Prague, Czech Republic:
Praha, as it is called in Czech, is an amazing historical city, dating back to neolithic times, with an official ‘modern’ foundation year in the 8th century, meaning over 1,000 years of local history and culture. Prague is part of the Schengen Territory and part of the European Union, but not part of the eurozone.
Praha was supposedly founded by the Czech duchess and prophetess Libuše who reportedly emerged from cliff overlooking the Vltava River and said, “I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars.” She then commissioned the foundation of a castle and town which she said was to be named Praha. The construction of the Prague Castle began in 885 and within 70 years Vyšehrad Castle was built.
Following the modern founding of Prague by the duchess Libuše, Prague was ruled for several centuries under various rulers included dukes, kings of Bohemia. and later became the seat for the Holy Roman Emperor. It was under the leadership of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV in the second half of the 14th Century that Prague flourished and planted the foundation for the city we know and love today.
Charles IV laid the ground work for many important structures and institutions that still stand today. The Charles Bridge in one of the more famous ones in Prague, but in addition to that he commissioned the Saint Vitus Cathedral (in the Prague Castle grounds) which elevated Prague to a archbishopric and during a famine in the 1360’s the Hunger Wall to provide work for the poor. He also founded the Charles University which is still educating people today. In addition he was the force behind such famous destinations outside Prague as Karlštejn Castle and Karlovy Vary (as his personal spa).
In the 15th Century Prague experienced various religious struggles, with persecution of the Jewish community and later the first defenestration, during which the citizens of Prague revolted against the leadership of the priest Jan Želivský. This, coupled with the death of Jan Hus, a popular theologian in the Protestant community eventually led to the Hussite Wars, between the followers of Hus and the Holy Roman Empire. Peasant rebels were victorious under the leadership of general Jan Žižka, along with Hussite troops from Prague.
The Hapsburgs era in the 16th and 17th Centuries were notable for the expansion of the Czech culture and importance within Europe. Under the ruling of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, Prague became the capital of European culture. Many other important artists, poets, philosophers and scientists also brought much fame to Prague during this time.
However there were many difficult times for Prague during this era as well. The second defenestration of Prague led to the Thirty Years’ War, and Czechs were forced back to the Catholic Church after a century of following Protestant teachings. The population rose and fell several times, due to wars, plagues and the growth of the Jewish population.
The population of Prague continued to grow into the 18th and 19th Centuries with the Industrial Revolution’s economical power and the Czech National Revival, which encouraged the influx of Czechs to Prague, causing the German population to fall.
After World War I, the first Czechoslovakia Republic was formed under Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (T.G. Masaryk). However, this did not last long as Prague and Czechoslovakia was invaded and placed under Nazi control during World War II.
In 1945, Czechoslovakia was liberated by both the American forces from the west and the Soviet forces from the east. This led to a strong relationship with the Soviet Union and for the next 4 decades, Czechoslovakia underwent a post-war communist era. This ended in the late 1980’s with a student demonstration, called the Velvet Revolution, which was a peaceful movement which eventually allowed Czechoslovakia to separate itself from the Soviet Union’s grip and form its own nation. In 1993, Czechoslovakia became the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the ‘Peaceful Divorce’.
Since then, Prague has been the capital of the Czech Republic, a free and democratic nation, operating with a prime minister and a president with a parliamentary government.
Important Information: Prague is located in the Schengen Zone, which is a free-travel zone within the European Union. It includes 26 countries in total. Depending on where you are coming from, you might need to secure a visa for the Schengen Zone before visiting the Czech Republic. Please be sure to consider this fact before making plans to visit Prague so that you do not experience any problems upon arrival. Also be be aware that the Czech Republic uses the Czech Korona (czk) rather than the euro since we are not in the eurozone. We look forward to your visit!