Prague: What Fairy Tale Dreams Are Made Of
When I dreamt of the quintessential fairy tale prince as a little girl, I did not realize that Prague was what I was looking for. This city found me at an opportune time in my life, exactly when I needed to experience some magic: Christmas. I will preface this by admitting that I am not religious, nor an avid celebrator of the holidays, however I was taken aback by the picturesque beauty of a city finely dressed in sparkling lights and twinkling Christmas trees. While I believe I could have fallen in love with Prague any other way, I am glad that this was my first impression. It is one that crisply presses into the memory like a dried rose on parchment, its lingering scent vivid and not easily forgettable with the passing of time.
Of the hundreds of cities I have seen, I have only ever been fervently stricken by Rome. Even the runner-ups – Amsterdam, Milan – didn’t come close to my birth city’s glory. But Prague – this is a city saturated with splendor, a worthy adversary to the vixen that is Rome. Deceptively large, highly cultured, and tastefully lit in all the right places, the city is so pristine that, like a precious jewel, it almost feels untouchable. Despite appearances, Prague also has a rebellious, alternative side that only unravels once the sun sets.
Prague will surely lure me into Eastern Europe again – my time there has fueled a desire to view more of this side of the continent. I thank this city for bringing my childhood dreams to life, in the most enchanting way:
While some cities record their history in books, Prague’s story is told via its architecture.Highly ornamental, imminent and sometimes even intimidating, the buildings convey visual narratives that echo the dark folk tales of the Brothers Grimm. In just over a thousand years of existence, the city has assembled a gallery of Medieval, Baroque, and Renaissance structures. Since its foundation, Prague has been a political, cultural, and economic center for central Europe, as well as a capital of the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th century. Its architecture conceals the city’s past in the most graceful manner: at first glance, it is not apparent that the city has weathered traumatic events such as the World Wars, the Thirty Years’ War, and the post-war Communist era.
Climb to the top of the Old Town Hall Tower and Astronomical Clock building for an aerial view of Prague’s architectural artwork. Old Town Square must be experienced in its entirety, a lovely collection of pointed arches, opulent ornamentation and pastel façades. Whether by day or night, Tyn Church – my favorite building – incessantly looms from behind the stout town square buildings like a creeping villain. Other architectural wonders include the Municipal House and St. Nicholas Church.
Mysterious and irresistibly romantic, Prague Castle is a collage of scenes lifted from fairy tale movies. The city boasts a Gothic fortress on top of a hill, haunted by angels rather than demons. The stroll towards the castle holds its own special allure: it begins by crossing the famous Charles Bridge from Old Town into Mala Strana (Lesser Town), which is located in the slopes just below the Castle and has a captivating view of the city. This walk held the most anticipation, as the transition into the castle grounds is so fluid it is hardly noticeable. From within, the Prague Castle complex teases its visitors with an intricate game of hide-and-seek. There is an infinite amount of ancient Roman arches, hidden dead ends, and baroque statues to discover within its alleyways, dimly lit by streetlights and setting suns. Amidst all the hidden gems, one masterpiece dominates the Castle grounds: the Saint Vitus Cathedral, a massive Gothic structure dating over six centuries. Ferocious, unapologetic, and majestic, the cathedral is a spiritual symbol of Prague’s past power and influence.
Prague’s most captivating trait is not the impeccable exterior, but rather his character. I must admit, I always had a weakness for mysterious gentlemen, and perhaps this is what drew me so avidly to Prague. It was the unexplainable familiarity that accompanies love at first sight: walking through the streets, I felt like I’d known this city all along. The dynamic atmosphere, the sultry, inviting underground scene, and the rich remnants of culture that are nudged in every corner are reminiscent of the greatest cities of Europe. Even Prague’s sky is unique to the city: a brilliant blue often marbled with dark grey clouds, a shade similar to the silver that streaks a man’s hair with time. Prague is the first city I have seen who can wear an otherwise undesirable trait with such poise.
Quite simply, Prague was what I always imagined the ideal Prince to be: striking, complex, an infinitely interesting library of culture and style, despite a deceivingly broody exterior. A city that at first glance appears unattainable, yet will extend a hand to you once you express a desire to know it intimately. Charm, grandeur, awe – these are all feelings that Prague will evoke within those who seek a fairy tale rendezvous.