Crossing the Vltava: Prague

Previously, I published an article about my first day in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, sharing some of my favorite scenes and moments in the Old Town and New Town areas of the city. But there are other places on the west side of the Vltava River in Prague, particularly Prague Castle, that draw visitors from all over the world, too.

"St. John the Baptist on Charles Bridge crossing the Vltava River in Prague""

St. John the Baptist on Charles Bridge

Crossing the Vltava River in Prague

Charles Bridge and Prague Castle

The most famous bridge in Prague, the 14th century Charles Bridge, connects the Old Town and Little Quarter areas. It’s easy to find your way to the bridge if you just follow the crowds.

Guard on Charles Bridge

This guard in traditional dress looked the part as he greeted visitors beneath the Old Town Bridge Tower entrance to the bridge. Also at this end of the bridge are tour boat operators, another sign of the influx of tourists in recent years. But it’s Prague — still beautiful and romantic. I can’t help but wonder, however, what a visit to this old city would have been like before it became such a popular travel destination.

Saints Norbert, Wenceslas, and Sigismund

Along both sides of the Charles Bridge are 30 Baroque statues, depicting the Virgin Mary and saints, including the one of St. John the Baptist at the top of this post. I learned later that they are replicas of the originals which were which moved to the Lapidarium of the National Museum to protect them from further wear and tear of the elements. I was a little disappointed to find that out, but completely understand why it was done.

Saints Cyril and Methodius

I don’t know if there were many local residents crossing the bridge, since it seemed that everyone had a camera vying for photo opportunities at the statues. But maybe this guy at the statue of Saints Cyril and Methodius was a local heading home with his Christmas tree. I like to think so.

Virgin Mary with Saints Thomas Aquinas and Dominic

A pigeon seemed to find a comfortable resting place on this statue of the Virgin Mary and Saints Dominic and Thomas Aquinas.

Visitors touching the statue of St. John of Nepomuk for good luck

Need a little luck? Just touch the reliefs on the base of the St. John of Nepomuk statue. Legend has it that your good luck will include a return trip to Prague. I hope that’s true. The original statue of this national saint of the Czech Republic was placed here in 1683. In the 14th century, King Wenceslas ordered that John be thrown from the Charles Bridge into the river because of a controversy over the election of an abbot. Seems rather harsh.

The Crucifixion

A simple wooden cross was the only adornment on the bridge when it was built in the mid-14th century. There have been several replacement crosses and the current gilded one was installed in 1657.

Street Musican on Charles Bridge

Not only are there plenty of souvenir and trinket vendors on the bridge, there’s entertainment. This musician was playing a song on water glasses, although I can’t remember now what song he was performing.

Entering the Little Quarter

At the western end of the bridge, you enter the Little Quarter under the arch of the Little Quarter Bridge Tower and head up the hill to Prague Castle. More to come about the other side of the Vltava soon.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website.


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48 thoughts on “Crossing the Vltava: Prague

  1. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    Beautiful photos! When we were in Prague I was struck by how shiny all the gold was on the statues — looks like they’re diligent about polishing it!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Christy — with the importance of the tourist trade, I imagine they do work hard to maintain the statues (er, replicas of the statues). 🙂

  2. Leigh

    Love the look of the handsome soldier and not at all how I would imagine soldiers to dress in 2012. A nice selection of photos that makes me more than ever want to visit that city – in the off season if they ever have something like that.
    Did you touch the statue for luck – and have you had any??

    1. Cathy Post author

      Yes, I did touch the statue — nothing’s happened yet, but still hoping. some guy also told us to throw a coin into the river for luck. I didn’t see anyone else doing it, but didn’t want to miss out on possible good fortune.

  3. Nadia | Gap Daemon

    I don’t know whether it was because I visited Olomouc first, but I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t really like Prague. I think there are other prettier, cooler places to visit in the Czech Republic – it’s so very, very touristy. But loads of my mates disagree, so… 😉

    1. John

      @Nadia, I’m in full agreement. Get out into the Czech countryside and visit some other cities as well. Prices and crowds are a fraction of those in Prague.
      @Cathy, as far as my own experience goes, touching the statue is effective, but then you only queue up and touch it if you want to return. Then where there’s a will there’s a way!

  4. InsideJourneys

    Vendors and musicians on the bridge? I wouldn’t have expected that but then again, I’m probably imagining the throng of vendors and musicians that I’m used to seeing in NYC.
    Nice historical review. Until I read your post, I didn’t realize that Czechoslovakia had such a long Christian background. Thanks for sharing, Cathy.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Apparently, during the time that the statues were put on the bridge during the rule of the Catholic Hapsburgs. There’s much interesting history in Prague — I’d like to learn more about it.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Indeed, it does. Thanks for sharing the German name (Karlsbrücke) for the Charles Bridge (Karlův most in Czech). I hadn’t seen that before.

  5. Dick Jordan

    The other day I reviewed my photos and blog posts from my 2009 visit to Prague since my local tour guide was doing a radio program recording session with Rick Steves.

    Locals (or those in the know) touch a brass plaque below the statute of John of Nepomuk on the Charles Bridge for good luck.

    Source: Tales Told From The Road (http://s.tt/158ha)

  6. Laurel

    Such an informative post. I was in Prague a few weeks ago and loved all the statues on St. Charles Bridge, but didn’t know the story behind many of them. I played tourist too and touched the St. John of Nepomuk statue.

  7. Lisa

    Cathy, I just tried to share your link on Fb and it was blocked. The message said it has been marked as spam or something. I sent them a note and said it clearly WAS NOT and that it was a travel website with no offensive content. That is very strange.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Andrew. I liked the activity of that last picture as well as the picturesque old arch at the entrance to the Little Quarter.

  8. Jenna

    Well, you know how much I love Prague and the Czech Republic, so I enjoyed your photos and descriptions. You mentioned wondering what it must have been like there before all the tourists– I was fortunate to first experience it in 1996 before the huge crowds starting coming. Such a beautiful and interesting city!

  9. Sophie

    Nice post, Cathy. Isn’t the Karlsbrücke beautiful? I prefer being in Prague in winter. Get a better sense of history then, I think. Nothing like looking up at Tyn Church on a freezing winter night. Can’t believe I’ve never heard of that good luck statue…

  10. Christy

    Where do you learn all of this history, Cathy? I’m always learning something on your site. I like the idea of touching the statue and it bringing the good fortune of returning to Prague. 🙂

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