Municipal House also played an important role in the history of the Czech nation: in 1918 the proclamation of the independent state of Czechoslovakia took place here. The building became important again during the Velvet Revolution when meetings were held here between the Civic Forum and the communist regime in November of 1989.
Our guided tour through Municipal House was very informative
After my foray into Czech Art Nouveau architecture I strolled back through the Jewish Quarter to the banks of the Vltava River. My plan was to catch a boat tour on this historic river and get a different perspective of the city. I arrived on the Knights of the Cross Square right in front of the entrance to the Charles Bridge. Next to the Baroque Church of St. Francis on the north side of the square I walked down a set up stone stairs that took me right underneath the Charles Bridge.
Our boat is moored underground and ready for departure
Long and narrow sightseeing boats were parked in this underground space, and after offering us some soft drinks and sweet treats, our captain / tour guide turned on the diesel engines and we slowly cruised out onto the open river.
Moving out slowly underneath the Charles Bridge
With a length of 430 kilometres, the Vltava River is the longest river in the Czech Republic. It separates the eastern city districts of Old Town, New Town and the Jewish Quarter from the Little Quarter and the Prague Castle District on the western bank of the river. Our captain explained that during its course through the City of Prague, the Vltava covers 30 kilometres, 10 islands and 17 bridges. Many European capital cities could be reached from here through different canals: in the 1800s it would be possible to get to Berlin in six days, Amsterdam in 10 days, Paris and Vienna in three weeks. The Vltava River has obviously held huge importance throughout the history of the Czech nation.
More sailors on the Vltava River
As we were crossing underneath the arches of the Charles Bridge, our guide explained that the bridge is protected by icebreakers. On the west side our boat took us into a side arm of the Vltava called the Devil’s Canal which has often been used as a stand-in for Venice in different movies. This canal was built to supply power to eight water mills as the water flow was very fast in this area. Although this used to be one of the poorer areas of Prague in previous centuries, the neighbourhood surrounding the Devil’s Canal is now among the most coveted real estate in the entire city.
Slowly sailing through the Devil’s Canal
As the canal came to an end we turned around and our captain pointed out the watermarks left on the old buildings here, leftovers of the Great Flood of 2002. The water level at that time was 6.5 metres (more than 20 feet) higher than now. This so-called 100-year flood affected countries such as the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Croatia. For Prague in particular this was the worst flood in 200 years. The flood caused huge amount of property damage, but fortunately the loss of life was small due to timely evacuations. A large amount of money was invested to reconstruct damaged properties, and according to our captain, Prague is nicer now than it was before.
Patio restaurants on the banks of the Vltava River
Crossing back east across the river, our captain pointed out the Metronome, a symbol of freedom and changing times. Although not operational any more, this gigantic metronome replaced the largest Stalin statue in the world which had roughly the same size as the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Prague today is one of Europe’s most beautiful and popular destinations, a far cry from the grey and drab city of Communist times.
Prague is full of beautifully restored buildings
We had reached the end of our boat trip and slowly made our way back into the underground docking area below the Charles Bridge. This boat trip had definitely introduced me to a whole new perspective of Prague. Now it was the late afternoon and the weather was slowly started to turn sunny again. I wanted to explore the western bank of the Vltava River and started crossing the historic Charles Bridge, one of Prague’s most well-known landmarks.
Heading back toward the Charles Bridge