Today I would like to tell you something about Prague. Prague is a beautiful town, nobody who has ever been there could argue this fact.. Prague is a glorious town, a historic town, and is celebrated in songs, tales and narratives as well. This town has grown for more than one thousand years!
The Prague territory had been settled in ancient times. The Slavonic troupes came in about the eight-century and marked the change in Prague to an important political, cultural and trading center. Prague was mentioned in writing in the record of Ibrahim Ibn Jakob in the year 965 for the first time. He reported: "Prague is about a one hundred years old town built from stone and lime and its trade belongs to the richest ones". The basis of the town had been the Prague stronghold, today�s Hradčany Castle. And, it is under this fortified dominance, the town has grown.
In the early middle ages a town was something quite different from what we expect today. It was a place with a bigger concentration of inhabitants, who relied upon foodstuff production of their own, with a central market place playing an important role. Prague�s location in the center of Europe was an excellent one from this point of view. Prague was situated on the crossroad of European business channels - the ways from sunny Italy to the cold European North crossed here with the old salt and amber ways. This was the place where to the excellent furs from the North and East were delivered and even slaves were traded here as the old St. Wenceslas Legend reported. Prague was the seat of the ruling Prince, later of the Bohemian King and twice in its history; it played the role of an imperial town, the capital of Czechoslovakia and today the capital of the Czech Republic.
The town has grown on both banks of the Vltava River, which supplied all necessary drinking water and served as a transport medium as well. The banks of the river were low and sandy, excellent for loading and unloading of goods and through its connection to the river Elbe it played a role of a European shipping thoroughfare. Yes, it is truth that sometimes, especially in the spring, the river flooded the area. It is interesting that in the 12th and 13th centuries, when the biggest floods occurred, the Prague burghers were efficient enough to organize and financially ensure that the ground surface in the town center around the today�s Old Town Square was elevated by about 3 meters. The necessary soil was taken from behind the town fortifications thus building a moat, which made the rampart even stronger. Today, we are reminded of this moat by the name by the name of the big Prague Center Avenue "Na Příkopě" (meaning "On the Moat" inEnglish)
The biggest expansion Prague ever experienced took place in the 14th century during the reign of the Czech King and Roman Emperor of the German Nation Charles the IV. It was he who turned Prague into the imperial Capital. He was said to be quite a personality. In the 14th century, the majority of all European rulers were illiterate, Charles was the exception. It is not known exactly what schooling he received, but he grew up in the Royal French Court, which performed the top of European culture and power of that time. As a nephew of the French queen, he had free access to court life, he saw and enjoyed the splendor of all court ceremonies, and he was on friendly terms with the next pope Clement VI. It is said that he probably visited the famous Sorbonne University, he spoke five languages fluently - Czech, German, French, Italian and Latin and he even authored his own biography. He had farreaching contacts among the European nobility, was said to have had insight, vision, high intellect. He was active, diligent and he was convinced of his singular role as the Lord´s anointed one.
His first and utmost important deed was getting the pope�s permission to found the Prague Archbishop Seat - since than a freestanding Czech Church Province has existed. The foundation of an international University including the privilege of a theological faculty followed. Professors, foreign diplomatic legations, men of arts, craftsmen, scientists and others came to Prague. The Capital grew rapidly. Charles visited Avignon, which, with the Pope´s presence, was changing into a capital as well. There Charles saw the negatives of such a process. Avignon was ove-populated, the cost of land rose immensely, and the town was bound by its fortifications. Charles, choosing another more genial solution, enclosed a large territory on the right bank of Vltava behind the town fortifications to the Old Town. The added area was so immense, for medieval circumstances so imposing, that it covered all the territory needs of Prague until the end of the 19th Century. Fantastic!
This urban miracle was started on March 8. 1348. On this date Charles signed the Foundation Privilege of the New Town of Prague and on March 26, the foundation stone was laid. This fact proves the layout plans and organization were ready at the time. Who did it? Nobody knows for sure, but the odds are that the plans were maid under Charles supervision. The New Town differs from all other European medieval towns enormously. There are three big squares - Václvské, Karlovo and Senov ážné, where, for instance the Karlovo square with its 80 550 m2 is the biggest square of Europe. All the squares were radially interconnected with a circular link, the street net made rectangular blocks, and the main streets were up to 26 m wide! Charles wanted his capital quickly and therefore developed a special, very effective method of his own: He ruled - everybody, who bought a plot of land in the New Town territory, had to begin the building within one month, and in 18 months he had to live in his new house! And nobody, who knew the King could ever hesitate a second. His orders had to be taken seriously! And all the houses had to be built of stone - a big difference if compared with other European towns where wood was used as basic building material. Each house had to have two floors and its position had to follow the town plan. No exceptions were tolerated.
And Charles continued his building fantasy. The next step was to completely rebuild the old Royal Palace in the Hradčany Castle in the style of the royal palaces he had seen in France, next the came the exceptional Charles Bridge; and than he built churches and founded monasteries. His idea was to not only have a spectacular town, but to educate decent inhabitants in his Kingdom as well. If today , by some catastrophe, the structures Charles IV. built in Prague, would disappear, we would be shocked! Dear Charles IV., we thank you so much!
After the time of Charles IV., stagnation came -Husite wars, destruction,lack of money, a short period of Jagello Dopis pro naši autorku build-up.
Another good period for Prague came during the reign of the Emperor Rudolf II. This Hapsburg turned Prague into an imperial capital again. Prague started to be a European Center of arts, sciences and diplomats. It is interesting to note that the fashionable language here was Spanish! The Empress Maria Teresa rebuilt the Royal Castle and gave the Hradcany panorama its typical appearance. During her time new palaces were built there and the facades in the complex were unified, thus becoming a unique enormous complex of residential, military, sacral and other buildings. According the Guinness Book of Records, the Prague Hradčany Castle is the largest castle in the world. At the end of the 18th Century Prague was a spectacular baroque European town
And then the 19th Century began. This was the time of Czech resurrection. In 1866 Austria lost the war against Prussia, political bonds were loosening and Czechs started to gain political and economic power. Little by little ,Czech social, economic, and political influence rose. New buildings were erected, including the National Theatre, National Museum, Concert Hall Rudolfinum, Municipal Museum, the St. Vitus Cathedral was finished (after 600 years!), Vltava embankments with their splendid art nouveau houses, whole regions like Vinohrady and Karlín were built, the Jewish Town demolition proceeded and instead of it a new modern Prague quarter with the Paris Avenue were built. The town fortification walls were partly torn down, new bridges crossing Vltava were built, the Exhibition Area and the Outlook Tower as well. Gas lamps illuminated the town and the foundations of Prague transportation system were worked-out. A master job was the system of getting trains into the very Center of the town. And the development continued - the famous Municipal House was a built, and new bank and private owned condominium houses blossomed.
After this era came the wars. The Czech Kingdom became the Czechoslovak Republic. The blossom of democratic Czechoslovakia was terminated by the German occupation and after the war, communism was enforced. This marked the end of further development. Prague changed into a gray, sad town without life, without joy. A wrench of ugly communist blockhouses was built in the outskirts. Thankfully, the communist builders were not capable to erect new buildings in the center thus leaving these areas free for further builders. Today, new modern palaces made of glass and steel have been growing in these places. Even Bill Gates has his new house here now - he wants to govern his European empire from Prague.
This is enough for today. If you don�t believe me come and see for yourself.Yours Marcela
firstname.lastname@example.org, January 2006
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