Welcome to Prague

On this trip we vacationed almost entirely behind the former Iron Curtain. Out first stop was Prague, capital of the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia, once known as the Kingdom of Bohemia). To be brief, Prague is an amazing city with a very long and unique history. Being a person obsessed with historical development, I always like to research a place before I travel to it (or, perhaps more accurately, travel to places whose histories I am preoccupied/obsessed with). And in terms of historical development, Prague is richer than most. One example I'd like to share concerns its history with communism: Prague's often brutal 20th century experience of communism wasn't its first. In order to see how far back such an experience goes, you have to look back all the way to the 15th century.

In the Middle Ages, when Prague was the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia, it was fabulously wealthy thanks to nearby gold mines (whose legacy can be seen throughout Old Town). Also in the Middle Ages, Prague was at the center of a Christian schism that lead, after years of tension and intrigue, to wars on a scale not known in Europe until that time, started over the martyrdom of a religious reformer named Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake in 1415. The Hussite Wars included five Crusades that were each won largely by the efforts of the Taborites. The Taborites were a Hussite sect based in the nearby Bohemian city of Tabor, who followed an early form of Christian Communism which included practices such as radical egalitarianism and communal ownership.

The Taborites kept Bohemia free of Catholic influence for a few decades until they were finally bested militarily by other Hussite factions who were then aligned with the Church. When they were defeated the Holy Roman emperor Sigismund declared, "the Bohemians could only be overcome by Bohemians," which seemed to have been true. After their defeat their power waned, and by 1452 Tabor was taken by their rivals and their radical ideas were forced underground.

And mind you, this storied history all took place a century before the Protestant Reformation; Luther didn't nail his theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg until 1517. And it was four centuries until communism, that specter that ever since had haunted Europe, rose to a position of dominance again.

As the backdrop to Bohemia, the Bohemians, and the 'idea' of what it is to be bohemian, this city is a wonder. It is often referred to as the Paris of the East, but I think that moniker does a disservice to Prague, which has its entirely own thing going on. What in part makes Prague Prague is its absolutely singular history; it has no small part in how this city got to be what it is. All of this is to say that Prague is not some second-rate Paris, at least no less than Paris is some mere second-rate Prague. If you have any inclination to go to Europe (and are able to ignore the crowds that flock from around the world to see the cultural wonders on display, and the parasitically interminable industries that thrive on them), Prague should be a considered a must-see. If, in one of those horroristic scenarios, one had to ever pick between Paris and Prague, you would not do wrong if you picked Prague.

Just one final note, this set of photos was taken between August 3rd and 6th. In those days we visited Smichov (the neighborhood our apartment was in), New Town, Old Town, and the neighborhoods of Mala Strana and Vinohrady. Enjoy!

oroboros on 6/15/2019 8:03:43 PM