybe the Witch from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and her monkeys would take flight saying ‘I’ll get you my pretties’. Needless to say despite being a cathedral, the towers look very Gothic and a bit on the spooky side, not the spiritual side.
You will likely use this church as a focal point for your walk around Prague. That was always the idea, wasn’t it? To have a church be higher than all of the surrounding buildings to draw people to the center of town and to God.
The Church of Our Lady before Tyn was founded in 1385. In the 15th century, the Hussites came in and took control of the church.
Hussite Definition: a member or follower of the religious movement begun by John Huss. After Huss’s execution, the Hussites took up arms against the Holy Roman Empire and demanded a set of reforms that anticipated the Reformation. Most of the demands were granted in 1436, and a church was established that remained independent of the Roman Catholic Church until 1620.
The two dominating towers are 262 feet high (80meters). One tower, Adam, is larger than the other, Eve, a classic Gothic architecture play on feminine and masculine parts of life. As you walk inside, notice the Organ, it dates from 1673 and is the oldest in Prague.
Address: St. Salvator Church in the Old Town Salvátorská 1, Old Town, Prague 1, Czech Republic
This Church marks the entrance into Old Town of Prague. Built between 1578-1601, built on the foundation of the former Dominican gothic church of Saint Clement. It was later sold to the Order of the Jesuits in 1863, who remain the caretakers and owners to this day.
The exterior is decorated by the statues made by Jan Jiri Bendl. They represent the Saviour Christ flanked by the four evangelists. Inside, the altarpiece was painted by Jiří Hering in 1632 after “Transfiguration of Christ” by Raffael. The ceiling fresco symbolizes the four continents known at the time.
If you head down to the crypts, you will find an unlikely paradox of patrons buried there. In St Salvator Crypts lies Father Koniáš, the “destroyer of Czech books”, but also Bohuslav Balbín, the “defender of the Czech language”.
Visiting Prague is like going straight to the heart of Hollywood for Europe. My favorite Church was likely the Church of Our Lady before Tyn and the unique pink façade of St George’s Basilica. Although I realize many people do not hold the same beliefs, or even believe in God – if you love history or the human struggle then visiting these churches is a must.
The collection of Cathedrals in Prague as a whole will give you a better idea of how much religion has been fought about and over in this region. It may not have been as brutal in Prague as it was in other parts of Europe, but as an American, the struggle of Protestant vs Christians throughout European history is shocking and astonishing. If nothing else, the tour of these Cathedrals will highlight specifically what Prague is known for…..the melding and molding of architectural styles to create true masterpieces.
The first time I backpacked through Europe as a US Citizen, I was entirely overwhelmed and confused. I wasn’t the only foreign visitor who was confused, there were so many people who had questions about how this complex interconnecting system worked. So for those first timers out there, here are my Top 15 Tips for Travel by Train in Europe.
Just because you have a Eurail pass, doesn’t mean you have a reserved seat. So be sure to buy that extra ticket in order to reserve a seat. Also, make sure you are there at least 30 minutes early so you don’t miss your train. Especially if you are traveling across country lines. Only buy tickets from reputable places, there are a lot of scams in Europe around travel. Educate yourself on how to avoid scams in Europe.
2- Check Your Platform And Car Number
Get on the right train from the right platform. Look at the train names above the numbered platforms. Then make sure that the car you enter is the exact car you need to take. The cars separate at different stops and you don’t want to be left behind unknowingly.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW, ASK!!!! Ask someone after you get on the train if you must. They will close the doors when the conductor blows the whistle. The trains in Europe wait for no one.
3- Anticipate The Need To Run
Once seated, look at your ticket……look at the next platform you need to go to. Look at when your train arrives and when the next departs. You may need to run across the station to platform 12b from platform 1a in 15 minutes. There is always going to be someone slow in front of you, so take the stairs.
4- Scan Your Ticket To Get In And Out
Keep your ticket in hand! You need it to scan in and scan out of each of the train stations. The ticket must be current, or you can get a fine. If you have a Eurail Pass, you can just scan the code on the outside of the ticket to get through the gates. The Eurail tickets sometimes have their own gates. Try to go with the gate not everyone is going through (if you can’t understand the Language).
5- Check The Type Of Train You Get On
Make sure you are getting on the right type of train. If you get on the wrong train you can still get fined. It may be going to the right place, but if you get on the faster train or get on an inter-city train instead, you can get fined. B
6- Bring Your Own Supplies
Bring your own water, your phone charger, and a Travel Pillow— especially if you have a sleeper train — small backpacks are the best…..just minimize by packing like the news told you the city was going to be bombed and you had 15 minutes before you had to be evacuated. That will get you everything you need in one bag. Yes, you will probably smell……bring Febreeze…..trust me…..there are people who smell worse on the trains.7 – Take Your Trash With You
7- Take Your Trash With You
Take your trash with you when you exit the train. There are small little garbage cans underneath the tables or right under the window on most trains. These fill up very quickly, as well as the ones in the bathrooms, so take your rubbish with you when you get off.
8- Sit In Seats With No Reservations
Don’t sit in a seat with a paper at the top or an electronic name above the seat…..You will lose your seat. I had this experience once, and that is all it took for me to learn to not do this. Was very unpleasant to be laughed out of your seat by a group of teenage boys. Then I stood in the café car for two hours till the next stop, the train was so full you couldn’t find a seat even between the cars.
9- Treat The Train Like You Would Your Living Room
Don’t put your feet up on the seats, or let your luggage take a seat near you. Put your bags on top and your coat on the hooks. MOVE if there are people looking for a place to sit. You wouldn’t want to sit on a spot where someone’s muddy shoes have just been, ruining your outfit. Take your shoes off first at least before you do this. They don’t exactly clean these seats regularly.
10 – Be The First In Line, In the Right Spot On The Platform
Be the first in line to get on the train…..the seats run out very quickly. Don’t be rude and shove people aside, but if you have the chance, stay close to the train. I also would gauge where the train door would stop ultimately by the train next to us. You stand right where the train opposite would stop, and you get to be the first one onto the train! Worked like a charm every time. Most people just stand at the platform thinking if they are near the front they will get a seat, this is not true. If you are at the front of the platform, right where the doors are going to stop, THEN you will get a seat.
11- Pack Light
Please don’t bring 500 pieces of luggage that require you to ask for help onto and off the train. If you cannot easily get up and down 4 very tall 18-inch steps with both luggage pieces in hand…..people will get mad. The longer you take to board the train the less likely the people behind you will be able to find a seat.
12- Sitting In Between Cars Is Uncomfortable
If you are just going one stop, you can sit in-between the cars. If you try and do this for the entire trip….you will have to get up and move every time someone opens the car doors……very annoying.
13- Sit In The Cafe If All Else Fails
There are seats in the back at the café car that you can order food and sit or stand there. I wouldn’t recommend this, as it gets crowded very very quick. No one can eat for 6 hours straight…..you would go broke.
14 – Limit Your Bathroom Use When Possible
Don’t try to use the bathrooms unless it is an emergency. If you do try and use them— bring hand sanitizer and toilet paper in your purse. The few I did have to use were so gross I was gagging. One had a floor so sticky and stinky that I had to breathe through my mouth. A coin-operated train station in Amsterdam was another bad experience. This particular bathroom had no toilet paper (luckily I had Kleenex in my bag), the sink had a powerful water flow and you could literally see the poop near the walls of the sink.
I am a pretty laid back person when it comes to expecting things to always be perfect (if you do expect it, your trip will be horrible); but this particular restroom was the most disgusting one I have used in the ENTIRE world. Who would have thought that a train station in the Netherlands would be that gross…..they are usually a very clean people.
I will say this though, there are some trains (typically the newer ones) that have decent bathrooms with air-fresheners and everything. They give hefty fines to people who are caught using first class bathrooms without a ticket.
15 – Getting A First Class Ticket Can Be Worth It
If you get a sleeper car for an overnight train trip, get one in first class with one other person if you must. I’m telling you….. it is amazing, and I actually slept…..everything is so clean and really just like a hotel room. You even get breakfast. Second class sleeper trains are adequate but don’t expect to have it be perfect.
My experience with the Second class sleeper was with 4 people in it, and nowhere to put your things because the ladies on the bottom bunks took up all the space. On top of that, you are usually at the end of the train which is a lot more bouncy and less restful. The Air conditioner broke and it was so incredibly hot woke up drenched in sweat. The gentleman in charge of our car and cabin just apologized, said they tried to fix it, and there were no other rooms for us to go
Make Train Travel in Europe Easier
Now all these things may make you not want to take the train at all. These 15 tips, were constructed from the worst parts of my experience. These tips and tricks will help your experience better. There are many many more wonderful parts of train travel, that can end up being a really great experience. My luck on trains is not the greatest. Apart from the one time I got a first class cabin all to myself. Being in first class was sooooo worth the money! To be in a cool, quiet, restful place with an attendant who really cared.
So don’t let this article deter you from train travel, it really is a great way to get around. I hope these things have helped and will allow at least those in the Culture Trekking Community to travel with ease, by learning from my mistakes.
As always, Happy Travels, Happy Tales and See You on the Flip Side.
I was leaning forward in my seat, a large Czech man in the driver’s seat and all I could think was ‘faster, he needs to go faster’. This was with one Czech Castle I really wanted to see. It was three o’clock in the afternoon in September, and due to it being the off-season Karlstejn Castle was going to close earlier than usual. The last tour was set to be at four-thirty and it was going to take too long to get there.
Making the Choice between Karlstejn Castle and Sedlec Ossuary:
It was a toss-up between Karlstejn Castle and the Sedlec Ossuary. I knew I wanted a day trip from Prague to see a unique destination in the Czech Republic. I was feeling a little nervous already from my first European Train hopscotch I would be playing the next day, so I settled for Karlstejn. I didn’t want to take the chance of getting lost by getting on the wrong bus, in the wrong direction — so I did what any American would do– I called Uber.
My Uber arrived, and I felt like I was climbing into a car with a Russian Bear. It was this tiny little car with this giant man with his knees about 3 inches from his chest. He spoke little English but smiled at me with his toothy smile.
It was such an odd situation, I nearly laughed, but didn’t want to piss off the Russian Bear, so I choked the laughter down and climbed in. Using Google Translate when I had service, I was able to find out he was actually Czech. He was a kind sort of fellow, the type of person you want to hug when you have a hard day. He is married with 2 children that when he spoke about them (via translation) his face would light up, and his squinty eyes would disappear into his smile.
Pulled Over by the Police
He sped along as fast as he could and even drove as far into the Castle’s entrance as possible. We ended up getting pulled over, which led to even further delay. When the cop started to talk to us, my stomach dropped and my conversational valley girl came out. It is always good to help your driver out by playing the ditzy American that didn’t know any better.
I helped to talk him out of a ticket and arranged to have him wait nearby while I toured the castle. In total, I thought this would cost me about $50 in total, but apparently, they charge by the hour if you make them wait. So make sure that you arrange something before you get into the car, because as I was in the middle of nowhere and on a time constraint…..I didn’t really have a choice….darn it.
Getting to Karlstejn Castle – A Long Climb:
I hopped out the car, made my arrangements with him, and turned around to a massive mountain with what looked like 500 switchbacks. Yes, I am exaggerating, but I was determined to get up to the entrance before they closed.
When researching this online, you have to know they recommend giving yourself 45 minutes to walk from town, up the long hill to the actual entrance. I did not have that kind of time….so I ran up the hill. Now you have to realize something…..I am in terrible shape at the moment, three years ago this would not have been an issue.
Three years ago I would tell you I could have done this uphill run in my sleep, but this day…..was not so easy. My calves and quadriceps started burning about 5 minutes into the run-up this hill. I felt like I was running but probably looked as if I was quickly waddling my way up this mountain. I started wheezing, gasping, cursing and then caught up with the family that was leisurely walking up the hill in front of me.
I felt so embarrassed about my breathless state, I think I may have attempted to hold my gasps in until I was past them. I checked my watch, groaned and went faster. I swore if they closed the gates on me, I would climb the castle walls, or start screaming until they opened the gates to tell me to shut up & then would slip in.
Getting the Ticket to See This Storybook Czech Castle:
I made the climb in 20 minutes….and walked through the gates just as the first cashier was closing her window. There was one left….I hurried over, told her I wanted one ticket & didn’t care at this point what the hell she thought of my current appearance, I just wanted the damn ticket as a consolatory prize for making it up the hill that quickly. I thanked her, took my ticket, and walked over to join the last tour that started just as I was approaching.
The tickets are around 300 Czk or $14 for the tour of the chapel (which is a must), or around 120 Czk around $6 for all the floors in the tower except the chapel. I was too late to do a tour of the chapel, but I hear it is inspiring. I was just grateful to be alive after coming up the hill.
The History of Karlštejn:
Our guide led us up the stairs that looked like you were climbing into heaven. I nearly crawled up the last few steps. We entered the castle and the history of the castle was intriguing and impressive.
Built by Charles IV as a fortification for his royal treasury in the early 1300’s. Holding both the crown jewels, and the crown of St Wenceslaus it was a prime target for raiders. If the jewels were not reason enough to entice neighboring kingdoms to raid, he also built a cathedral of gold.
The Famous Chapel of Gold:
The crown jewel of this castle is not something you wear on your head. It is a place you enter into gemstones, Venetian glassware, portraits depicting the whole host of the army of heaven, gold chains and any other extravagance you can imagine. If there was ever an effort to build heaven on earth, I think Charles IV may have almost succeeded when he built the Chapel of Holy Rood.
Located in the tower behind three iron doors and nine locks, Charles IV held the Chapel of Holy Rood in his home with such revere that he would only enter barefoot.
Although this is the most well-known chapel, there are two other chapels and one additional church located in this castle. (St Nicholas Chapel, St Catherine’s Chapel, St Mary’s Church).
An Impregnable Fortification:
The miners of Kutna Hora came to this area to dig for silver and gold ores. They dug nearly 200 feet down into the rock with hand tools and found only water. The Emperor of the time had them convert this into a water table so that once the castle was fortified, they would have an internal source of water during sieges.
The Emperor left nothing to chance, guarding the parapets 24 hours a day 7 days per week, ensuring no surprises. Walls nearly 30 feet thick, the great tower 175 feet high. You can still be a witness to the former soldiers’ barracks within the castle itself.
Each soldier would get a wooden box with his regalia painted on the front. The soldiers would remain within the castle walls and rotate their shifts. The soldiers would also get a portion of a closet to store their armor and their heavy chain mail.
Despite the manpower the Emperor employed, there were still several attempts of siege. Different towers were completely sieged at different times, but the great tower has never been conquered.
The Hussite Sieges:
The siege of the Hussite armies, where the first biological warfare was used. The biological warfare used wasn’t what you typically think of in the modern sense of the word, but they used the next ‘best’ thing…..dead bodies.
It was well known during that time period that dead bodies brought disease, although most may not have known the intricate details as to why it is a common reason for the spread of disease of that time period. The bodies were flung over the walls with catapults. It was not just dead bodies though, it was carriages full of feces of all kinds and variety….ew…..and I thought our methods of war were barbaric, but this is just cruel and disturbing.
The Crown Jewels:
The original crown jewels can be seen in Prague castle but were originally located here at Karlsteijn castle. The replicas do give quite the impression on just how extravagant the originals are. This is likely the only way you will be able to see what they look like beyond a google image search, as the originals are only shown every 5 years to the public.
The Ending to my Fairytale:
It was the classic fairy tale travel story for me. The angst and struggle of getting to the castle, the evil police pulling us over. The fairy godmother that whispered in the cops ear to let us go. I was rewarded with the crown jewels, a view of the sparkling river below, and a walk through one of the most stunning and intriguing castles of Prague.
If you find yourself in this fascinating country, make sure you take a side trip to this Storybook Karlstejn Castle.
How To Get To Karlstejn:
Uber with the driver waiting for you will cost around $72 USD with a tip (2 hours of driving, with 2 hours of waiting – at minimum). For a more relaxed stay and time to wander this quaint city with shuttered windows and hobbit looking houses, take the train from Prague station to Karlstejn. This will cost you around $8 round trip on one of the Czech Railway Lines. If you have the time whilst there, make sure to book an overnight stay here. The town is the most adorable town, the people are warm, kind, and very friendly. It does not have the busy city feeling of Prague, and you can experience what it must have been like to live inside Karjlstein Castle’s shadow.
There are times in your life when you see things that shock you. Other times that take your breath away at their beauty. Prague has both of these elements in spades. These qualities are exhibited not by a singular artistic piece. Take a journey with me through Europe’s Hollywood, and explore the unique art in Prague.
Starting off with Lennon:
A famously touristic spot, that on this rainy morning, only hosted four people there. You will find the rain always makes the colors around you stand out even more. The sunlight is filtered through rain clouds which softens the shadows and gives a perfect light. I consider this unique art in Prague because not only is it covered in graffiti, and dedicated to a member of the Beatles.
The Lennon Wall started in 1980 after John Lennon’s murder. The People of Prague used his murder as a symbol of freedom from the repression of Communism. Why use John Lennon as this symbol of freedom? Western images were banned during Communism, as they did not want their citizens to know the freedoms available to others.
Secret police repeatedly tried to thwart the artistic rebellion. This was a place where they continued to fail in repressing the citizens of Prague. Liberation and freedom came on January 1, 1993. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were created and declared their freedom from Communism. The wall was painted over in white as a symbol for the country starting anew.
As is customary with Europeans (who love their graffiti), the wall was quickly repainted. The Lennon Wall continues to be an iconic spot and celebration of that freedom.
How to get to the Lennon Wall: GPS coordinates 50°5’10.423″N, 14°24’24.842″E – There are some stairs at the West end of Charles Bridge. Head down the stairs, follow the line of trees and turn right around the corner. You will run into a building and want to make another quick right. Follow the sidewalk until you see a small bridge on the left. Take the bridge and follow it through to the courtyard called Velkopřevorské Square. The wall will be on the right-hand side.
No matter what time of day it is, Charles Bridge is an art piece from beginning to end. The Bridge holds a history of the Christian vs Protestant and Ottoman Turks’ history through the statues that dot the sides. It also happens to be the oldest surviving bridge in Prague built in 1158–1172 and repaired after a terrible flood in 1342.
It holds the history not just in the architecture, but also in the stone figures along its sides, and what they represent.
The Statues of Saints John of Matha, Felix of Valois, and Ivan:
The statue that moved me the most was Saints John of Matha, Felix of Valois, and Ivan. It shows Christians being imprisoned by Ottoman Turks. These types of statues are typically shown within the confines of a Chapel.
These are the saints that were responsible for the Order of the Most Holy Trinity that ransomed the freedom of the Christian. They seem to be in the position that is typically reserved for Christ. The artistic line leads you to the nonchalant Ottoman Turk that is keeping guard over the Christians imprisoned within. The prisoner’s faces are wretched, and appear to be crying in pain over their mortal chains, with a dog outside their dark prison who almost appears to be mocking their conditions.
During the busy Spring and Summer months, you will also be inundated with the artistic pleasures of local artisans exhibiting, showing, and trying to sell their work.
Statue of Saint John of Nepomuk:
Saint John Of Nepomuk Statue, who was the Saint of Bohemia. The Queen would frequently confess to him. The Emporer orderd his assasination by being thrown from Charles Bridge into the depths of the Vltava.
Due to his commitment to not divulge confessions (called the Seal of the Confessional), he refused to tell the Queen’s confessions to the Emporer and was killed for it. There is a memorial Plaque along the bridge of where he was thrown from the bridge.
How to get there: Basically all roads lead to Charles Bridge, if you miss it, you must not be in Prague 😉 If you do have trouble finding it, just ask a local which way to the Vltava and follow the river towards St. Vitus Cathedral and you will see it on the horizon.
Valdštejnská Zahrada or The Wallenstein Gardens:
Once the home of the former general Albrecht of Valdštejn, serving under leader Ferdinand II, created this expansive space with 25 houses, 7 gardens, a brick-kiln and other land plots. Lavish parties would be held here for the entire court. You can see how he wanted to impress those who attended and he even built an artificial grotto complete with his own collection of exotic animals.
If you look closely at the Grotto exterior, you will find hidden animals. Look for the frog, snake and a goblin face hidden within the rocks themselves. If you make your way to the lounging area across from the grotto, you will find a mural depicting Jason and the Argonauts.
There is also a Baroque style garden complete with perfect bodies twisting and telling mythological tales to all those who visit the Sella Terrana. Many of the statues are copies of Adrien de Vries, a leading sculptor in Bohemia in the 17th century.
A bronze statue of Venus and Cupid is located just a short walk from the Grotto. This statue is in the center of a large fountain that was used for boat rides!
As I mentioned before, the people in Prague have always found an outlet in artistic ‘soapboxes’. They utilize art as a form of expression for discontent, or rebellion against communist repression. David Cerny is no exception to expressing his political and personal opinions through his, more often than not, shock and awe art pieces.
A good place to start viewing a number of his art pieces is in Kampa Park. Here you will find the infamous crawling babies, with bars that replace their faces.
Although David Cerny does not publicly comment on the meaning behind these pieces, there are many theories behind their meaning. One such theory is that the faceless infants are supposed to represent the rising generation. They are no longer humans, but bodies indulging so much in technology, that it has now replaced their faces.
These babies are the same ones that adorn the Zizkov TV tower, which was a so-called transmitter TV tower that many believed was a tool for the communist regime. Location:U Sovovych Mlynu, Prague, Czech Republic — just in front of the Museum Kampa entrance.
“Piss” or Proudy Prague
Another statue that when I entered the plaza, had me stop in my tracks and exclaim, “Oh!” then start laughing and pull out my camera.
Many believe these statues to be symbols of the European Nations pissing on the Czech Republic. The statues further drive their point home, by the rotating hips of the males while pissing. Once you realize what the people of the Czech Republic believe it represents, it really drove a point home in my heart — of how much the people here have truly suffered at the hands of dictators.
The statues also have a text message electronic device located within. You can send messages to and the men will write the message with their penises in the water. To have a little fun with this, you will find the number to send a text message near the statue. Happy hunting. Location: Mala Strana (Small Plaza at Cihelna 2b near the Kafka Museum)
King Wenceslaus on his Dead-Upside Down Horse
The Nouveau Lucerna Palace holds this odd statue. Standing on its steps it appears as if you are standing inside of a Latern (Lucern means Light). Here, you walk down the stairs and suddenly see a man on an upside down horse. I felt like I was staring at something you would see in Monte Python.
After the initial shock of what you are looking at, you realize it is not just an upside down horse, but a DEAD upside down horse — complete with a tongue hanging out. It pokes fun at the Saint Wenceslaus riding his horse in Wenceslaus Square.
Location: Nouveau Lucerna Palace. Lucerna Palace 36 Vodičkova Prague Czechia Other Art pieces by David Cerny: Animated giant head sculpture of Kafka, In Utero, The Hanging Man.
The Penguins at Kampa Park
The first time I saw the penguins I thought they were lanterns. While cruising on a dinner boat on the Vltava you see them in the distance. It appears, at first, that they are lanterns leading the way to St Vitus Cathedral, creating a nice ambiance near the water’s edge. These definitely qualify, in my book anyway, for listing this as unique art in Prague.
The next day, I was taking a walk in Kampa Park and there were the odd ‘lanterns’ which were actually Penguins. The Penguins are standing in a line, facing the water, evenly spaced on a metal beam that leads to a giant iron chair. The Cracking Art Group is responsible for this modern oddity. Their name suggests that while creating this artwork, they may have actually been on crack. I can’t for the life of me know the meaning of this art piece other than to make the viewer smile.
Location: On the Vltava near Charles Bridge on the West side of the waters. They are bright yellow and you can’t miss them. The iron chair is a little harder to visualize, but just keep following the line of penguins and you will see it.
Holy Trinity Column, Olomouc – a UNESCO Heritage Art
Built between 1716-1754 by local artist Václav Render, in the iconic Olomouc Baroque style. Located in Olomouc, you see this commemoration of the devotion of local church members to their faith and their religion. If you look closely, you can actually see a real chapel within the monument.
A Copper sculpture of the Holy Trinity tops the monument. Underneath, you will find 18 stone statues of Saints, many of whom are specifically Saints to the people of the Czech Republic. If you peer into the chapel itself, you will find reliefs of stories from the Bible including Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham and Isaac, and the death of the Savior.
Location: This is located about 2 hours from Wenceslaus Square. Check out the Bus Route to Olomouc to see this monument of faith.
Prague is the most artistic city I have visited to date. It isn’t just artsy, the unique art of Prague will stir the imagination and start important conversations. There are many cities that celebrate and cherish the masters of the past, but Prague holds the artistic masters of the future. From their markets to their tallest towers, they cultivate that which enlightens the soul and expands the mind. So take a little from your savings and go explore the Art of Prague.
I did not have time to visit all of the art pieces in Prague. Listed below are several other art pieces that are noteworthy in this wonderful city.
Other Unique Art Pieces to visit:
Franz Kafka Statue — by Jaroslav Rona The Broken Men — by Olbram Zoubek Giant Metronome along the Vltava II Commendator Statue The Devil’s Head – Forests of Zelizy Art Museums: National Museum, Museum of Decorative Arts, National Gallery
Visiting any foreign country there are always nerves and certain anxieties that come from entering the unknown. I have condensed my Travel Hacks in Prague article for you to give a quick and dirty of what you should take into consideration when visiting this beautiful city.
Currency Travel Hacks
Money exchange on the street is NEVER a good idea. There are several scams where people ask if you need to exchange money and give you an insane deal on the exchange rate. When you go to buy something in the shops, the money is often fake.
Even Money Exchange places that have actual shops are scamming people.
commission charges are anywhere from 26-42%
Chequepoint: charges 42% commision!!! What?!?!?! So basically they want half the money you saved for your trip – they have been there for 30 years, right in the middle of the main town square
Money Exchange is not the greatest at the ATM’s but its better than the city center with an actual bank.
When you use an ATM overseas make sure you select: “without conversion” and you will get a better rate.
If you are ever asked if you would like to pay in the local currency vs your own currency (at least for USD) make sure you pick local currency. You get a better rate and as long as its a debit card you don’t get charged for a foreign transaction fee (at least this is the case with my particular bank, but make sure to check with your bank on this prior to leaving).
Don’t change your money at Interchange! – They charge 5% commission and conveniently located in the center of town right where most of the tourists are.
Change money in a legitimate bank in Prague Center itself (you will know its legit when you see about 7 people waiting in line to exchange money that are speaking Czech)
You can pay with your credit card or debit card at most places – if your card doesn’t have a chip, well, it’s really going to throw the Europeans off & some of their readers don’t work anymore so be prepared with backup cash when necessary.
You can pay for anything with Euros if you want, they accept either Czech Krowns or Euros (wish I would have known this before getting currency for each country I was visiting).
Airport Travel Hacks
Terminal 1 is for flights going out of the EU
Between Terminal 1 & Terminal 2 (in the corner) there is great little grocery place for you called Bill’s Supermarket. Find someone who speaks English and they can direct you there, which many Czech locals do speak English you will find and are very friendly despite the calm outside demeanor.
Check-in/Check-out process for going home:
They don’t open luggage drop off until about 3 hours before your flight and will ask you a series of questions prior to returning home (some are a little odd, but just go with it– they are stone-faced serious about this)
Don’t use the check luggage kiosks – they charge $20 but at the ticket counter they cost $0
You then step to Border control and passport processing which is pretty painless
The actual security checkpoints where they scan your luggage are at each of the gates and only open up the security luggage processing about 1 hr before your flight so you are typically sitting in chairs waiting for the sign to pop up with your gate to open to those passengers. If you think you can sneak in, well think again – I watched as they turned people away again and again.
There is a restaurant in Terminal one with a great view, but I was too tired to look for it. So next time you’re there, go find it and let us know here what your review of it was 🙂
Prague Public Transport Travel Hacks
To get to the Town center from the Airport, buy a ticket at the Yellow Kiosk for 32 CZK, Then go to the second platform outside the doors
119 goes to the Green Metro
100 goes to the Yellow Metro
When you take a taxi, agree on the price beforehand. Do not utilize the taxi’s in the city center, they are often costly.
Uber also operates in this city – uber is great and only costs about $12-$13 USD (265-565 CZK). If it’s high tide for rides, then just take the bus if your luggage isn’t going to be too bothersome to cart around with you. (#packlightpeople)
Within the City, there are trams that you can take, but make sure you have a ticket before getting on the bus, and some change in case you need to buy one.
Finding Toliets in the Center of Prague
There are toilets at either end of the main square in the restaurants. These will cost you about 2 CZK – which really is pennies in USD so just go ahead and pay it. There are a limited number of bathrooms for the public. Most of the restaurants will allow you to use their water closets if you have a meal with them. Just make sure to ask your waiter for a little ticket to let you get into the toilet for free.
Some toilets are hidden from plain view. Look for the big green and white WC sign and you will be able to find one. The famous woman and man sign you see for the toilets in the US are not universally used in Prague. You will need to retrain your brain to look for something different if you grew up here.
If you find yourself dreaming of visiting the Hollywood of Europe, be sure to review these Travel Hacks in Prague. Take cash with you, don’t exchange money in the city center. Make sure you have a few Euro (in exact change) should you find you need to use the water closet. Hope this helps, and you have a wonderful time in this beautiful city. If you have any travel hacks you would suggest while visiting this city, please list them below.
The Alchemist Museum, if you aren’t looking for it, you might miss it as it appears like any other building in the vicinity. Alchemy in the 16th century was considered part of the Dark Arts, and was not popular with the religious populations of that time. Holy Emperor Rudolf II, did believe in the arts of mysticism and secretly had hired the Alchemist (likely Edward Kelley) responsible for this shop & had secret tunnels built from the Alchemy shop to his Palace.
When you enter the shop it looks a little like a Wiccan shop, but when you approach and buy a ticket, there is a tour guide ready to take you to the areas below ground that were hidden for so long. She approached the bookcase and turned the small statue & voilà! The bookcase opened and we entered the first chamber where you could smell the age of this place! Well the age, as well as the massive flooding from 2002 that unearthed this place. You look around at the different bookshelves that have the collection of preserved bats, skulls and other paraphernalia you would expect to find in an ancient Alchemist lair.
Holy Emperor Rudolf II
My hostess explained the history of Holy Emperor Rudolf II and his ailments that were well known, as well as his favorite potions that Kelley would make for him.
Rudolf II actually suffered from fits of severe depression which without modern medicine, would have naturally lead to seclusion and eventually seeking those things that would give a reprieve from the darker days. In 1583 he found a love for the arts and the sciences, after retiring to Bohemia. He truly transformed Prague into one of the leading countries for both the sciences and the arts. He loved sculptures in particular and had a particular affinity for Italian and Netherland artistic works.
During his rule, there were major clashes between Catholics and various Protestant factions. Rudolf was often more interested in science and did not care to address these clashes. Rudolf found solace in plunging headlong into discovering the secrets of the universe. He went on a relentless pursuit for the philosophers’ stone and the elixir for immortality.
The Emperor invited the best and brightest minds of magicians, alchemists, astronomers, scholars, and artists. They were promised protection while they delved into the mysteries of life. In the end the Alchemist Museum flourished, due to his passionate support of the Pharmaceutical studies for their time period.
The tunnel lead us to and fro with each curve producing a room filled with beakers, furnaces, or boiling potions. I just kept thinking, “This is by far the most unique thing I have ever seen! This museum is the coolest museum I have ever stepped foot in!”
The Alchemist Museum Experience:
For some, this Alchemist Museum may seem a little gimmicky. For me, this gave me a glimpse into the past of what it was like for scientists, like myself. The men working in these ancient labs were trying to create a better life; not only for the Emperor but for its citizens.
It is so fascinating to me to think that those who sought for higher knowledge were so persecuted, often called ‘The Dark Arts’ for their time period, I was witnessing some of the first scientific experimentation & was sincerely grateful I chose to wander the city, instead of getting caught up in the tourist traps.
Prague is a unique, artistic, fascinating city full of history and adventure. If you should visit Prague, be sure to check out this little known, but captivating Alchemist Museum. The scientist & nerd within you will not be disappointed.