On account of its historic legacy, Prague is a jewel sculpted by the passage of time and one of the leading tourist destinations. If you happen to be in the capital of the Czech Republic, you are bound to visit its popular castle, cross the well-known Charles Bridge and have a revitalising Pilsner in any of the city’s myriad beer halls. But, when you are done with the typical tour for flip-flop and sock-wearing guiris, set off to explore the Prague which Czechs usually keep to themselves. This is the city, as fascinating as it is alternative, which we reveal in the following.
David Černý has turned Prague into his own huge museum. A St Wenceslas on an upside-down horse, a statue of two men peeing facing each other, Freud hanging from a building, babies transformed into machines… These are but some of the works which the most widely acclaimed yet corrosive and controversial contemporary Czech artist has strewn about the streets, avenues and public spaces of the Czech capital.
DOX is housed in a refurbished building in the working class suburb of Holešovice. Inaugurated in 2008, Prague’s contemporary art centre boasts the largest collection of modern works in the country. This is a must-visit venue for all art lovers. We recommend you end the visit by making a foray into their interesting shop – their café is nothing to scoff at either.
The Dancing House
Originally known as Fred and Ginger, in honour of the famous dancing couple, it was eventually named The Dancing House. This construction with its fascinating curved forms is highly conspicuous in a city celebrated for its centuries-old buildings. It was designed by Frank Gehry, the architect behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, who executed the project in collaboration with the Croatian-Czech architect, Vlado Milunić.
The Malá Strana district is a refuge for the inhabitants of Prague when inundated by droves of tourists. A backwater of calm and quiet in the heart of the city, it is bounded by several green areas, notably Kampa Island. The latter is separated from Malá Strana by a channel popularly known as the Devil’s Stream and its basks in bucolic beauty all year around. It is the ideal spot to get away from it all and to enjoy a stint of reading while sipping a coffee in one of the inviting cafés secreted along its streets.
This spot in the south of Prague’s Old Town, on the right bank of the river Moldava, was once the major meeting place of hippies. It has now become the focal point of hipster Prague. The area has a thriving art and culture scene and the best time to visit is on Saturdays, when the so-called Farmer’s Market is held from ten in the morning until nine in the evening. It is devoted to regional farm products, with stalls selling organic produce, craft beer and street food. You are likely to even gobble up the paper serviettes (recycled ones, of course).
When it comes to Cubist art, what normally springs to mind are works by such figures as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Jean Metzinger and Juan Gris. And, if we push it a little further, the sculptures of Alexander Archipenko, Jacques Lipchitz and Henri Laurens, and the literary experiments of Guillaume Apollinaire. However, we hardly ever think of Cubism as applied to architecture which had in Prague once of its paramount expressions, thanks to the architectural trio made up of Josef Chochol, Pavel Janák and Josef Gočár. Visitors can delight in a number of their constructions around the city, but you should make a special point of seeing the building which epitomises the movement, Gočár’s House of the Black Madonna. Located on the corner of Celetná Street and Ovocný Square in the heart of Prague, it now houses the Czech Museum of Cubism.
Wallpaper Magazine rated it one of the classiest districts in the world. Indeed, SoNa (short for “South of Národní”) is worthy of that distinction, what with its winding streets, cafés bustling with lively folk and exotic restaurants where you can sink your teeth into specialities from some of the remotest spots on earth. And, if you feel like doing some shopping, wander down Karoliny Svetle, where you will come across the stores of the most avant-garde local designers.
No alternative guidebook to Prague would leave out a visit to Vyšehrad, the Czech capital’s “other castle”. Rather than a castle, it is actually a ruined fort. Apart from interest in the landmark itself, Vyšehrad affords some of the finest views of Prague and the river Moldava.
The Alternative Tour
If you’re keen on delving further into alternative Prague, you can get help from Prague Alternative Tours. They will take you through the flip side of the Czech capital, past the walls displaying the city’s most amazing street art and to the flashiest clubs. They will also get you into the most innovative contemporary art galleries, and community centres where you can meet the most promising young local creators.
Book your Vueling to Prague and gear up to discover the alternative side of the Czech capital.
Text by Oriol Rodríguez
Images by Nan Palmero, Marmontel, Jose Mesa, Achim Hepp
Prague by Panenka
By Panenka www.panenka.org
Panenka, the football magazine you can read, leads us through its passion for the soccer to other countries, this time to the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague. They show us their ideal eleven for places related to sport king as for the most touristis ones.
1 Dukla | The Czechoslovak Army’s team was one of the most hated. With democracy had a hard time but has returned to the top.
2 Strahov | They say it is the second largest stadium in the world (200,000 people can fit) but it seems a field with bleachers.
3 Palacio Michny | Home for Czech Sport: in 1862 the Sokol movement, paneslavian style, here
4 Teatro Nacional | Well worth the visit, even more when you know that there it was held the state funeral in memory of a legend: Emil Zatopek.
5 Sparta |> Workers club in Prague, founded in 1893, with 11 leagues from Czechoslovak division since 1993. Play in the old Letna.
6 Club de Tenis | Inside Stvanice island is located the club that forged the best tennis players in the East: Martina Navratilova and Ivan Lendl.
7 La Carrera de la Paz | At the Rude Pravo’s newspaper’s offices was founded in 1948 ‘Tour Cyclist of beyond the Wall ‘.
8 Dolicek | A humble stadium where a young Antonin Panenka devised his countercultural penalty. The Bohemians play again in here the second division league.
9 Slavia | The other main team in Prague, the one for the bourgeois and intellectual, has just scored three championships in the last two decades.
10 Krematorium | Here have ended up some Czech sports legends like Frantisek Planicka, goalkeeper of the finalist at Italia’34.
11 O2 Arena | 18,000 seats to enjoy Ice Hockey, the sport that delights the Czechs. Six times world champions after 1993.
A Astronomical Clock | Located in the wall of Old Town City Hall, is one of the biggest tourist attractions.
B Petrin Hill| A promontory perfect for taking pictures of the city and stroll through its old vineyards. A funicular gets you up to the top.
C Jewish Cemetery | Testimony of the richest Jewish past of the city. Up to 12,000 graves are in this breathtaking corner
D Museum of Communism | The dictatorship left so many bad memories that when finished, two decades ago, Czechs and Slovaks were forever separated.
E Mucha Museum | Before the totalitarian gray, Prague was a city colored by modernism. Alphonse Mucha brought Art Nouveau to the city.
F Karlovy Lazne | You get into the biggest club in Central Europe for just 180 crowns. Different ambients, 50 meters from Charles Bridge.
G Oktoberfest | The Czechs average the highest consumption of beer on the planet. The Oktoberfest Prague is in late May.
H Bridge Tower | One of the most characteristic elements of the city’s skyline, leading into the Stare Mesto (Old Town).
I Dancing House | Not everything is medieval in Prague: Frank Gehry designed this deconstructivist building on the banks of the Vltava in 1997.
J Wenceslas Square | Emotional center of the Czech Republic. This square-like avenue starred the Velvet Revolution (1989).
K John Lennon Wall | A wall painted in memory of former Beatles’ generated this monument to the Freedom of expression.
Ilustration by Pep Boatella / @pepboatella
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“The Metamorphosis”, by Franz Kafka (1883–1924), is undoubtedly one of the major works of the 20th century. Kafka took just 21 days to write it, yet nothing would be the same in literature after that, for, in this concise story, he soared to the heights of the genuine literary titans like Kleist, Dickens and Flaubert. Also the author of “The Trial” and “The Castle”, Kafka features among the leading figures of world literature. His theatre of operations and his inspiration were centred on Prague, the essence of which has thankfully has been preserved practically intact.
What is “The Metamorphosis” About?
“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin”. Thus begins the “metamorphosis” of a man who “thinks about nothing but his work”. Gregor Samsa is actually a person who stands for all of humanity. One fine day Gregor discovers that he has turned into something repulsive which should be hidden from everyone else. But, what does that suffocating story actually refer to? The novel sets out to make us aware of what we really are. The transformation into an insect involves an awakening. It is only then that Gregor sees the profound metaphysical horror he is living in. And, as he is the only person that notices it, he becomes a social outcast.
Prague was the centre of both his literary world and his life – a mysterious city, but also a dazzling one for its entangled layout and fanciful architecture. In his short stories and novels, Kafka does not name the places he describes, except for a select few. Nevertheless, Prague emerges in his work as an ever-present, imaginary city charged with metaphor and allegory. Indeed, if we look at his writings closely, it is easy to retrace the famous author’s footsteps through the maze of streets in the old city and the picturesque spots where Kafka lived and wrote.
The Old City and its Square
Kafka spent most of his life in Prague’s Old City. U věže, the house he was born in, was located on the corner of Maiselova and Kaprova street. After the city’s facelift in the late-19th and early-20th century, the only part of the building still wrought in the original stone is the facade – emblazoned on it is a simple commemorative plaque.
While the Kafkas moved often, and usually did so within a few houses of the original one, the trail of Franz Kafka is present at virtually every step through the Old City, but mainly around the Old Town Square. For instance, in the period 1880–1896, the Kafkas lived in the charming Minute House, very near the City Hall, which stands out for its beautiful sgrafitto decoration. The future writer lived just a stone’s throw from the German Institute, the present-day Kinský Palace. His father, Hermann Kafka, ran a haberdashery on the ground floor of the same building. Today the palace houses the National Gallery. On Široká street, between the narrow Maiselova street and the luxury Pařížská Avenue, stands the must-see Kafka Bookshop, virtually next door to the Maisel Synagogue and within view of the High Synagogue. Travellers are also urged to visit the Church of the Holy Spirit and the Spanish Synagogue, on Dušní street, which houses the school that Kafka frequented.
In Kafka’s Footsteps – the Museum and Castle
The famous writer’s work brings to life both the old Prague Ghetto and the Malá Strana quarter and Prague Castle. The Franz Kafka Museum is located near Charles Bridge in Malá Strana. A Kafka exhibition entitled “The City of K” was organised by the Barcelona Contemporary Culture Centre (CCCB) in 1999 and, after touring New York’s Jewish Museum, it arrived in Prague in 2005. The exhibition was arranged in two distinct parts – the first showed how Kafka was influenced by the city and how it affected his life, while the second part reviewed the way Kafka describes the city without actually mentioning the names of places that emerge in his novels and short stories.
The characters in Kafka’s novels often follow routes leading up to Prague Castle. While it is often said that one of the places he lived and worked in was the tiny house at 22 de Zlatá Ulička – Golden Lane – the house actually belonged to his sister and Kafka used to sometimes take refuge there to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. The stories dating from that period were later published under the title “A Country Doctor”.
In 1917, the writer went down with pulmonary tuberculosis and later died in a sanatorium in Austria. His mortal remains lie in a family pantheon in the New Jewish Cemetery of Prague-Strašnice.
If you’re eager to experience a feeling of being shrouded in mystery, make sure you visit Prague. Check out our flights here.
Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
Images by Czech Tourism, Nico Paix, Jose Mesa, Roman Boed
Contemporary Architecture in Prague
Practically the whole of 20th-century architecture is represented in Prague’s urban fabric. Even today you can admire examples of major achievements in the various styles that emerged over the last century. Here at My Vueling City we have prepared an introduction to these styles, as embodied in some of the city’s most emblematic buildings.
Among other things, Modernism was born of a desire to harmoniously depict “a total artwork”. One of the most prominent illustrations of this in the Czech capital is Villa Bílek. The sculptor, graphic artist and illustrator František Bílek (1872–1941) – together with Alfons Mucha – was one of the leading exponents of Czech Art Nouveau. This studio and residential villa, located near Prague Castle, was built in 1911. It was designed as a backdrop to reflect a field of grain – indeed, many of its details give form to this idea. For instance, the columns are stylised sheaves of wheat. The villa now houses a permanent exhibition on František Bílek.
Cubist architecture took hold solely in Czechoslovakia. In this style, artistic value prevails over practicality, which often ends up tending to an exercise in style. At any rate, well worth the visit is the House of the Black Madonna or Dům u Černé Matky Boží, designed by the acclaimed Czech architect, Josef Gočár. Design enthusiasts will be pleased to learn that this is the site of the Museum of Decorative Arts, featuring furniture, ceramics, posters, publicity graphics and other select works by the Cubist painter, Emil Filla, and Josef Čapek. There is also an exhibition of Czech Cubism which runs until 31 December 2017. And, there’s more – the building also houses the Grand Café Orient, the only Cubist café in the world.
Functionalism is an architectural principle by which the form of a building is derived from its function. It was the essence of modernity as opposed to traditionalism. The best example of this in Prague is the Villa Müller, designed by Adolf Loos and Karel Lhota for the owner of a construction company, František Müller. In this villa, built from 1928 to 1930, Loos applied both functionalist ideas and the Raumplan theory – instead of dividing available space into different levels or storeys, it is distributed in “cubes”. The latter are arranged so that each room is interspersed on different levels. The building belongs to the City of Prague Museum and the interior still features the original furniture and fixtures. There is also a small exhibition on the life of Adolf Loos.
Functionalism inadvertently created a kind of transition towards post-war Soviet realism. Prague was happily spared from being disfigured by the Communist regime and subsequent Soviet domination. It is not so long ago that half of Europe still lived under a Communist regime dominated by the USSR. Prague was one of the most important cities on the other side of the iron curtain, and it was there that the leading Soviet architects of the time were active – their work can still be admired today. It may not be one of the most widely applauded styles in the history of architecture, but it impresses in that it clearly fulfilled its mandate, becoming an identity trait for a whole era.
Socialist realism architecture tended to be monumental, historicist, symmetrical, decorative and studded with references to Stalinism. The most famous building from that period is the Hotel International Prague, in the Letná district, put up under the direction of the government of the time. Like Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, it was a small-scale copy of seven similar, monumental buildings in Moscow. Completed in 1954, the building with the tallest tower is 16 storeys or 88 metres high.
Independence – Contemporary Architecture
Despite Prague regaining its freedom after the fall of the Communist Bloc, this did not prompt an architectural revival in the city. It did, however, spark a marshalling of valuable resources to restore the city’s historical areas and renovate its residential districts. The most internationally acclaimed achievement of recent times is held to be the celebrated Dancing House – also known as Ginger & Fred for its silhouette, which evokes the two dancers of Hollywood fame. Designed by Vlado Milunič, a native of Prague, and the American Frank Gehry, it initially stirred up considerable controversy due to its placement among Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings, seriously rupturing the area’s urban profile. It now contains an art gallery, a bar, a restaurant and a hotel.
This, then, is My Vueling City‘s review of Prague’s most prominent architectural landmarks from the 20th century. We expect you to be surprised by them when you visit the city. Check out our flights here.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Images by Czech Tourism, Wikipedia Commonsmore info