Prague and the Czech Republic
Rick Steves' Europe: Episode # 207
Newly energized Prague, slinky with sumptuous Art Nouveau facades, is perpetually playing Mozart and Vivaldi. Eastern Europe's top destination has Europe's best beer, biggest castle, liveliest pedestrian bridge, and most evocative Jewish Quarter. From Prague, we side-trip to Kutna Hora, once a silver-mining boomtown, to descend into its medieval mine and ponder its eerie chapel, decorated centuries ago with 40,000 bones.
- Read the script from the show.
Magic Praha is a tiny travel service run by hardworking Lída Šteflová Jánská. A Jill-of-all-trades, she can help with accommodations and transfers throughout the Czech Republic, as well as private tours and side-trips to historic towns (mobile 604-207-225, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Jan Hus Memorial
This monument, erected on Prague's Old Town Square in 1915 (500 years after the Czech reformer's martyrdom by fire), symbolizes the long struggle for Czech freedom. Jan Hus stands tall between two groups of people: victorious Hussite patriots and Protestants defeated by the Habsburgs in 1620. Because of his bold stance for independence in the way common people worship God, Hus was excommunicated and burned in Germany, a century before the age of Martin Luther.
This is the central square of the Castle Quarter. Enjoy the awesome city view and the two entertaining bands that play regularly at the gate. If the Prague Castle Orchestra is playing, say hello to friendly, mustachioed Josef, and consider getting the group's terrific CD.
Elišky Peškové 11, Praha 5,
reservation tel. 257-311-150, reception tel. 257-311-145
Black Light Theater
A kind of mime/modern dance variety show, Black Light Theater has no language barrier and is, for many, more entertaining than a classical concert. Unique to Prague (though somewhat comparable to the Canadian Cirque du Soleil), Black Light Theater originated in the 1960s as a playful and mystifying theater of the absurd. The two main venues are Ta Fantastika (near east end of Charles Bridge at Karlova 8, tel. 222-221-366) and Image Theatre (just off Old Town Square at Parízská 4, tel. 222-314-448).
Kutna Hora's Ossuary (Sedlec Bone Church)
Located a mile away from the center of town, in Sedlec, this little church looks normal on the outside. But inside, the bones of 40,000 people decorate the walls and ceilings. Fourteenth-century plagues and 15th-century wars provided all the raw material necessary for the creepily creative monks who made these designs (from Kutna Hora, to get to the Bone Church, you can walk, catch a taxi, or ride the city bus; tel. 327-561-143). The Bone Church runs a tourist minivan that can shuttle you around town (inquire at the desk, mobile 733-551-011).
Prague's Jewish Quarter neighborhood and its well-presented, profoundly moving museum tell the story of this region's Jews. The Jewish Quarter is an easy walk from Old Town Square, up delightful Parízská street (next to the green-domed Church of St. Nicholas). Seven sights scattered over a three-block area make up the tourists' Jewish Quarter: Pinkas Synagogue, Old Jewish Cemetery, Ceremonial Hall, Klaus Synagogue, Old-New Synagogue, Maisel Synagogue, and Spanish Synagogue (get ticket at Pinkas Synagogue, tel. 222-317-191).
This is one of Europe's most enjoyable little museums. I find the art of Alfons Mucha (1860–1939) insistently likeable. Prague isn't much on museums, but, if you're into Art Nouveau, this one is great. Partly overseen by Mucha's grandson, it's two blocks off Wenceslas Square and wonderfully displayed on one comfortable floor (Panská 7, tel. 224-233-355).
For up-to-date specifics, see the latest edition of the Rick Steves' Prague & the Czech Republic travel guide or the Rick Steves' Eastern Europe travel guide — or join us on one of our free-spirited Eastern Europe tours.