Independent Czechoslovak State Day

October 28th commemorated the founding of Czechoslovakia. Yes, that country by name is now two countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but ties to this date in history live large in many citizens. It was 1918, the end of WWI and the breakup of the Austro Hungarian Empire. And little countries that were once part of the great conglomerate were out, fresh on their own.

Czechoslovakia was led by the still revered Thomas Garrigue Masaryk. And, Czechoslovakia emerged as an impressive democratic and economic blossom.

Strangely enough, this holiday isn't celebrated in the fashion you might expect. There are no fireworks or parades. It actually appears more like a Sunday, no school, no traffic, not much of anything happening. So, in a way it's more of a commemoration noting the day than a celebration.

Older generations (like Grandma) will certainly reflect on this day proudly. A baby fresh country, from land of old, was finally given a chance to be something called independent. And, so, it began and eventually became prosperous and autonomous.

Coinciding with the holiday is the opening of a unique historical museum and monument - the National Memorial on Vitkov Hill. This long neglected Prague sight was originally built to honor fallen Czech legionnaires of WWI. But somehow, and I'm always really curious about this, became a mausoleum for Communist leaders. Of course, with the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989, the remains of the leaders were removed.

This odd bulky building was then left untouched for years and people like myself would saunter around it, take in the view of Prague and admire the great horse statue. Oh, I didn't mention the statue did I? Well, outside the building as if leading it across Prague is a wonderful statue of Jan Zizka on his horse. The one eyed Zizka was a follower of Jan Hus who was a religious reformer born in 1370. By the early 15th century the Catholic crusades made their way to Bohemia and it was Zizka who led a defense. (These became known as the Hussite Wars.)

I'm not sure anyone really knows how all these things were connected. Let's see... Protestant reformer - noted one eyed soldier - monument to Czech soldiers of WWI - mausoleum for former Communist leaders - and now finally a monument to key moments in Czech history. Well done.

I for one can't wait to check it out. I've been dying for years to see inside these thick concrete walls. It was never a warm place, but I'm very curious.

The one drawback (for some) might be its location. It's located in the working class neighborhood of Zizkov. It's not far from the city center of Prague, but it sits atop a hill and there's not an easy tram or metro line to it. So, it includes a bit of walking. But, I have the feeling it will be well worth it.

FYI: till 30 November entrance is free!

Prague Sights at Night

The full mode of autumn is officially in swing since we changed our clocks back an hour. The sun has nearly gone down now and it's only about 16:30 (4:30 pm). Of course, that's a long day in the eyes of winter, but give us some time will ya.

The one major positive in this change is that it's still warm enough to get out at night and enjoy the sights. I can't think of another city (maybe you can) that is just as beautiful at night as it is during the day. Plus, Prague is so walk-able that it's almost a must to get out after dinner and walk. And, of course, there will be less crowds. If that's not enough motivation I don't know what is ;)

Take the 22 tram up to Prague Castle and walk through the courtyards, see the view over the city and stroll across Prague and take in the cathedral from outside - its lights give it a completely different look. Then maybe walk down through Nerudova Street and have a tea at U Zelenyho Cafe then keep walking down the hill through Malostranske namesti and onto Charles Bridge. The view of Prague Castle at night from the bridge is mesmerizing - honest.

Here's a glimpse of St. Nicholas Church in Mala Strana (below Prague Castle).

Out of Prague: Loučeň

Czech Republic is filled with interesting places that aren't in Prague - imagine that. And many of the day trips out of the city are great for children too. Just such a place is Chateau Loucen about an hour's drive northeast of the city.

The grounds of the chateau include 10 labyrinths of different forms from stone to hedges and more. You can access the chateau as well via an hour tour and there's a wonderful view of the countryside from the restaurant inside. If you have time to get out of Prague or are traveling to Prague by car, consider stopping here for an afternoon. You can visit the chateau's website for more information. It's in Czech but you can click around and get enough info.

The chateau also offers romantic hotel rooms and wedding services.

Snow on Green Leaves

I once saw a film that was set in a warm region of the United States. And in the film there was a lovely snow scene that seemed a bit out of character for the area's climate. I didn't suspect any film-trickery at first, but then I noticed that all the trees in the scene still had green leaves. And this detail kind of killed the film for me. Call me a silly realist, but I couldn't help but feeling duped.

Anyway, I was reminded of this film today (and kinda questioned my original reaction) when a little wintry weather broke across Prague. It actually snowed all day - on many green leaves as well as others. This is a little early for us. In fact, I noticed that many people kind of shrugged it off by refusing to don their heavy coats and gloves. The snow didn't accumulate but it's always a pleasant treat in Prague regardless of the month. If you're lucky enough to be here when snow blankets the city, I recommend getting out early to take it all in. There's nothing like walking across Charles Bridge in a fresh snow.

Somewhere in there is Brevnov Abbey, I'm sure of it.


What a strange and blustery day - all kinds of weather graced the Prague skies. Gusts of wind, hail, sun, rain, a rainbow and even a few snowflakes.

The trams and their gravelly souls have cranked the heat to make up for the conditions outside. Of course, the heat is an all-or-nothing affair. So, watch out for the hot seats and open windows or the cold, quiet cars. Either way I have a soft spot for the trams in Prague. And, when the weather is like it was today, you want to just snuggle up and watch the clouds and people and world all go by courtesy of a tram window.

This is a view toward Petrin with the National Theater and its statues on the left.

Harvest Moon

As the leaves turn and warm drinks appear on the streets, Prague glimpses a harvest moon...

Musings on Kampa Island

There's a certain edge or intangible that is missing in the streets as fall arrives. I can never put my finger on it exactly, maybe it's just fall - simply put. Just last week we had gorgeous Indian Summer days - known here as Grandma Summer (Babi Leto).

The clouds seem heavier now, the chestnuts, although beautiful, rumble at our feet and kites fill the parks.

Today I walked through Kampa picked up a few chestnuts for good luck and admired the two mill wheels turning the now cold waters. Near one wheel is a wall now littered with padlocks of all kinds clinging to the bars in the wall. In the past year this phenomenom has picked up speed and cluttered or intensified (depending on your point of view) the bridge's view of the wheel.

Just opposite of the wheel is a small plaque in the wall that notes the water's level for the flood of 1890. It's one of those details that most people don't recognize - including me until a few years ago. (By the way, this little scene is just a few steps from the John Lennon wall.)

Kampa is such a unique place really. I mean, it sits in the middle of Prague, just steps from Charles Bridge and there's a world of stuff there. When I have time, I like to walk the length of it from Ujezd tram stop all the way to Malostranska metro station. It's remarkably uncrowded even in the summer and there's always something new to see.

Today, along the southern path, there were about 10 large black and white photos hung gallery style. But there were no captions or details available. In fact, Kampa often has outdoor exhibitions, small festivals or a performance or two. You never really know.

Oh, and Kampa includes what might be my favorite cafe in Prague. Mlýnská kavárna (Mill Cafe) is indeed a cafe in an old mill. It has a few tables outside just above the water and a large open space inside - with mill accessories still in use.