What is Prague?
by Jan Dvořák

What is Prague? (by Jan Dvořák)

Foto by Lubomir Fuxa

What is Prague? Look at a map of Europe and there it is, In the Czech lands at the heart of the continent, in its most sensitive region, there is Prague.

From a historical viewpoint, Prague is among the oldest European towns and is presently one of the only Middle Age cities still preserved: from the tenth century Prague has retained its original town centre, located on the banks of Vltava river between Vyšehrad and the hill of Hradčany (Prague Castle).

From the earliest recorded history of the region, Prague has been celebrated for its size and industry: the early Arabic-Hebrew trader Ibrahim Ibn Jacob traveling through central Europe in 965–6 noted that Prague was the largest and busiest city, built of mortar and stone.

Foto by Karel Neubert

After the Velvet Resolution of 1989, Prague began anew its tradition of an international cross section of inhabitants which include tens million visitors and tourists, as well as unique communities such as the young enterprising Americans who number between twenty and thirty thousand. They follow on a long tradition of cultural distinctive communities, for example, the Vlašska quarter of Malá Strana which was once was home for a strong community of Italians who mostly served as the builders of Prague's Renaissance and Baroque architecture, and the tension produced between the Czech and German communities, headed up by a strong presence of Jews, resulted in an extremely enriched spiritual and cultural life as well as industrial and economic development of the city.

In this way the rich treasures of the city were born and many of these gems are still preserved in Prague: Gothic, Baroque, Secese, and modern Functionalist architecture, not to mention its unique Cubists rarities – no other place in the world boasts Cubism comparable to that realized and preserved in Prague.

In reflection the famous Czech poet Jan Neruda said “what we find on a simple walk through Prague are real poems”.

Foto by Lubomir Fuxa

The beauty of its mystery and magnificence, its secrets and hidden wonders, attract us again and again to Prague. The theatre great George Tabori said “Prague has been a legend to me for many years, the magical place of my images. This, my Prague, is inhabited by many fascinating figures beginning with Golem and Schweik and ending with Franz Kafka”.

This lifestyle, a harmony of the city's mystery and its magical art of famous composers, musicians, poets, painters, sculptors, and architects, many who continue to work here, makes Prague a magnet to the young and creative-minded people who come from across oceans and from around the world, drawn to Prague as their grandfathers were drawn to Paris after World War I.

Text: Jan Dvořák, Editor of “A–Z Prague Culture Guide”, Prague Stage, 1994
Photos: Copyright © by Lubomir Fuxa and Karel Neubert.
Used with permission

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