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Chosen articles 09.12.2013
Old Town Square
The grandeur of the Old Town Square of Prague emanates a history and culture reaching gracefully back to the tenth century. Adorned by buildings of worship, palaces founded on commercial enterprise and the merging of science and religion in the Astronomical Clock, the Old Town can excite and entice the traveller to explore the heart of this rich and beautiful city. Yet, the very stones carry the echoes of a past that has been stained with the blood of its people.
Staré Město is the site of the first settlement of Prague; in fact it was a series of settlements that grew from the mercantile seed of a marketplace on the banks of the Vltava. Records indicate that a weekly market drew merchants and consumers from far and wide. Their wares, a combination of local produce and exotic wonders, were presented before a backdrop of military splendor. In such a financially fertile environment, the local traders gained wealth and prestige rapidly, eventually gaining the privileges of “township” from King Václav I and Prague was officially formed.
Since then, Prague has grown as a centre for trade and has maintained its spirit of welcoming diversity. This is nowhere more evident than in the presence of a surprising collection of religious centers; St. Nicholas Church was originally a Protestant shrine that would be converted to Catholicism, sold as a grain store and now a stronghold of the Czechoslovakian Hussite Church; the Church of Our Lady before Tyn, whose eighty metre towers have seen the originally Hussite structure transformed to a Catholic one in the 1600’s and the Old New Synagogue, the oldest active synagogue in Europe. But if so many faiths in the one Square doesn’t seem provocative enough, there is also the Astronomical Clock, which engages the movement of the stars and wonders of astronomy while paying lip service to the faiths that surround it.
Even after the expansion of the city in the fourteenth century, there was still a dignity and regard to the Old Town Square that would hold it as the heart of Prague. Where celebrations would be held, so would the tragedy of rebellion and summary justice as twenty-seven noblemen leaders of the uprising in 1621were executed. Their memory is still present in the twenty-seven crosses etched into the pavement near the Old City Town Hall and in the legend of their ghosts returning to the square on June 21st each year.
Prague is situated on the Vlatva, a short distance west of the very center of Czechoslovakia. It is serviced by the Prague Ruzyně Airport and an international rail service. Within the city itself there is a highly efficient public transport system comprising trams, trains and buses, or you can take your chances on the roads, but it is worth recognising that there are a number of projects underway to try to relieve the choking traffic on the streets of Prague.
As a place of beauty, history and culture, Prague offers a unique and enchanting opportunity to be immersed in humanity. To touch on the heart of this magnificent city, one must experience the majesty and monument of the Old Town Square.
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