Czech out these stories, statues & streets

Bimble.com
6 min readMar 15, 2022

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by Omega Love

With a history that spans over a millennium, it’s no wonder why Prague is famed as a cradle of beguiling arts, architecture and astronomical clocks. Every time I’ve visited Prague, I’ve been enamoured by its fantasy-like streets, scarcely touched by the 21st century. It was a city of artists, alchemists and dreamers who paved their way through literature, philosophy, science, religion, art and music. And it’d be my absolute pleasure to virtually bimble with you through the labyrinth of medieval cobbled streets once trodden upon by mystics, merchants, monarchs and invading armies. This is a personal exploration into the unexposed secrets and stories that shroud Prague in historical magic.

Grand Café Orient, House of the Black Madonna

Wouldn’t you love to be able to tell your family, friends and maybe your Insta followers that you drank a cappuccino in the only Cubist café in the world? Well, even if that’s not your top prio, with this recommendation of mine, you get a two-for-the-price-of-one kind of deal in terms of bucket list ticking.

Before you get into the Grand Café for your caffeine fix, step back, and take a moment to appreciate the abstract structure of this five-story gem. Turn your head to the northeast of the building and you’ll see one of Prague’s emblematic statutes — the Black Madonna. Some say the original Baroque buildings she adorned were burnt in a fire and the statue was the only item to survive, others theorize that the architect Josef Gočár used a material that would turn black overtime. Either way, the modest artwork and angular building it adorns are jewels for design and architecture fans alike.

Now, step inside the Grand Café. Is your stomach drawn to the fanciful cakes occupying the buffet bar, your eyes mesmerised by the clean lines of the mirrors, chandeliers, wall designs and tables? I’ll leave you to indulge in the avant-garde architecture and savour the taste of their “věneček” speciality — a custard-filled choux pastry that charmingly nods to Cubism. You’ll work out why.

Oh, and if you’re in the mood for a little zeitgeist cake, opt for the coronavirus and vaccine cakes. Not sure we’re already at the stage of punning the pandemic but it’s a novel shot for your Insta stories.

St. Vitus statue, Charles Bridge

Next stop — Prague’s most menacing and awe-inspiring bridge — welcome to the Charles Bridge. Undoubtedly, you’ll want to pose along this ultra-scenic bridge for some picturesque Prague shots, that’s cool and all, but seriously let’s dodge past the selfie-takers for now and appreciate the cultural magnificence of this place. You’ll see people sacrilegiously touching a plaque dedicated to St. John Nepomuk thanks to his courageous story and a pinch-of-salt folklore. But today we’re focusing on the legend of Saint Vitus.

Vitus’s story takes place around the year 302, so let’s journey back in time and try to understand the religious impact of a devout catholic teenage boy like Vitus curing the Roman emperor’s son of epilepsy. Emperor Diocletian was a fierce pagan but grateful to Vitus and wanted him to denounce his faith, which Vitus was unprepared to do. Resultantly, he was persecuted at age 13. Vitus was fed to hungry lions that he tamed at the sign of his cross, which is why the statue in front of you depicts Vitus with lions calmly resting under his feet. Next, the emperor had Vitus thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil, yet he miraculously emerged unscathed. Finally, he was beheaded but his undying Christian faith lives on and is duly represented at different spots in Prague.

Moving on guys… don’t get lost in the crowd!

Golden Lane, Prague Castle

Hidden within the depths of Prague castle, lies Golden Lane — a striking street lined with candy-coloured houses. But beyond the beauty of this charmingly narrow street lies layers of history journeying all the way back to the 16th century.

Legend has it that Golden Lane was inhabited by alchemists during the reign of Emperor Rudolf II. Rudolf was a patron of alchemists and astrologers, and like many people of his time, he dreamed of discovering the Philosopher’s Stone. However, the more likely story behind the lane’s name comes from the fact goldsmiths lived here once upon a time. To get a glimpse of the golden armoury that was produced, head to house no.15.

A fortune teller’s misfortune, №14

The neighbouring house, no.14 was home to Madame de Thebes — a clairvoyant during World War II. Un(fortunately) she used her cards to forecast the fall of the Third Reich and Hitler’s death which resulted in her arrest and murder by the Gestapo.

Kafka’s temporary crib, №22

As a writer myself, I couldn’t take you to Prague and not mention one of the most notable literary figures that ever lived — Franz Kafka. Blessed with a talent to mix realism with obscure fantasy, Kafka’s short stories, letters and novels address themes like existentialism, personal isolation, strained relationships, and anxiety. He characterised his relationship with his birth city as both loving and claustrophobic with his much-quoted line:

“Prague never lets you go… this dear little mother has sharp claws.”

Golden Lane was a magnet to artistic and literary bohemians of the era, so Kafka didn’t think twice about moving into his sister’s house (no.22) between 1916 and 1917. It was here where Kafka turned words into gold, writing the set of stories entitled Ein Landarzt (A Country Doctor) and found inspiration for his notoriously famous and unfinished novel, Das Schloss (The Castle). Throughout Prague you’ll find jarring statues in tribute to Franz Kafka (Czech out my Bimble list to know where they are).

Oh-so-much-more to explore

I hope you’ve enjoyed perusing the streets of Prague with me, hearing the sharp sounds of straight-talking Czechs and most of all, been blown away by the abundance of legends, lies and love that has historically filled these streets, and undoubtedly, continues to do so, even today. Chances are you’ve been impressed by the Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque facades jostling for space among the narrow streets and hooked on stories left behind by surrealists, astrologers, heroes and villains. And I just scratched the surface.

Do you want to know where the ultimate place is to get an incredible birds-eye view of Prague, overlooking the red-tiled roofs and city spires? Or which river inspired Smetana’s Moldau symphony, one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of 19th-century classical music? To discover these finds, you can continue exploring Prague through my Bimble list. I’ve also created a list of must-visit restaurants and cafes in Prague — I’ve catered to just about every cuisine and caffeine fix you desire.

Czech you laterrrr

Omega x

All photos taken by Omega Love.

If you have a story you’d like to share about a great little place or other bimbling experiences, get in touch with us at hello@bimble.com.

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