If you would like to immerse yourself in a rich medieval history, if you would like to visit a city where ancient gothic architecture blends seamlessly with the modern vibe, then I would recommend a trip to the ever-popular Central European region.
Last summer, my family and I took a trip to Central Europe, where we visited Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and Bavaria. While Budapest impressed me with a showy, but unexpected beauty, Vienna struck with the grandeur of its imperial palaces and the touching sounds of Strauss and Mozart, and Bavaria impressed me with their breath-taking castles built by the mad but kind, King Ludwig the Second, only one city managed to really take my breath away. And this city was none other, than Prague, Czech Republic.
Prague is known to be one of the most gothic cities in all of Europe, and it shows. Each city block shows a semblance of that iconic medieval gothic architecture that dates back from 13th to 16th century. The old town square boasts a wide array of iconic medieval landmarks such as the Gothic Cathedral, Saint Nicholas Church, Astronomical Clock, etc.
The Charles Bridge is the oldest bridge still standing over the Vltava River in Prague. It was constructed in the early 14th century by a famous Czech architect known as Peter Parlor, however, the King who authorized to build this bridge was King Charles the Fourth. Legend says that Charles commanded the architects to add raw eggs into a mortar of the bridge to strengthen it. He then ordered all the residents to bring eggs to Prague, however, the inhabitants of one region feared that the eggs would break and so they boiled them, much to the amusement of the people of Prague.
Another popular legend entails that Saint John of Nepomuk was a confessor to the Queen of Bohemia, who refused to reveal to the King what the queen said. The king then tortured John and threw him from the Charles Bridge in chains. After that, one arch of the bridge began to constantly collapse, so the builder decided to make a pact with the devil in order to finish to bridge. However, the devil required the soul of the first being who crosses the bridge. The builder wanted to release a rooster onto the bridge, but instead, his pregnant wife went across the bridge first.
Prague is famous for its gothic cathedrals, a prime example would be Saint Vitus Cathedral. This cathedral was first constructed in the 10th century, at Prague Castle. It was constructed and re-constructed for ten centuries. The Western section of this Cathedral is famous for its two tall towers the Rose Window. One dominant feature of the Cathedral is its Bell Tower. Legend says that when Emperor Charles IV died, all the bells in the tower started to ring by themselves. The most iconic feature of this Cathedral are the Gargoyles perched near the roof.
Prague is also known for its historical Jewish quarter known as “Josefov”. Prague used to be home to one of the biggest Jewish communities in Europe. In 1215, the Jewish people were ordered to live separately from the Christian community. They were relocated from their homes and were sent to a separate quarter. Over the years, this quarter turned into a Ghetto, where hundreds of Jews were killed in Pogroms. Several Jewish legends originated in this very ghetto, including the Legend of the Golem. According to the legend, Rabbi Loew created a creature out of clay and made it alive by inserted a Shem in its forehead. The Golem was supposed to defend the Jewish Ghetto from the Christians. The creature was getting stronger and stronger everyday, so the Rabbi had to take the Shem from him to make him weaker. One day he forgot and the Golem became uncontrollable and started to wreak havoc, so the Rabbi found him and told him to stop and rest in an attic of the Old-New Synagogue. Then he went to the sleeping Golem and said the magic formula backwards. The Golem began to crumble until remained only dust. It was then forbidden to visit the attic of the synagogue. In the 1800s century another Rabbi visited the attic and forbid all from entering it. The Old-New Synagogue is the oldest active synagogue in Europe and it was built in the 1270, in the gothic style. It was one of the first gothic buildings in Prague.
Overall, Prague is full of beautiful sites and places. The beauty of the city and well-preserved medieval buildings, the wide Vltava river, with its amazing bridges, makes this city unique. Afterwards, you’d want to return and explore more of this great city rich with history and legends.