Prague green city

Prague green city
Districts in Prague are separated by green belts

Friday, 30 August 2013

Gas lamps in Lesser Town

Last gas lamps extinguished  on the lamppost at Hradcany Square in 1985. Since 2002, however, the gas lamps gradually began to return to the historical part of Prague (first 12 lamps lit Michalska street in the Old Town) and now you can find about 700 of them. In December 2012, the gas lamps lit on the last part of Royal way - at the top of Nerudova street. A lamplighter in historical dress with a top hat and a pole assisted at the official commissioning, which became the center of attraction for the tourists who took pictures with him. Lamplighter always started the advent time and it is only a tourist attraction, the lamps are now switched on remotely automatic electric switch.
On Upper Lesser Town Square you can compare a nice soft white light of gas lamps with sharp yellow electric light. But here it has its own logic - electric candelabras in the middle of the square are preserved as ones of the first in Prague dated early 20th century.

Night of churches in Lesser Town

Church of Our Lady under the Chain

The church has a very interesting name and looks equally unusual. First of all let me to explain the origin of the peculiar name. The full name of the church was originally with an archaic postscript "at end of the bridge". As the postscript suggests, the church, which was part of the fortifications of St. John Commandery (Knights of Malta) was at the Lesser Town bridgehead of former Judith Bridge. Since the bridge toll was collected, the church gained the name "under the chain". The church was originally Romanesque, three-nave. Karel IV. decided it to rebuild in the mid-14th Century to Gothic, so the old Romanesque church was demolished. But the plan turned out differently than expected. It was managed to complete only Gothic chancel, entrance hall in 1375, and there were added  two squared towers in 1389. The chancel was burned in 1420 and it was newly constructed with Renaissance and Baroque style ceiling by Carlo Lurago in 1640 - 1660. Neo-Gothic battlements were added in 1836. So today the place  aroused very strange impression. After entering through the Gothic portico we enter the hall, followed by a courtyard .......! It is the site of the former Romanesque church, so actually the Gothic church building (only a presbytery) is much smaller than the original Romanesque church was. Remains of Roman arches of the former southern side of the church can be seen in the wall on the right. The church was at the peak of gothic very important, as evidenced by the fact that there were exposed  mortal remains of Charles IV. and his son Wenceslas IV.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Lesser Town - III. Prague district

Lesser Town of Prague was founded on the green turf by King Premysl Otakar II. in 1257. The town was originally called New Town and has been designed on the concept of regular shape with a large rectangular square with a church in the middle of it and a rectangular grid of streets. Lesser Town was substantially  extended during the reign of Emperor Charles IV., who had built new fortifications - Hunger Wall. There is a legend that the wall was built because of  at that time high unemployment and hunger and thus ensured livelihoods for lot of people. However, this is only a rumor, the wall was first of all important as fortification. At the same time, however, Karel IV. founded his own New Town and the name was changed to today's  Lesser Town of Prague. In 1541, Lesser Town was affected by great fire, which destroyed 133 homes of total 211. Lesser Town substantially revived during the reign of Emperor Rudolf II, who moved the imperial court to Prague. In the Lesser Town there were  built, due to its proximity to the Prague Castle), a lot of  palaces for nobility. During the Thirty Years War Swedish troops, who occupied the left bank of the Vltava river, ravaged the Lesser Town and plundered it. After the war began Lesser Town to acquire the character of a residential neighborhood with many Baroque aristocratic palaces, churches and monasteries in contrast to the Old and New Town, where primarily merchant houses and small craft houses remained. After the establishment of united Prague in 1784 Lesser Town became its III. district. Today Lesser Town is, together with the Castle district,  the best preserved historical unit, which has maintained its original character and is used by many filmmakers from around the world as a unique film area.

Mala Strana - Lesser Town

--> Lesser Town - III. Prague district
--> Night of churches in Lesser Town
--> Gas lamps in Lesser Town

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Hostavice is a village of medieval origin, the first mention of ot is from the year 1432. Until the late 19th century it was a small agricultural village, even today we can notice that the original village core at the final bus stop No. 110 is relatively small. On the place, where a park is nowadays, formerly a pond called Vidlak was located, The pond  was later dried and on its place there is a grassy area. Just the same name street and willows around remember, where the pond was originally to be found. The most valuable monument of Hostavice is a chateau in the middle of a large park. The chateau is a relatively modern building from the 19th century neo-renaissance style, i.e. it is more a villa than a chateauThe chateau with land entrepreneur Bata bought from landowner Kolman in 1934. Bata wanted to build a large garden city on plateau "Na Cihadlech" designed by his own regulatory plan. Satellite town should have been completely self-sufficient with its own shopping center, school and in the valley Rokytky should have been built a large sports complex with tennis courts. Unfortunately the whole project in the period immediately before the war in the tense political situation and military training ground was prefered.  Hostavice jointed Prague together with Kyje in 1968.
Today Hostavice is a Prague district situated in the middle of nature right on the edge of the Natural Park Klanovice-Cihadla. In the village we will find both forest and streams, dry polder Rokytka with wetlands and nature reserve "Na Piskovne" ("On the sand pit"). It is a district that currently combines the advantages of cities and villages. When using the suburban rail service (S-line) one can be in the city center within 13 minutes. Prague's biggest natural-recreational zones with an extensive network of hypo-, in-line- and bike-trails should be built in vicinity in large area between Cerny Most and Dolni Počernice.
Chateau and chateau park
Corn store in a former farmhouse

Belfry with square shingle roof
Dry polder Čihadla is the largest hydro-ecological project in Prague. Rokytka trough, which was previously artificiallyrstraightened, has been again transformed into a natural form of meanders, wetlands and artificial pools. Also confluence with Svepravicky stream has been moved further downstream and  so Svepravicky stream now flows along the edge of the woods right between the trees. In the case of high water the entire polder is being closed and flooded, and thereby acting as a flood defense.
Path through wetlands and Rokytka - after floods washed away
Artificially founded pool
Svepravicky stream
Tree alley from Hostavice to the sand pit
Weir in the Rokytka river
Pool in the Rokytka river
Sand pit lake
Nesting site for birds in sand pit lake
Overflow from sand pit lake
Hostavice is surrounded by a natural park
Jahodnice (Strawberry Field) village
Jahodnice village was built in 1925 as a satellite garden town  for the Czechoslovak legionaries. Legio-centro bank had purchased large fields from landowners Kolman and then parceled it and gave  former legionaries apparently favorable conditions for longterm hire. Beginning of the first settlers weas very severe - for example, water from local wells was very hard and therefore unsuitable for washing and watering, plus also have a laxative effect, so it could not be used even for cooking. So residents  had to import water from old Hostavice. Park Czechoslovak legionaries, which actually forms the center of the village, reminds the legionaries also. You can find  today only few old, in the same style built  houses  in its original form. Most of them were rebuilt, as a rule, regardless of the neigbouring area  by "diligent" DIY hands.
Original legionary house from 1935, as seen from dating in the gable
Original legionary semi-detached house also with preserved veranda

Hamlet Domov - Home

When you get off on Zizkov tram stop " Strazni" (Guard street) and head to the left up the hill you will be surprised just behind apartment buildings on the main street to see  rural colony of houses like a fairy taleactually as regards the older well-preserved houses. Among the houses with original design you can see modernized "creations" with additional storeys, inadequate plastic windows of all sorts sizes and roof oriels "artfully" converted by "golden" Czech hands and handymen, where original features only occasionally shine through. Aside from these innovations, however, and let's dive into this picturesque quarter, which, despite the improper modification retains its original character coziness. This is underlined by the street names evoking the sense of safety - for example: Na Hlídce (On Patrol) Street, Strazni (Guard) Street, Na Vlastnim (On Its Own) Street, V Domove (At Home) Street, V Bezpeci (In Safe Place) Street and also by the name of nearby pub "Za Vetrem" (Behind the wind). You will be surprised especially at beautifully styled gables accentuating wooden timber framing. You will find rondocubism elements in them, but you can feel also the influence of folk art nouveau such as at Trmal´s villa in Strasnice or English cotage architecture as at Jurkovic villa in Bubenec.
How did exactly such interesting rural enclave, today actually almost in the middle of the city, come into existence ? Long ago, at the dawn of the first Czechoslovak Republic, in time when the new capital needed to ensure suddenly home to thousands of civil and public servants, only fields far awy from Prague were  on this place. Members of "Public utility construction and housing association for homes of government and other public employees in family houses in Zizkov "decided to build a new hamlet called "Home" in 1919 . First, the proposals of four architects, among them the famous Bohumil Hübschmann, seemed too spectacular to the quite modest government officials  and so they asked architect Machon for help. Machon  could empathize with the needs of its clients and designed the original hamlet of isolated houses, semi-detached houses and terrace houses in uniform style including fencing. The houses were approved in 1922. The houses are designed with a simple rectangular shape, with kitchen, 2 bedrooms, laundry-bathroom and porch in the ground floorDwellers could also use one more room in the attic. The houses evoke a sense of countryside, but have not lost its charm even today in the middle of the city, when they look as a refreshing oasis.
The house of one of the first residents - police inspector Mares in V Bezpeci (In Safe Place) Street 12 / Zizkov 1350. Even today his daughter, who has deposited his father's original chronicle,  has been living there.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Historic lanes and alleyways of Old Town

The Old Town is a typical labyrinth of winding, narrow lanes with houses - today mostly with Baroque or Classical facades but Romanesque or Gothic in the heart. Merchants and tradesmen used to have their shops in the ground floor of houses. Today there are usually  various bars, pubs, cafes and little hotels.

Night of churches in Old Town

Church of St. Martin in the Wall

Surely you are taken aback by unusual name of the church. This is due to its interesting history. The church was originally the parish church of the village Ujezd​​, which was located hier long before the emergence of the Old Town. The church is therefore one of the oldest in Prague, built as Romanesque in the years 1178-1187. After the consecration of the church the village began to be called as Ujezd ​​of St. Martin. Old Town walls were built in the years 1232 to 1234. The walls unfortunately split the village in two parts, the smaller got to the Old Town district and the larger remained outside the walls and later was incorporated into the New Town. New walls just touched the southern part of the church, and so the name - "Church of St. Martin in the Wall" arose. Nearby in the wall there was a gate, which was also called St. Martin Gate. The original Romanesque church had only one nave. We can find it contained in the present main nave of the church, where we can see the Romanesque elements. The church nave was increased in the Gothic reconstruction in the second half of the 14th century and the late-Gothic reconstruction in the late 15th century added two naves. During the reign of Emperor Joseph II. the church was closed and used as a store, warehouse or home. The situation changed in the early 20th century, when the church was renovated by architect Kamil Hilbert. Today the church is the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. The church is now one of the best preserved examples of Romanesque and Gothic architectural art in almost original form.

St. Giles Church and Monastery
Church in Jilska street was Romanesque originally, its nowadays form is Gothic from time of the reign of Luxembourgs on the Bohemian throne. A monumental Dominican monastery with a simple early baroque facade was built hier in the 17th century .
St. Giles Church has a richly decorated baroque interior
A member of the Dominican order welcomes visitors of "Night of churches" in the cloister  of Monastery
The nook with modern decor
 At the rear part of the Hall on the first floor,a corridor leads into space behind the altar
Monastery corridors seem endless
You can even stay in the monastery, there is a hostel there
Corridors also have interesting decorations
Simply furnished dining room
Library with beautiful stucco ceiling
The most beautiful room of monastery is the baroque refectory (dining room of monks), where also many social events take place.  Also Milos Forman's film "Amadeus" has been shooting in the room.
Garden of Eden with the cloister
At the end of the "Night the churches in the Old Town" just a glimpse into Klementinum, where we can find a hidden (normally closed for public) baroque sacristy in a passage between the  St. Salvator Church and St. Clement Church.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Old Town

--> Old Town of Prague - the first in the kingdom
--> Night of churches in Old Town
--> Historic lanes and alleyways of Old Town

Old Town of Prague - the first in the the Kingdom

Unknown and mysterious Old Town
Old Town of Prague was always recognized as first among all the towns the Kingdom of Bohemia, as head of all towns of Czech lands. Its history is different than the Lesser Town or the New Town, which were founded artificially on more or less green turf. The Old Town was originally a spontaneously arising settlement along merchants' routes. Almost continuous settlement was stretched between two castles - Prague Castle and Vysehrad. An important ford across the Vltava river was  on the place, where the Charles Bridge was built lately. The densest built-up area was just on place, on which now the Old Town is - particularly in the area of today's Jilska Street  and Hus Streetwhere you can find a well preserved original grid of streets following indigenous trade roads. The roads were  enclosed by wood, later by half-wood and more later  by Romanesque stone houses that you can visit today mainly in cellars. Why in cellars?  The reason was that the street level was increased of one storey height  by fills, so the former ground floor is in the basement now.

The town itself was established by building of the walls in the years 1232-1234 and by obtaining own city hall on the basis of permission of John of Luxembourg in 1338. Only Havel Town around havel marketplace was found as planned area.

When New Town, which circled the Old Town from all sides, was founded in 1348 by Emperor Charles IV., Old Town townspeople were concerned about their rights and  limitations of their privileges. Emperor Karel IV. confirmed Old Town uniqueness by allowing  control of two most important New Town gates by Old Town citizens and thus their power actually widened. Charles IV. had the idea that the two cities should  unify and create a single powerful city. Thus he ordered in 1367 their merger. For the insurmountable contradictions between the burghers of both previously separate towns Karel IV had to allow their separation again after ten years. Also later there were attempts to join them, but never succeded, because of the particular interests of long duration. The forced unification occurred in 1784, when all four historical Prague center - Old Town, New Town, Lesser Town and Prague Castle district - merged in one municipality under the baton of Emperor Joseph II.  Only Jewish town remained independent and formed an enclave in the middle of the Old Town. At the turn of the 19th and 20 century large part of the Old Town was affected by an  infamous redevelopment, which destroyed a huge number of historical monuments. Prague followed the outstanding designs of its time - European cities such as Paris, Vienna, etc., in which historical parts were razed and replaced with wide boulevards. Fortunately, the City of Prague  have only limited funds  so it could destroy just northeast part of Old Town, or only about one-quarter of the originally intended purpose, which was to break through a wide boulevard from Wenceslas Square crossing Old Town Square, the Old Town and finishing by a tunnel going up Letna hill. Remains of this project is now Parizka street. If the whole project had been realized, it would have been irreversible destruction of the medieval center of Prague. So due to the fact that in the turn of 19th and 20 century Prague was no the capital city, almost the entire historical center of the city remained virtually intact   compared to other European capitals.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Historic lanes and alleyways of New Town

New Town in contrast to the Old Town, Lesser Town and Hradcany   does not  forms  nowadays the district of originally preserved houses of medieval origin. New Town is from the late 19th century characterized as Prague "city". This is essentially a commercial  financial, administrative, cultural, and entertainment district,Nevertheless we can find hier, just a small distance from live trading avenuesrarely preserved nook with historic houses and street networks. Thus preserved clusters are mostly  on the places of former villages and hamlets that were here before the founding of the New Town. You will love these lanes, which in comparison to the Old Town overloaded streets offer peace, tranquility, relaxation and lots of interesting pubs, bars and cafes.
Alleyway between Spalena (Burnt) Street and Opatovicka street

Monday, 19 August 2013

Orechovka - district as exhibition of modern architecture of 20´s nad 30´s

There had once been a beautiful baroque garden with a chateau of aristocrat John Christopher Borek on the territory of today's residential area of Orechovka (literal translation in English = Nutty Liquor). The garden was designed as the French style park with sculptures. Borek´s villa with the garden disappeared in 1742 during an artillery battle between the French army occupying Prague and the German army in the so called "Austrian heritage war". Then a place of the former garden served as artillery stores and artillery laboratories (this is evidenced by a number of names of local streets (Artillery StreetArsenal Street , At Laboratory Street...)