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CZECH REPUBLIC : PRAGUE SIGHTSEEING


Prague
(Czech: Praha) is the capital city of the Czech Republic  and is situated on the Vltava river in central Bohemia,. The “Golden City”is presently undergoing a period of great changes after having once again become a free metropolis of Central Europe. This magical city of two million inhabitants is situated on both banks of the Vltava River, which flows northward through the heart of town. Since 1992, the historic center of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. A wealth of architectural forms, ranging from Romanesque and Gothic through Renaissance and Baroque to Art Nouveau, Cubism and Deconstructionist, co-exist in an unusual harmony.  

Prague, like Rome, was constructed upon five hills and is shrouded in the mystery of a glorious, tragic past. The history of Prague has been intertwined with that of Europe for eleven centuries. Despite its cosmopolitan character, which can be seen in the broad range of architectural styles, the city has maintained its purely Czech nature . The original town was built on both banks of the Vltava River in a valley between two castles. One of them, the Vysehrad Castle, royal seat only to the Czech King Vratislav, was situated in the southern portion of the city. Today, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul stands upon this site, as well as Slavin cemetery, burial place of many great men and famous personalities. Construction of Prague Castle was begun in the 9th century, and it has been home to heads of state from the middle ages until the present.  

By the 14th century, Prague had already become a metropolis, surpassing many other Central European cities in grandeur. The city was not damaged a lot during World War II, and , therefore, the old cityscape has retained its stunning beauty. Its compact medieval centre is a wondrous maze of cobbled lanes, ancient courtyards, dark passages and churches beyond number, all watched over by an 1100-year-old castle. After the end of the communist era , Prague has once again become one of Europe's most popular tourist destinations. Its traditional pubs and eateries have been augmented by a wave of gourmet restaurants, cocktail bars and trendy cafes. 

The Old Town, the Lesser Town and the New Town speak of the great architectural and cultural influence enjoyed by this city since the Middle Ages.The centerpiece of the Old Town, located on the eastern bank of the Vltava, is the Old Town Square and original Old Town Hall, which boasts the famous Prague astronomical clock. Across the square stands the monumental  Church of Our Lady of Tyn. From the Old Town Square wind numerous narrow streets and alleys full of remarkable sights, including churches, cathedrals, galleries and museums, antique shops, and centuries-old wine and beer cellars.  

In the old town lies the “ Prague Ghetto” or the Jewish Town. Its origins date back to the 9th century, when it began as a colony of Jewish merchants who permanently settled in Prague. In the 17th century it became Central Europe's Hebrew metropolis.  

The Old Jewish Cemetery, with more than 200,000 graves, houses the remains of many of the most significant members of Prague's former Jewish community. Nearby stands the Charles Bridge, Prague's oldest stone bridge. Built by Petr Parler of Gmund over six hundred years ago on the order of King Charles IV., it leads to Mala Strana. This quarter is probably the most romantic in Prague, with its beautiful architecture and many gardens. Further along from the bridge lies Malostranske Square, followed by Nerudova Street and the Castle Stairs, which lead to the gates of Prague Castle. From here, all of Prague and its countless beautiful spires lie spread out at your feet.   
 


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