New Year in Prague

“The next morning earely, being the sixth of July [1636], from thence [Český Brod] to Prague to dinner, being five Dutch miles [ca. 30 kilometers], passing first thorow very pleasant plaines and meddowes, untill we came neere the citie, which is encompassed on both sides with rocks and hils, all planted with vines, having three townes belonging to it, Newstadt, Oldstadt, and the Slostadt; [Schloßstadt / Castle Town] at Newstadt wee entred in at a faire gate, passing thorow into Oldstadt, to his Excellencies [Sir Thomas Howard’s] lodging, which said Stadt is inhabited chiefly by Jewes, who have there foure Synagogues, and in one I saw there a Rabbi circumcise a child, here we were told that all their fruits in the further parts of the countrey were spoyled, as corne, vineyards, and the like, by the aforesaid thunder and lightning with hailestones as big as ones fist, and also divers cattell were then lost: betweene this and the Slostadt runneth a pleasant river called the Muldow, and over it standeth a faire Bridge of stone, as long as London Bridge, over which his Excellencie passed, going to view the Castle, being a stately large built Fort, seated on a high hill within the Slostadt, called Ketschin, [Hradschin/Hradčany] in which the King of Bohemia lived; first wee passed thorow three faire Court-yards, having at one of the gates a guard of Souldiers in which Court-yard there is a statue of S. George on horse-backe in brasse, and a fountaine, then entred we into a spacious hall, having many faire shops in it like unto Westminster, but that their Courts of Iudicature are in other roomes by it: from hence wee went up and passed thorow many faire roomes well hung, and pictures in them, and one roome furnished with English pictures of our Nobilitie, which the King of Bohemia [Frederick, Elector of Pfalz, 1619-1620] was forced to leave.”

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The detailed program of our New Year Prague trip has been composed. For a lucky start and similar continuation of the new year, we set out immediately after recovering from New Year’s Eve night, and on the weekend from 2 to 4 January we visit everything what Sir Thomas Howard, Ambassador of the English King, and his secretary William Crowne saw in their trip of 1636. And even much more, all that the following nearly four centuries have added to Prague.

In this first occasion of our Prague urban exploration series we walk through the historical center, house to house: the Old Town, with a special focus on the former Jewish quarter, the Lesser Side, the streets under the Castle, the little-known world of Pohořelec and Nový Svět. Our focus is on the structure and historical changes of the city quarters, the medieval “Royal Road” from the Powder Tower to the Hradčany, the stories of the medieval and Renaissance houses, the large-scale city planning in the late 19th and early 20th and its results, and the sites of the commercial, literary and social life around the turn of the century, with special respect to the disappeared German and Jewish inhabitants. In the former Jewish district – the current palace quarter around Parížská and Široká streets – we reconstruct the disappeared, centuries-long structure, history and life of the neighborhood with old maps, photos and reports. Of course, wherever our path leads us, we will not keep silent on the themes planned for our later walks: the buildings of early 20th-century architecture, the sites of Nazi and Soviet occupation, or of late 20th-century and contemporary literary and cultural life. And since it is expected to be cold, we will often sit down in some more or less known traditional coffee houses, pubs and restaurants, where we will learn about the history and offerings of the place. And whatever has been lost since the time of Sir Thomas Howard and William Crowne, we will call to life in situ with old photographs and drawings.

I have already booked the accommodation for those registering this far, but for a short period it is still possible to join us at The participation fee is 110 euro (two nights in four-star hotel with breakfast + guide), single room supplement 40 euro. Those who, before 1914, failed to see a Prague that has disappeared since then, can now catch up.

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