Crossing Karlův Most
Story and photos by Tom Weber
last spotted (I'm always lagging behind), the effervescent band of merry
media 25 journalists and photographers invited by Insight Vacations
(Insight) to sample its Bohemian Rhapsody journey through Prague,
Vienna and Budapest was making its way down the hill from Prague
Castle, passing by Saint Wenceslas Vineyard, Bohemia's oldest, and heading
in the direction of Staré Město (Old Town) for a Bohemian crystal
To get there, we've got to cross the Vltava
River, the waterway that separates Lesser Town from Old Town, via the
city's most iconic expanse: the Karlův Most, or Charles Bridge.
Prior to crossing the bridge, Neira, Insight's
chatty tour director-slash-storyteller, stops dead in her tracks on
the cobble of Čertovka (Little Venice) where tiny canal boats
bob up and down in the water below while countless "love locks"
cling to the railings above looks us all straight in the eye
and delivers a one-worded warning: PICKPOCKETS.
Despite being one of Europe's safest cities,
Prague is crawling with "artful dodgers" straight out of Dickens'
Oliver Twist just waiting for the opportunity to turn one of
the best days of my life into a nightmare.
To emphasize her point, Neira explains,
"Several years ago I had nearly €4,000 stolen out of my purse
right up there on Charles Bridge." She adds, "Don't panic,
but be extra careful."
Clutching our bags tightly, as if Fagin
and his boys are lurking right around the next corner, our band of merry
media makes its way up the stairs and onto Charles Bridge where we merge
with the crowd. So far, so good.
Named in honor of Charles IV, the King
of Bohemia and later Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the Stone Bridge,
as it was originally called, began construction in 1357 and was completed
in the early 1600s. Stretching 621 m bank-to-bank and 10 m wide, the
16-arched Charles Bridge is protected by three towers, one of which
is considered to be the most exemplary Gothic-style civil building in
The bridge is accented on both sides
by a continuous line of 30 religious statues and statuaries in
predominately Baroque style that were originally erected between
the 17th and 19th centuries. Due to floodings and man-made catastrophes
(read, wars) over the years, most of the sculptures on display
today are replicas of the originals.
One statue in particular, depicting
St. John of Nepomuk he the court priest of King Wenceslas
IV who, legend has it, was killed at the request of the king and
chucked off "The Chuck" because he refused to tell his
royal highness about the queen's confession is supposed
to bring good luck when touched and guarantees the anonymous traveler
a safe return to Prague. And, yes, I touched him and whispered
in his ear, too: "Oh, please bring me back to Praha, John
Speaking of falling to one's death down
into the murky waters of the Vltava, in the movie Mission Impossible,
partially shot on location in Prague, Jim Phelps, the Impossible Missions
Force (IMF) team leader, played by actor Jon Voight, staged his faux
shooting death and plunge off the Charles Bridge to the shock and dismay
of Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise.
Just as bustling as a movie set, Charles
Bridge is filled with tourists, vendors, street artists and performers
who occupy the cobble atop the river, and collectively send out an incredible
vibe that only enhances this jazzy rhapsody of sights and sounds that
is uniquely Bohemian.
Safely on the other side, under the watchful
eye of King Wenceslas IV, who stands vigil at the end of Charles Bridge
and the start of Old Town, I take a quick inventory of my stuff just
to be sure my pockets weren't picked. Camera bag and gear? Check. Mobile
phone? Check. Wallet? Check. Wristwatch? Hey, where's my wristwatch?
Oh, I stopped wearing one a few years ago. Whew!
For complete information on Insight Vacations'
premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including the Bohemian Rhapsody
and 100 other journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE,
or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
Join me in a couple of minutes when we'll
experience a 2,000°F furnace firing up Bohemian crystal, followed
by a stroll over to Prague's Old Town Square to see and hear a 15th
century astronomical clock announce 12 bells.
Rhapsody: Storming the Prague Castle; Bohemian
Rhapsody: Na Zdraví! (A Brewery and A Wine Cellar); Bohemian
Rhapsody: Dobrư Den!; Bohemian
Rhapsody: Between Cairo and Berlin; Czeching
Out A Bohemian Rhapsody; Postcards
from Prague; The
Czech Republic A Little Jewel, Part 2