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Prague Spotlight

Inspiration comes easy in the City of a Hundred Spires

By David Farley

November 20th, 2006

Pop quiz – which one of the following statements about Prague is false: along with Lyon and Turin, Prague is the capital of white magic; eggs are one of the main ingredients in the bewitching 650-year-old Charles Bridge; Mozart loved Prague and was more well-received here than in Vienna; Franz Kafka, a lifelong Prague resident and one of the greatest Czech writers, referred to it as a mother with claws that never let go.

Before we give the answer, consider this: After the Iron Curtain came down in 1989, curious travelers caught a glimpse of Prague as a beautiful but beaten down city, stuck in a miasma of gloom, as the frowning masses shuffled by centuries-old facades long blackened with soot and smog.

But that was then. The world has since rushed in to re-discover the city whose ancient nicknames – Golden Prague, the City of a Hundred Spires – speak of a place that has long captured the atavistic side of the western imagination. And despite the crush of tourists who invade the city every summer, Prague is just that: it's a bewildering mixture of architectural styles – where Gothic burgher houses hug Baroque palaces that sit next to Art Nouveau apartment buildings; it's a mishmash of twisting medieval alleyways and lanes, conspiring to render the naïve traveler directionless within minutes of wandering; it's a beer-lovers Mecca, where the brew is arguably the world's tastiest (and affordable enough to have seconds or thirds). Moreover, it's a city with enough soul to bring the traveler back again and again, hoping to discover why this city – Prague, the capital of Bohemia – has a pull like no other.

What lures people to Prague may never be found, but travelers will have fun trying to find out. Three days will be enough to see the main sites – the castle, the Old Town, and Mala Strana – but there's so much more to Prague. Five days will allow the traveler to dig a bit deeper, to stroll the cobbled streets with abandon, stopping occasionally for a pint of delicious Czech beer; and a week will leave time for seeing some of the wonderful off-the-beaten-path parts – like Zizkov and Vinohrady – of the city that that few tourists take the time to discover.

Which brings us to the answer to our pop quiz: which one of the above statements was false? None, of course. With a city as rich in history and culture as Prague, we could have never made this stuff up.

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