If you ever have a heated argument with a Czech, don’t stand near a window. They invented the term defenestration.
The great thing about driving through a continent is the freedom to go where you want. We were heading to Berlin but realized Prague was just a short detour, so we headed there to check it out.
The absolute best way to see a city is through a walking tour. Bus tours are quite frankly boring, and no guide at all means you miss things. We did a free walking tour in Prague, and our guide was a student in Political Science and International Relations (oh the kindred vibes warm my heart), plus he had a good sense of humour!
Levan first told us about all the times people have been thrown out of windows (defenestration) in the Czech Republic. There was the launching of seven members of city council by a group of radical Czech Hussites in 1419. Then there was a second event in 1618 when four Catholic regents met their untimely death-by-window that led to the Thirty Years War.
Now colleagues at home, don’t get too excited. Both events were about religion, and I’m not at all promoting defenestration as an appropriate way to conduct business. But you can fantasize all the same!
Then we wandered over to the famous Prague astronomical clock (the third of its kind in the world). He told us that people are often disappointed by the moving figurines because they expect fireworks in today’s age, but the clock was quite extraordinary in its day.
In fact, the clock was so happening that certain leaders in Prague decided to gouge out the eyes and cut off the tongue of its creator, Alois Jirasek, so he couldn’t share how it worked with other cities. He returned the insult by jumping into the gears of the clock to mess up its mechanics.
While that didn’t end well for Alois, he would have had the satisfaction of knowing that the clock didn’t work for the next 100 years until someone was born smart enough to fix it.
And of course you can’t tour Prague without hearing about 20th century history and the take-over by the Nazis. We learned about Reinhard Heydrich, otherwise known as the butcher of Prague and an architect of the holocaust.
Heydrich hated Jews so much that when he set up office in the Prague concert hall, he was offended that one of the statues of famous composers flanking the roof turned out to be Mendelsshon, a Jew. (If you don’t play piano, you’ll know Mendelsshon from the Wedding March played when the bride goes down the aisle).
Heydrich ordered two henchman to take the offending statue down; the only problem was that his henchman didn’t know who Mendelsshon was. They weren’t about to ask because Heydrich hanged people at the drop of a hat.
To determine which statue was the correct one, they decided it had to be the one with the biggest nose. They measured all of the statues from Mozart to Wagner, and destroyed the one with the most remarkable nose.
The only problem? The statue with the biggest nose turned out to be Richard Wagner, Hitler’s preferred German composer. No one knows what happened to the henchman, but it is suspected that it was not good.
In all seriousness, Prague is a beautiful city with great views from the river. We stayed in an apartment outside of the old town so we had peace and quiet, but easy access through the metro to the touristy area.
We took a cruise on the river, because you get a different perspective of the city from down below. We also walked around as the sun was setting, and got beautiful pictures from the Charles Bridge.
But we didn’t hang out near any windows!