10 Things You Didn’t Know About Prague

Prague, CZECH REPUBLIC // Saturday February 19 – Tuesday February 22 2011

I had joked with my family that I was going to the Czech Republic to bring home a gold medal a certain family member “lost” during a certain world sporting event in 2002. That’s only half true. The other half is the result of a late night “dreaming” session my roommates and I had in our kitchen in early January.

As far as decor goes, other than the paper snowflakes on our windows, a leftover metre-high Christmas tree and a few Kinder Surprise toys on top of our fridge, there isn’t much in our kitchen. What we do have are 2 large maps on one of our walls: one of Mâcon, the other of Central Europe. We have dubbed the latter our “Dreaming Map” because oftentimes we will gather around it and think of new places we’d love to visit someday. Our trip to Prague was inspired this way.

Not even a week after we had all returned from our Christmas holiday trips, hotel and flight reservations for the next school holiday (which was 5 weeks after school resumed in January) were made. On a whim, I booked a super cheap EasyJet flight (34,99 € including taxes, credit card processing fees and baggage fees!) from Milan, Italy to Lyon, France. All that my roommates and I had left to do was plan the beginning of our trip (we kind of worked our way backwards on this one…).

We eventually decided upon the following: Prague>>Vienna>>Pratola Peligna, Italy>>Milan*

* I left the group for a few days to visit family in Italy

Now, without further ado,

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Prague

#1 //  Prague Castle (Pražský hrad), which dates back to the 9th century, is at 18 acres, the largest castle complex in the world!

#2 // On a per capita basis, Czechs consume more beer than anyone else in the world. In fact, it typically costs less than a coke at restaurants!

#3 // The foundation for Charles Bridge (Karlův Most) is said to contain eggs for strength. In the 14th century, egg whites were added to gravel and sand to create cement. Many music videos were filmed on Charles Bridge including INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart”, Linkin Park’s “Numb” and Kanye West’s “Diamonds from Sierra Leone.”

#4 // The Christmas carol, “Good King Wenceslas” is based on the life of Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia (907-935 CE), the patron saint of the Czech Republic. Wenceslas Square in Prague is named for him.

#5 // Because the Czech Republic is a landlocked country, and due to its weather, fruits and vegetables are not very common in winter months. As a result, meat dishes dominate Czech cuisine, and people in the Czech Republic consume more meat than anyone else in the world! Goulash, a typical Czech dish composed of either pork or beef and served with dumplings is included on just about every menu – yum!

#6 // Prague’s Astronomical Clock (Prague Orloj) dates back to 1410, and at 601 years old, it is the world’s 3rd oldest clock and the only one still in operation.

#7 // Located at the top of Letná Park (Letenské sady) and overlooking the Vltava River, is a giant, functional Metronome. The Metronome which was installed in 1991, replaced a statue of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin, which was destroyed in 1962.

#8 // Jan Paukert Delicatessen located on Národní Street, first opened its doors in 1916, and is one of the oldest running delicatessens in the city of Prague. Jan Paukert is often cited as the creator of chlebíčky, opened-faced sandwiches, a popular Czech snack.

#9 // The Nationale-Nederlanden building, more commonly known as the “Dancing House” (Tančící dům), resembles a pair of dancers. The building was originally named Fred and Ginger after dancing duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

#10 // The Petřín Lookout Tower (Petřínská rozhledna) bares a strong resemblance to the Eiffel Tower and this is no coincidence. Back in 1889, a group called The Club of Czech Tourists visited Paris’ famous monument during the ’89 World’s Fair. The group liked the tower so much that they aspired to build one just like it in Prague. In 1891, construction began and 4 months later, the Petřín Tower was complete. Visitors can take the stairs to the observation deck to enjoy a panoramic view of Prague’s skyline. May 1st is unofficially Lover’s Day in Prague, and couples unite on top of Petřín hill and share a kiss to celebrate the Czech version of Valentine’s Day.

***

As for that gold medal, while it was won in the Czech Republic, it was actually awarded to the Russians. Looks like I’ll have to make a quick stop in Russia on my way back home to Canada… 😛

amanda

p.s. While doing my research, I stumbled upon this interesting fact: March 19 is St. Joseph’s Day, and in the Czech Republic, Josef Name Day is celebrated in pubs, households and workplaces across the country. Josef was at one time, one of the most popular Czech names and today, due to the celebrations, March 19 has almost become a national Czech holiday. Why is this relevant? March 19 is my Birthday! Yet another reason to celebrate this already wonderful day. 😉

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