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.
Crossing the Vltava River in Prague
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.
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.
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.
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.
A pigeon seemed to find a comfortable resting place on this statue of the Virgin Mary and Saints Dominic and Thomas Aquinas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Great photos, I love Prague too…
Thanks — the time of day wasn’t best for photos, but I hope they capture the feeling of the place.
Awesome, the way you captured the gold on the crosses !
Thanks, Mike — pure luck!
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!
Thanks, Christy — with the importance of the tourist trade, I imagine they do work hard to maintain the statues (er, replicas of the statues). 🙂
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??
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.
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… 😉
Oh, you’ve just put Olomouc on my radar!
@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!
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.
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.
I so love bridges which’ live’ and the Karlsbrücke seems to be one of them. Thanks for this great story.
Indeed, it does. Thanks for sharing the German name (Karlsbrücke) for the Charles Bridge (Karlův most in Czech). I hadn’t seen that before.
Wow, all that on one bridge! I am looking forward to crossing that bridge myself. I wish I had made it to Prague before it became such a huge destination too.
Me, too. But better late than never. It’s still a beautiful place filled will lots of historical significance and charm.
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)
I know — I touched the John of Nepomuk statue, but sad to report that I’m still waiting for the good luck!
So, for luck you’re supposed to touch the statue of the guy who got thrown off the bridge?
Seems like a strange system to me.
Um, that’s a really good point, Steve. I must look into that.
One of my favorite places! I was there in 1995, not long after the Iron Curtain fell. I’m sure things have changed a lot since then!
I’m sure you’d find much changed, from what I hear. Far more tourists, for one thing. 🙂
Great stuff…Prague has been on my list for far too long…It’s time I do something about it…
Thanks! Wish I had gone when it first came up on my radar, but better late than never.
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.
Good luck! 🙂
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.
Thanks for your message, Lisa. Something weird is going on — I hope that Facebook will resolve it soon.
You are making me dream about Prague, Cathy! Shame I’ve never been there!
I’m sure you’ll get there, Angela & I’ll be looking forward to seeing your photos!
Must be a wonderful city to visit with all that history and the beautiful architecture. I’m fascinated by that last scene, by the way!
Thanks, Andrew. I liked the activity of that last picture as well as the picturesque old arch at the entrance to the Little Quarter.
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!
I wondered how long ago it was that you first visited Prague. You really did get to experience it before the crowds!
what a gorgeous city! i miss visiting there!
Gorgeous city indeed! Hope you get back there again.
As touristy as this part of the city is, its beauty makes up for it.
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…
I really enjoy places like that in the winter, too. The weather adds a certain mystery to it, I think.
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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Oh, we’ve always wanted to go to Prague and it’s just never happened for some reason. I’ve seen many photos of the more famous landmarks so it’s good to see the lesser known places, too.
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Beautiful! You had much better weather than we did!
Prague has been our favorite European city. It’s the best preserved (pre-WWII), walkable and we found great meals often. I’d love to go back again (soon).