Every city has memorable buildings and unusual architectural details, but I can't think of another city with such a wealth and variety as Prague. I was struck by it on my first trip a dozen years ago, and this summer's trip reinforced the impression.
A variety of circumstances explain it. As Prague grew, and changed hands and changed rulers over a thousand or so years, each new ruler needed to impress a bit. And then, in the last couple of centuries, history accelerated. Rivalry between Austria and Germany. Habsburg rule. Czech nationalism. World War I and independence. And within these, new buildings and new styles meant to make a statement.
Put it all together in central Prague, and you have almost an index of architectural details and styles, pretty much cheek-to-jowl. Taken all together, the words that come to mind are confident and exuberant...whether justified or not. The pictures here are just a sample, really...I could show you far too many more!
As you've probably noticed (and the next picture makes it very clear) close proximity sometimes makes strange scenes. In this case, you're actually looking at three buildings; the towers belong to the building at the left; the building with the red facade and green steeple is separate, as is the smaller building to its right.
Navigating the Old Town (Stare Mesto) can be hard by map...but once you pick a favorite tower and keep heading toward it, you'll get there, eventually, and sometimes with serendipitous discoveries between.
This small building in multiple shades of green sits at a split in the river, and was originally part of the Austro-Hungarian customs service. The very impressive building below it looks like it should be the center of government, but it's only the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Well, 'only' may be the wrong word there...
This one is less about the roofs or the facades...but you do notice them when your attention is caught by a sort of male Mary Poppins crossing the street above your head.
Below that, a house that's less odd than it seems; it was around the corner from our apartment, and it was nearly a week before I realized that the windows were perfectly square; the asymmetric frames fooled the eye.
Immediately below, the Jerusalem Synagogue, featured in a recent Where in The World puzzle, and then a view of Wenceslas Square, which is really an avenue rather than a square. It's mostly lined with 19th century stores and hotels, including the fetching pair at the top of this blog. Next after that, the rooftop of the old Prague main railway station, now incorporated into the new rail complex.
A quirky roofline and a puzzling name mark the 13th-century Altneu Synagogue. The name means Old New. When built it was the new synagogue; when a new New Synagogue was built in the 1600s, this became the Old New.
And we'll finish with the spiritual ancestors of the Pillsbury doughboy; these statues represent apprentice bakers.
For more TravelGumbo posts on Prague and the Czech Republic, click HERE