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Apparitions & inundations
Karluv most, Charles Bridge, summer dawn, Prague, Praha, Prag, Czech Republic, UNESCO World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Praha, miluju tě | I love you, Prague

“Foreward”

With visits numbering well into double digits, my affection for the Czech capital city of Prague remains undiminished, even in the midst of surging summer or winter crowds. When I’ve been in danger of being swamped, I veer off to a side street or quiet park; I’ll also wait for the relative solitude of nightfall or dawn. The magic is knowing I haven’t strayed very far from the big sights.

How I ended up chasing dreams over cobblestone streets, past the thousand spires and ornate facades, and across centuries of European art and history, has exceeded the limits of my imagination.


The senses

From the moment I stepped off the plane on my first visit years ago, it’s been a statement of love, reaching, pushing, pulling my senses. Now, like people who love and know a lot about each other, it’s about intent, full on into the realm of recognition and desire.

The distinctive aroma of grilled sausages wafting out from streetside vendors, the scent tempting me and passersby with the idea of “mystery meat in a bun” at all hours of the day. The cravings strike swiftly late at night after a solid effort at the pub.

The smooth slightly-sweet chocolatey flavour of the “černé pivo” (dark beer) called Velkopopovický Kozel. Slices of soft spongy bread “ knedlíky” (dumplings) soaking up the rich savory sauce accompanying the juicy “vepřová panenka” (pork tenderloin). Yes, “česká kuchyně” is on the heavy side, but it sits very comfortably in me belly.

The uneven cobblestones beneath my shoes, causing the expected ache after a long day walking back and forth across the river. To reach down to the old smooth stones in the streets, to touch the massive sandstone blocks on bridges, to run my fingers over the facades on original buildings, feeling like I’m reaching back through the centuries.

The solemn and muffled murmur as people come across for the very first time the sweeping scale of Old Town Square or the beautiful views from Charles Bridge. The familiar screech, grind, and roll as the classic red-and-white streetcars rumble down the tracks.

The magic at dawn of seeing a special kind of light, casting a golden halo on red roofs and yellow houses, the city alive on morning fire; and of seeing after sundown hundreds of street lamps throwing a warm sodium-yellow blanket of illumination over the city.

The castle from Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

Prague castle and Mala Strana (Little Quarter)

Svandovo Divadlo tram stop, Smichov, Praha

Švandovo Divadlo tram stop, Smíchov (HL)

Becoming Lost with Familiarity

I realize I’m in danger of viewing the Czech Republic in the same way some might view Germany. Considering how I feel about Germany, I’m completely indignant when all anyone can think is “Oktoberfest”, as the country offers much more. Ironic, really, as I often only see Praha when I’m in the Czech Republic. As Czech friends are very quick to remind me, Prague is not the Czech Republic; the message is my own piece of humble pie.

Is a visitor necessarily concerned with the cultural, political, or social development of the city, the nation, her people; or with any of the important contributions influencing European civilization at large? How about the preservation of the city’s cultural heritage spread across centuries of urban architecture and design? After all, there are good reasons why the entire historical centre of the city was awarded the status “UNESCO World Heritage Site”.

For me, it’s simple. All it takes is coming out of the side streets at Na Příkopě to see the boulevard open up at Wenceslas Square, sloping gently upwards to the National Museum in the distance. Or the streets snaking through the Old Town, leading to the massive plaza, and seeing the familiar Old Town Hall on the one side and the two tall spires of the Church of Our Lady Before Týn on the other. Or it’s about getting lost in the maze of narrow avenues, finding something new where I haven’t been before, but becoming reacquainted with the historical and familiar.

Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, Jan Hus Monument, Staromestske namesti, Old Town Square, Praha

Staroměstské náměstí | Old Town Square (HL)

Grand Hotel Europa, Vaclavske namesti, Wenceslas Square, Praha

Václavské náměstí | Wenceslas Square (HL)

Mir (Peace), Jiri Krystufek, Namesti Miru, Praha

Náměstí Míru | Peace Square (HL)

Novy Svet, Hradcany, Praha

Nový Svět, Hradčany | Neuwelt Gasse, Schlossviertel | “The new world”, Castle District (HL)

U luzickeho seminare, Mala Strana, Praha

U lužického semináře, Malá Strana | At the Lusatian Seminary, Little Quarter (HL)

The coda

Velkopopovicky Kozel, Jama, Nove Mesto, Praha

Na zdraví! Cheers with Velkopopovický Kozel, at Jáma, Nové Město (HL)

The city name Praha comes from the Czech word “práh”, meaning “threshold”. I couldn’t have known my first visit to Prague would set into motion the steps I’ve taken: the decision to leave professional astronomy, to go out into the world for at least 365 consecutive days, and to venture into something “scary”, something entirely different. Every decision has led me here, typing away on a laptop and reminiscing with a smile and few regrets. This city has been and will always be my “práh”.

From Letná to the bridges over the Vltava (HL)

Vltava, Charles Bridge, Mala Strana, Prague

And this is where I struggle to say goodbye … (HL)

As a friend has pointed out, the proper grammar for the title should be “Praho, miluju tě”, but I’ll stick by my beautiful mistake. A slightly modified version of this story appears on Maptia; my thanks to the folks at Maptia for their generosity.

More on Prague

•   5 of the Best Spots to View Prague at Night
•   Na hrad! To the (Prague) castle!
•   Alfons Mucha’s “The Slav Epic” Returns to Prague
•   The colours of fall in Praha
•   “Love story number 1”

I made all of the photos above between 2008 and 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-4tK.

24 Responses to “Praha, miluju tě | I love you, Prague”

    • fotoeins

      Hi, Maria. While I prefer the bread “knedlíky” to the potato versions in the Czech Republic, I’ve often thought dumplings are merely vehicles by which one eats and mops up delicious sauce! Mmmm, sauce … 🙂 Do you have your own special reasons for loving Praha? Thanks for reading and for your comment!

      Like

    • fotoeins

      Hi, Jenna. It’s safe to say I’m not going to get tired of this beautiful city. The great thing about Novy Svet is that more people are finding why this part of the Castle District is worth a look; the great thing also is that the place is almost vacant after sundown, except for those who live there. Another great thing is that there are equally great “corners” like Novy Svet. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment!

      Like

    • fotoeins

      Hi, Vanessa. This place can be seen in any season; it’s really beautiful at any time of the year. Ten years is a long time; I hope you’ll visit Prague soon. 🙂 Thanks for reading and for your comment!

      Like

  1. katefrankiebrennan

    I’ve never been to Prague and have yet to travel in Eastern Europe properly. I had one weekend in Krakow and loved it. I have heard people say they love Prague but didn’t realise what it has to offer. You have some beautiful photos and this has made me consider adding the Czech Republic to my travel list!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • fotoeins

      Hi, Kate. I’m glad my photos and descriptions can offer the right inspiration, and the right push for you to visit Prague soon. Any time of the year is a good time; in particular, summer offers the best weather, winter offers the Christmas markets. I’ve not yet visited Poland: Wroclaw, Krakow, Warsaw are high on my list. What did you like most about Krakow? Thank you for reading and for your kind comment!

      Like

  2. Mary {The World Is A Book}

    We visited Prague last summer and it took a piece of my heart too. I felt like stepping into a fairytale world and really enjoyed getting lost. I love all your photos and your perspective on this magical city. We can’t wait to go back!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • fotoeins

      Hi, Mary. I apologize for my late reply! For many, Prague leaves beautiful and long-lasting impressions. It’s easy to lose yourself and your heart in the Czech capital, on either side of the Vltava river. I hope you have the opportunity to go back soon! Thank you again for your reading and for your kind comment!

      Like

  3. Tim

    I completely agree with you about familiarity of a destination. It is a kin to a new love. The first couple of times it’s all very exciting and mind blowing but as time and familiarity sets in it becomes even better. You learn more, understand more, appreciate more. You are able to grasp a deeper understanding and that is what turns something new into something special.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • fotoeins

      Exactly! When I return, I go back to the spots I loved most about the city, but I always try to find something new, too. I believe that’s not very difficult to achieve in a place like Prague. Thanks, Tim, for reading and for commenting!

      Like

    • fotoeins

      Thank you, Charlie: there are good reasons why I wrote that love letter. 🙂 Thanks again for stopping by and for your very kind comment!

      Like

    • fotoeins

      Thanks for stopping by, Tim and Joanna. I’m very okay with your shared link because it’s directly related; I’m going to read your post now. 😊

      Like

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