Monday, April 12, 2021

Prague Visit 2021

Prague is easily one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  I do like visiting but after a few days I'm always glad to come to Brno.  While Prague is beautiful there are always way too many tourists making it crowded.  There are times when I'm in Prague that I forget that I'm still in Czechland because I don't hear a lot of Czech.  Plenty of German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, French, or Korean.  In 2018 the city had close to something like 8 million tourists.  Not so right now.

It was weird being in Prague this weekend because the city seemed so empty.  There were a couple of times that I passed some families out with their guidebooks looking while viewing some of the usual highlights but when I got close enough I was surpassed to hear them actually speaking Czech.  I suppose that one benefit of the lockdowns is that Czechs are able to explore the capital without all of the foreign tourists.  

I've never seen the Old Town Square so empty before.  I would never have imagined seeing the Charles Bridge without any people.

There are usually hundreds of people standing in front of the astronomical clock at the top of every hour but there was no one at 9 am on Sunday.  

Prague now has a new monument at the square near the astronomical clock, across from the Jan Hus memorial.  Well more like a new, replacement monument.

I've always referred to Marian columns as "plague columns" because I thought that they were usually a memorial to the end of the plague.  But it turns out that some were also built for other reasons.

The original column was built in 1650 to commemorate the Battle of Prague in 1648 and the end of the Thirty Years' War.  After Rome, Munich, and Vienna, it was the fourth oldest Marian Column in Europe. The Hapsburg Monarchy wanted to reestablish control of its territory so after the war Marian columns were errected across its lands.

On 3 November 1918, as the Austro-Hungarian Empire was about to break up and Czechoslovakia becoming an independent country, the the column in Prague was torn down.  It was apparently torn down because some people viewed it as a symbol of both the monarchy and Catholicism.  

In 1990 the Marian Column Restoration Society was formed with the goal of replacing the monument but they faced decades of challenges.  Some people wanted the the statue back for historical reasons and viewed it as an import work of art.  On the other side, some people said that it marked the start of the occupation by the Hapsburgs and the reintroduction of Catholicism of Bohemia so it was opposed by both Atheists and the Protestant Church.

The replica and its installation was paid completely by private donations.  The city didn't contribute any funds. 

Last month the Million Moments for Democracy group sprayed 25.000 white crosses on the cobblestone square to mark the anniversary of the country's first Covid-19 death, to commemorate the more than 24.800 people who have died, and to highlight the government's missteps in handling the epidemic.  The crosses were originally only supposed to be there for a day but the city agreed to let them remain until they were washed away by the rain.

People have been chalking names and dates of deaths next to the crosses to commemorate lost loved ones.

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