There are so many options for history, art, and culture lovers in Prague, it can be difficult to choose what to see if you only have a short amount of time. Here I review two historical spots, both very different both in my expectations and my actual experience.
The Museum of Communism wasn’t on the top of my list, I tend to be much more interested in history before the 1900’s and recent history is for sure not at the top of my list. But it was open late and my friend wanted to go so I figured why not?
I was just a kid when the Berlin Wall fell and Communism in Eastern Europe ended. I remember hearing bits and pieces and understanding that it was a good thing but not comprehending much more than that. Even as an adult, I know very little about the rise of Communism, it’s affects on society and individuals, and it’s eventual end. I recently heard an episode of The Moth Radio Show in which they interviewed an older gentleman who had not only lived through it, he had also survived being interrogated. He recounts the hours of torture until he finally lost his will and confessed to crimes he did not actually commit. It was hard enough to listen to, you can imagine my hesitation on going to an entire exhibit on it.
The exhibit was extremely well done, plenty of information in a well structured overview. I think what was most important for me was the reminder that this could happen again, and sadly, in some places, it still is happening. This is one of the unexpected gems of Prague, one that I would move up to a “do not miss” if you are in the city for at least three days.
On the other hand, I had been looking forward to seeing The Prague Castle. Maybe it was a lack of planning. Or maybe it was the fact that the place was genuinely packed on account of us being there on a free day, but either way I did not have the amazing experience here I was expecting.
First off, we followed google maps to get there, which had us enter on the Golden Lane side of the castle. The Golden Lane was where the defenders of the castle, servants, and goldsmiths lived. These 16th century dwellings are truly the original tiny houses. One of them is also where Frank Kafka lived there from 1916-1917. I think this would normally be a great place to visit, but the crowds made it very hard for me to enjoy.
Upstairs however was a cool exhibit of military wear from the 16-1700’s. Unfortunately, because we followed google maps, we learned that you can’t get to the main part of the castle from the Golden Lane, so we had to exit and walk all the way around to get to the normal entrance, not a short or easy walk, mind you.
The main thing to see at the palace is St. Vitus Cathedral, which was built starting in 1344. Note that it wasn’t officially finished until 1929 due to historical events such as the Hussite Wars.
The cathedral is neo-gothic with some pretty great gargoyles, but my favorite part is the Mucha stained glass window.
There is a ton more to see at the palace, but we couldn’t find any good maps or information. That coupled with the hoards of people meant that we chose not to see much more. We did go into The Story of the Prague Castle which was a good exhibit but they don’t allow photography. Overall, if you are going to Prague and want to visit the castle, I would recommend either doing a lot of research before going or hiring a guide to walk you through.