Despite its relative infancy (the Czech Republic has only been a country for around 20 years), Prague packs a big punch. It was only too apparent in the long weekend I visited how much its turbulent history has shaped its culture, which is reflected in the architecture and art of the capital.
1. Prague is also known as the ‘City of Towers’ – the capital boasts approximately 200 churches, with beautiful spires dotting the skyline.
2. Speaking of churches, keep an eye out for the Illuminati symbolism in some of the churches in the Old Town. No doubt, it will probably feature in a Dan Brown book soon.
3. Prague has had three major political upheavals throughout its history; these have all been solved by defenestration, or throwing someone out a window.
4. The capital has its own Eiffel Tower – well, okay, it is the Petřín Lookout Tower, a 19th century observation and transmission tower, but it bears an uncanny resemblance to the iconic Parisian structure. The Petřín Lookout Tower sits on a hill overlooking Prague’s castle and palaces.
5. Beethoven’s manuscripts are housed at the Lobkowicz Palace, next to Prague Castle. The 7th Lobkowicz Prince, Joseph Franz Maximilian, was a talented singer, violinist and cellist, and admired Beethoven’s work so much he and his son became patrons of the composer. In return, Beethoven dedicated his third, fifth and sixth symphonies to his benefactor.
6. There is a museum for everything in Prague. Medieval torture instruments, antique musical instruments, even gingerbread; if you can think of something there’s a chance Prague has a museum dedicated to it.
7. Prague’s contemporary art is some of the most amusing and accessible around. Whether it’s a middle finger salute on a barge, a fountain featuring two men urinating outside the Kafka museum, or the giant silver pregnant woman by David Cerny (which you are also welcome to climb inside to experience ‘the womb’) most of it is free to the public and make a good walk around the city.
8. The Rudolfinum, one of the capital’s top music venues, was initially Prague’s first House of Commons until German occupation during the Second World War.
9. Prague once had the largest statue dedicated to Stalin in the world. It was completed in 1955, with the artist, Otakar Svec, committing suicide the day before it was to be unveiled. Unfortunately for the statue, de-Stalinisation was introduced soon after and the statue was destroyed in 1962. Today a giant metronome replaces the statue, ticking away as a constant reminder of the passage of time under Communism.
10. Beethoven wasn’t the only composer that was welcomed by Prague; Mozart also played the giant organ in St Nicholas’s Church located at Lesser Town Square under the invitation of the Duseks.