After a restful night’s sleep under five-star sheets at the Nouveau Art Palace Hotel (Palace) in Praha (Prague), I’m wide awake with loads of time all to myself before I meet up later in the day with my band of merry media, international travel writers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) to sample a portion of its Bohemian Rhapsody journey through the pearls of the old Habsburg Empire: Prague, Vienna and Budapest.
Here in the heartbeat of Bohemia, the locals jumpstart their day with a friendly greeting of Dobrý den (Hello or Good day in Czech) to fellow passersby, shopkeepers and anyone else they come into contact with at first light. So, Dobrý den to you, too.
The Palace, an Insight signature hotel, sits smack dab in the middle of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage-protected historic center and is just a leisurely stroll to three, must-see locales of the Czech Republic’s pedestrian-friendly capital city: the National Museum, Wenceslas Square and Jindrisska Tower. Countless other iconic spots abound around Prague, but we’ll take on this trio in an impromptu photo shoot and leave the rest of Praha for framing once Insight’s Bohemian Rhapsody journey officially gets underway this evening.
Lens caps off? Then, let’s go!
The National Museum of Prague (NM) is not a stand-alone structure, but a series of 11 buildings spread across the city, each showcasing a different discipline that includes history, the arts, music, natural history and a voluminous library. All together, these buildings house over 14 million pieces of the Czech Republic’s past.
The NM’s main building is surrounded by a park and is located at the top of a small hill that stands vigil over Wenceslas Square below.
Built in 1891, the NM’s main building survived World War II bombing raids and the Soviet invasion of 1968, but it suffered structural damage during the construction of Prague’s metro system and the North-South highway in the late 1970s.
Emptied of its nearly seven million pieces of artifacts, the main building is now under renovation and expected to be as good as new sometime in 2016.
The focal point for the business and cultural communities within the New Town neighborhood, Wenceslas Square, a former horse trading market during the Middle Ages, is named in honor of King Wenceslas IV, Bohemia’s patron saint.
Not a square in the true sense, Wenceslas is more of a long rectangle of cobble and greenbelts placed in the center of a two-sided boulevard lined by a host of the city’s iconic hotels, trendy shops and outdoor cafes. And, while street performers and musicians grab your attention and entertain above ground, Praha’s Metro Line A glides along directly underneath.
Many historical events have occurred here, none more tragic than what occurred on January 16, 1969 when local university student Jan Palach set himself on fire as a political protest against the end of the Prague Spring that resulted in the invasion of then Czechoslovakia by the former Soviet Union.
More recent, Wenceslas Square served as the epicenter for the Velvet Revolution, a series of protests and demonstrations in the winter of 1989 that led to the peaceful end of 41-years of Communist rule and the beginning of Czechoslovakia’s parliamentary republic.
Known as ‘The City of a Hundred Spires,” Prague’s skyline is dotted with over a thousand towers, some of which are open to the public and afford visitors like us a great opportunity to get above the roar of the crowd and look out across a magical city that was once the seat of the Holy Roman Empire.
Just down the street from my hotel in the old Hay Market is the Church of Saints Henry and Cunigunde and it’s 65.7 meters high Jindrisska Tower, the city’s tallest, free-standing belfry.
Founded in 1351, this house of worship added the stone bell tower in 1599. In 2002, the interior of the tower was remodeled for commercial use, including a restaurant and museum, but retained the structure’s original stone facade by employing a full-scale concrete tower inside.
For about $3.00 USD, you can ride the lift up to the tenth floor, climb a short, winding staircase to the belfry, pop open a series of windows, aim your camera and just fire away.
For complete information on Insight Vacations’ premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including the Bohemian Rhapsody and 100 other journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
See you in the hotel lobby in about an hour when we’ll hop on the Insight motor coach for a scenic ride up to a monastery that brews saintly beer followed by dinner in an underground wine-cellar restaurant named Inferno.
©The Palladian Traveler | ©Tom Palladio Images