Story and photos by Tom Weber
a restful night's sleep under five-star sheets at the Nouveau Art Palace
Hotel (Palace) in Praha (Prague), I'm wide awake with loads of time
all to myself before I meet up later in the day with my band of merry
media, international travel writers and photographers invited by Insight
Vacations (Insight) to sample a portion of its Bohemian Rhapsody
journey through the pearls of the old Habsburg Empire: Prague, Vienna
Here in the heartbeat of Bohemia, the locals
jumpstart their day with a friendly greeting of dobrý den
(hello or good day in Czech) to fellow passersby, shopkeepers and anyone
else they come into contact with at first light. So, dobrý
den to you, too.
The Palace, an Insight signature hotel,
sits smack dab in the middle of the city's UNESCO World Heritage-protected
historic center and is just a leisurely stroll to three, must-see locales
of the Czech
Republic's pedestrian-friendly capital city: the National Museum,
Wenceslas Square and Jindrisska Tower. Countless other iconic spots
abound around Prague, but we'll take on this trio in an impromptu photo
shoot and leave the rest of Praha for framing once Insight's Bohemian
Rhapsody journey officially gets underway this evening.
Lens caps off? Then, let's go!
The National Museum of Prague (NM) is not
a stand-alone structure, but a series of 11 buildings spread across
the city, each showcasing a different discipline that includes history,
the arts, music, natural history and a voluminous library. All together,
these buildings house over 14 million pieces of the Czech Republic's
The NM's main building is surrounded by
a park and is located at the top of a small hill that stands vigil over
Wenceslas Square below.
Built in 1891, the NM's main building survived
World War II bombing raids and the Soviet invasion of 1968, but it suffered
structural damage during the construction of Prague's metro system and
the North-South highway in the late 1970s.
Emptied of its nearly seven million pieces
of artifacts, the main building is now under renovation and expected
to be as good as new sometime in 2016.
If Praha is the heart of Bohemia, then
Wenceslas Square is the true pulse of this vibrant, tourist-friendly
The focal point for the business and cultural
communities within the New Town neighborhood, Wenceslas Square, a former
horse trading market during the Middle Ages, is named in honor of King
Wenceslas IV, Bohemia's patron saint.
Not a square in the true sense, Wenceslas
is more of a long rectangle of cobble and greenbelts placed in the center
of a two-sided boulevard lined by a host of the city's iconic hotels,
trendy shops and outdoor cafes. And, while street performers and musicians
grab your attention and entertain above ground, Praha's Metro Line A
glides along directly underneath.
Many historical events have occurred here,
none more tragic than what occurred on January 16, 1969 when local university
student Jan Palach set himself on fire as a political protest against
the end of the Prague Spring that resulted in the invasion of then Czechoslovakia
by the former Soviet Union.
More recent, Wenceslas Square served as
the epicenter for the Velvet Revolution, a series of protests and demonstrations
in the winter of 1989 that led to the peaceful end of 41-years of Communist
rule and the beginning of Czechoslovakia's parliamentary republic.
Known as 'The City of a Hundred Spires,"
Prague's skyline is dotted with over a thousand towers, some of which
are open to the public and afford visitors like us a great opportunity
to get above the roar of the crowd and look out across a magical city
that was once the seat of the Holy Roman Empire.
Just down the street from my hotel in the
old Hay Market is the Church of Saints Henry and Cunigunde and it's
65.7 meters high Jindrisska Tower, the city's tallest, free-standing
Founded in 1351, this house of worship
added the stone bell tower in 1599. In 2002, the interior of the tower
was remodeled for commercial use, including a restaurant and museum,
but retained the structure's original stone facade by employing a full-scale
concrete tower inside.
For about $3.00 USD, you can ride the lift
up to the tenth floor, climb a short, winding staircase to the belfry,
pop open a series of windows, aim your camera and just fire away.
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.
Rhapsody: Between Cairo and Berlin; Czeching
Out A Bohemian Rhapsody; Postcards
from Prague; The
Czech Republic A Little Jewel, Part 2; A
Brief Break in Brno