On a visit to Prague in 2007 our first planned destination was the City’s old town, which was reached by crossing the Charles Bridge and I know that it was overcast and there was no sun to help cheer things up but the famous statues were dull and grimy and seemed to me to be desperately in need of a good scrub.
One statue, St John Nepomuk, is supposed to bring luck to those who touch it and it is polished bright where tourists rub their hands on it. If the City spread the word that touching any statue would bring similar good fortune then they would all be gleaming clean in no time at all. Actually I found this statue a bit surprising because poor old John Nepomuk didn’t seem to have a great deal of luck himself in his lifetime as he was a Jesuit priest who was tortured and killed by King Wenceslas in 1393 and his body was thrown into the river.
The streets were busy and we walked until reaching the old town, which opened up into a spacious and welcoming central square that was free of traffic so we were able to wander aimlessly around looking ever upwards and admiring the buildings that surrounded it. In the centre is the Jan Hus monument, a religious reformer who was burnt at the stake on 6th July 1415 for his beliefs. I was beginning to detect a gruesome pattern here. In the Middle Ages there always came a time where persisting with a point of view became dangerous to life and limb and poor old Jan obviously did not get his timing right, a bit like Thomas More! This statue needed a good clean as well.
In another part of the square is the City’s famous astronomical clock and we wandered over to take up a good position to see it strike eleven. It really was very impressive to look at but not nearly so good that it justified the city authorities blinding its creator after it was completed just so that he couldn’t make another one elsewhere.
“So what do you think of it” he probably asked,
“It’s very good, yes, we like it,” they said
“But just stand still while we poke your eyes out with this stick, now sod off”
“Ouch! What about my money?”
There’s gratitude for you!
In another part of the city near the castle and cathedral there were many fine buildings and many others were undergoing restoration. Amongst them was the Ćernĩn Palace, which is the Foreign Office building and where the Foreign Minister Tomáš Masaryk fell from a top floor window and died in 1948. He was the only non-communist in a new communist Government and the guidebook said that it might have been an accident. Somehow I doubt that!