At first glance Prague might seem like just any modern city, but any turn in the road reveals another fairy tale castle. The city’s history shows in its medieval churches and palaces…now converted into art museums for Gothic and Baroque masterpieces.
Fred visited Prague in 1973 when the Czechs were still reeling from the Soviets’ crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968-69. Then the city was grimy and depressed. Soviet troops were everywhere with their big hats, and secret police pushed through the night clubs demanding “documents” from patrons.
Still, the music Fred heard everywhere was all American. Czechs chose the most anti-Soviet music they could find to play–country western and bluegrass! A Czech told Fred that “the Soviets may occupy us, but they will never occupy our spirit.”
That spirit served them well. Fast forward to our visit 40 years later, and the sparkling-clean city of Prague is a tourist magnet. Prague reminded Sharon of the Paris of her first visit there about 50 years ago. Food and lodging are not expensive, and you can linger in a sidewalk cafe for an hour without being bothered. The feeling on the streets is happy, and the city is walkable.
We loved wandering across the 15th century Charles Bridge, with its kiosks to shop in for our store and street musicians and other busker performers offering entertainment. Across the bridge from the Old Town, where we stayed, was the beautiful Prague Castle.
Although the streets are full of tourists, Americans are few. It is fun to be on foot all day, looking through the shops and quaint house of the Golden Lane, the Mozart villa, and an Art Deco cafe where dissidents met in the 1980’s.
Prague houses lots of museums, among them the Franz Kafka Museum, the Museum of Communism and the Mucha Museum of Art Nouveau works.
Today the Czechs like to be called part of Middle Europe, rather that Eastern Europe. Perhaps this is an effort to disassociate themselves from their past of being under Soviet occupation. Also, although most of the older Czechs speak Russian, they often refuse and speak just their few words of English.
The Czechs are very proud, and rightfully so, that they split with the Slovak brethren peacefully. This was the only amicable split after the fall of communism and the two countries are still good friends. Many shops and businesses in Prague are still owned by Slovaks.
Prague was an important European city in the 19th century and is again in the 21st century! We loved our visit there.