Former capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia, favoured Hapsburg outpost in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then capital of Czechoslovakia and now of the Czech Republic, Prague has absorbed and continues to reflect vestiges of myriad influences over its thousand-year history. Evolved through the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras, its architecture is an amalgamation of styles yet is unique and distinctly Prague. The ancient castle is the largest in the world. The university the oldest in Central Europe. The medieval Charles Bridge one of the best known spans in the world. It is no coincidence that a “Bohemian” in English usually denotes a writer, artist or musician with a progressive lifestyle. The seat of the region of Bohemia has birthed and homed not only Czech maestros of the arts but also influential masters of German literature such as Franz Kafka.
My personal observations have changed little through three visits across 30 years – from wide-eyed child to world-weary adult. Throughout, it has left a similar impression, as of something out of a fairy tale, or a dream that will vanish once you wake. But the pastel colours and medieval archways and spires that resemble something from wizard literature – they are real. Indeed, there is something magical here, and occasionally something tragic, but it’s hard to put a finger on it. It is enough to enjoy the spell.