By Samantha Corr
Prague is a Gothic city with much of the architecture remaining from the middle ages. It is also one of my favorite cities in the world, if not my favorite. I had the opportunity to travel there over spring break in 2015 with the St. Joseph’s Honors Program. We had an amazing time touring the city and celebrating Easter. Prague is also the partial setting for one of my favorite book series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to visit this city during the holiday. The old town square was decorated with streamers and easter eggs. The Easter markets were a great place to shop for expertly carved easter eggs as well as food, jewelry and other decor. We learned a lot about traditional Czech customs, including the the Pomlázka, which is a birch stick that the boys would hit the girls with to make them younger or, as I understood it, for good luck.
In the Czech Republic, they speak Czech, which is one of the Slavic languages. Many people, especially shopkeepers, hotel management and museum workers are able to communicate in English, but it helps visitors to know some of the basics like “hello,” “please” and “thank you.”
While the Czech Republic is a part of the European Union, they have not converted to the Euro. Their currency is the Czech koruna or crown. The crown is worth less than our dollar, as $1 equals 24.70 czk at the current exchange rate. So don’t be alarmed when you see a big number on your bill.
The two best sights in the city are the St. Charles Bridge and the astronomical clock tower. Both are a must, should you visit the city. We would visit the bridge at all hours of the day and night just to see it with different crowds of people and in different lighting. One night, we had to sprint through the city to make it to the bridge for those few minutes of sunset and it was so worth it. It was originally built in 1402, and the 30 statues of various saints were added as accents much later, beginning in the 1600s and continuing into the 1900s. It is an incredible sight to see with the statues and the lamps illuminating your way as you walk across the bridge.
The clock tower, or the Orloj, I simply stumbled upon one night while trying to navigate my way to a restaurant. The way the gold on the clock contrasted to the midnight sky was magical. The next day, we went on a tour of the old town square and I got to see the clock again but in the light of day. It’s hard to believe this piece of art was built back in the early 1400s, with some restorations, of course. Legend has it that the health of the clock is directly tied to the health of the people and the city as a whole, which makes the restorations culturally important.
Apart from the history behind the clock, it is set apart from others in its design. The clock is split into three sections. The top features the apostle figures who come out every hour on the hour, functioning like a cuckoo clock; right below that is the zodiac calendar; and finally the clock. Even the face of the clock is unique, having four different times on it — including the Central European time, Old-Bohemian time, Babylonian time and Star time.
There is so much more to see and do during all times of the year. The food is amazing and the people are so friendly; everyone should add Prague to their bucket list. You can learn more about the city and country through their tourism website: http://www.prague.eu/en.