Wednesday, August 26, 2009
One of the few cities in Europe that was virtually untouched by the bombings during World War II, Prague's architecture contains some of the most historic buildings in all of Europe.
Jim and Ona Kassebaum of Outlook traveled to that city this past June and shared their impressions of the Czech city with Sunnyside Noon Rotarians Monday.
After communism was overcome in Czechoslovakia, visitors to Europe began flocking to the city of Prague.
"It is the fifth city in popularity for visitors to Europe," said Mr. Kassebaum.
Some of the buildings date back as far as the ninth century and the city is divided up into "old town" and "new town," although the older parts of the city were built during the 10th century and "new town" was established in the 1300s.
Wenceslas Square, one of many historic landmarks in Prague, was originally a horse market.
"Wenceslas Square is tied to much Czech history, including the Russian invasion in the late 1960s," said Mr. Kassebaum, adding the Velvet Revolution in 1989 took place in the historic location.
Because the city is so old, many of the streets are narrow...too narrow even for most vehicles.
Kassebaum said the popular method of travel is either by tram or by bus, and visitors can obtain passes for the public transportation system.
Mrs. Kassebaum said there are many churches in the city. Josef Vaclav Myslbek, a sculptor, not only created the St. Wenceslas statue, but he designed interior and exterior decorations for the Saint Ludmilla church, as well.
The Kassebaums visited Vysehrad, which is the remains of a fortress built on the cliff above the Vltava River and was home to the first Bohemian king in the 11th century.
Most of the walls to that fortress remain standing.
During the ninth century Prague Castle was constructed. That structure sits on 18 acres and is a popular landmark of the city.
More recent history includes World War II and the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia.
There is a memorial for the parachutists who tried to assassinate Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich. The failed attempt on Heydrich's life led to the betrayal of the parachutists, who took refuge in the churches of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius. More than 5,000 Czechs lost their lives as a result of that incident.
Communism is believed in that country, according to Mr. and Mrs. Kassebaum, to have cost citizens of Czechoslovakia more than what is tangible. As a result, the Czechs erected a memorial for victims of the Communist regime.
"As you can see," said Mr. Kassebaum directing the Rotarians to a photograph of the memorial, "...some have parts of themselves missing."
The memorial is meant to depict the hardships and heartache endured under Russia's rule.
Also experienced during the venture to Prague was the culinary delights and the beverages many enjoy while living there.
Mrs. Kassebaum said there was plenty of beer, a popular beverage in Czechoslovakia, and it was inexpensive.
"I probably had more beer in 16 days than I had consumed in 16 years," she joked.