Today is a national holiday in the Czech Republic - Independence Day.
The country was under Communist rule for 40 years. Their city was shadowed by sooty, crusty buildings. Thick, dark timbers bridging narrow streets kept decrepit buildings from crumbling. Consumer goods were plain and uniform, stacked on thin shelves in shops where customers waited in line for meager offerings.
On November 17, 1989, a week after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was an officially sanctioned demonstration in Prague to mark the 50th anniversary of the Nazi suppression of Czech universities. It soon turned into a protest march against the Communist authorities and was forcefully put down by riot police. A rumor began that the police had killed one demonstrator. In fact, it wasn't true, but the story was enough to fuel public anger. People poured into the streets night after night, watched by television viewers around the world. Alexander Dubcek was brought back from obscurity to address the crowds. On December 10 a new government was formed, with the Communists reduced to a minority. Less than three weeks later the country had a president. The country had freedom without a single shot being fired. In 1993 the Czech Republic and Slovakia split allowing the Czech Republic to be totally independent.
These are pictures of the Wenceslas Square where the demonstrations took place 25 years ago.
You have seen my pictures of this beautiful, vibrant city. I find it amazing what they have accomplished in that short period of time. Yes, there is still work to be done, but it is getting done. We have walked down alleys with no other people and felt safe. Prices are substantially lower than the other places we have visited. Most people in the restaurants and shops have basic English skills so communication is not an issue. Yes, there are a lot of tourists, but that just adds to the energy level.
I have great admiration for the people of Praha (as they prefer to be called) and the Czech Republic for jumping in with both feet and reclaiming their beautiful city and country.
Today we walked across the Charles Bridge. It was constructed in the 1350's and has many Baroque statues along it. Of course, there are the street vendors to entertain you and hawk their wares.
The route to the castle is called the "King's Walk" because it was the route a new King would take after his coronation at St Vitus Cathedral through the town, across the Charles Bridge and into the Old Town Square.
This shot is at the end of the bridge and entering the city.
There's always time to stop and people watch.
This is one of the statues on the bridge.
This view is looking across the river at the town, castle and cathedral.
St. Nicholas Cathedral was a treasure trove of gold and beautiful paintings.
RJ wants you to know that he is daring and a risk taker, too. There's no way I would have climbed up there! We all know he won't qualify as "Saint RJ" to be placed in that spot for centuries despite his trying it on for size.
Entrance to the Prague Castle. It's not your typical castle but a series of buildings and cathedrals.
St Vita Cathedral was recently restored. I loved the interior, which lacked the over the top opulence of other cathedrals but it had a sense of calm and elegance that I liked.
The street musicians are great, although some of them make you think you are in Mississippi rather than Prague.
The Toy Museum in the Castle area was a fun visit. There was a lot more than just dolls, but it's my blog and trains and cars and erector sets just don't interest me that much!
Okay, one train picture.
RJ is always ready to pose with an attractive woman.
"Bild Lili" was the original doll made in Europe as a promotional item. It was not for children. They even had one version that you could hang on your rearview mirror. It was not a big hit, but was later sold to Mattel who redesigned and renamed the doll Barbie after the owner's daughter.
The original Lili dolls.
The original U.S./ Mattel Barbie
If you are a Barbie fan, this is the place to visit. They must have nearly every one ever made.
Does anyone remember this Barbie?
Yes, we experienced all of this in one day. I'm so glad we have a full week here.
What a fun day. We took off exploring with no particular goal in mind. We just want to get to know our neighborhood. There are probably 50 restaurants/pubs within a 2 block radius of our apartment. We are just a half dozen very short twisty blocks from Old Town Square.
What an intriguing place. Beautiful buildings, numerous street acts and lots of restaurants, it is fantastic.
She looks like she is hiding from the paparazzi
Many of the buildings have art work on the facade.
The street vendors have intriguing food options, including this bread baked over charcoal. It's a great breakfast treat. You get it warm and coated with sugar.
Ham is a popular item, both as street food and in restaurants.
We haven't tried the fresh potato chips yet, but I'm sure we will.
The man who designed and built this beautiful clock in 1410 went blind shortly thereafter, so it is indeed, one of a kind. I will try to get here again on the hour to see the "show".
Several tribesmen sing and perform a native dance. I wasn't able to understand their heritage, but they were exciting to watch. Very colorful costumes and energetic dances. I'm not sure how they could make such beautiful music while dancing, but they did.
In the busier areas, litter is vacuumed away.
The first of many street musicians. Wash boards are frequent additions to these groups.
Ron, this one is for you.
More beautiful buildings.
We have lunch at a pub a half block from our apartment and return to the
Old Town square and can't resist ordering a sausage to share.
We skip dinner as we have no appetite, but later share a
starter plate of local ham, pate, pickles, etc. We end up sharing a table with a couple from Budapest. He owns a
software company and offered to show us around his city when/if our travels get us there. (Pat and Sue, ready for another
River trip?) We exchange e-mails and hopefully will keep in
touch. Their long term goal is to sail
around the world. I hope they accomplish