Prague, Music and Beauty.

Prague is indeed a beautiful place and well loved by tourists visiting this part of Europe. The architecture offers daily surprises, especially if you walk, interspersed with tram journeys to give the legs a break. Row upon row of elegant and ornate six story buildings twist and wind along the roads that make up the vast central district. Public buildings are ornate and grand, with huge over sized doorways, gold ornament catching the late afternoon sun on French Imperial capped buildings, and threatening black church spires spiking the sky. A castle to outdo all others appears on a nearby hill, oxidised green cones and onion domes add a Byzantine element to the skyline. Prague’s site, spreading out from both sides of the banks of the Vltava river, is spanned by a romantic bridge or two. It’s all too much at times. Did Walt Disney steal his fantasy land towers from Prague’s skyline?

Prague from above

In order to enter the Praghesian frame of mind, attending a classical recital is a good way to start. An evening performance is held weekly at the small 1,000 year old church of St Martin in the Wall. The concert began appropriately with a beautiful rendition of Smetana’s ‘Vltava’, a musical poem now synonymous with this city, which became my earworm for the entire visit. I’ll plant it here for you, dear reader, to remind you of this well-known Czech classic.

Ensemble in St Martin the Wall, Prague OPEN LINK TO SMETANA’s Vltava HERE.

Ancient churches have wonderful acoustics, the perfect setting for serious listening. St Martins is now a decommissioned Christian church devoid of all iconology, well restored with simple white washed walls. The well-known repertoire, one that would appeal to most visitors, included Dvorak, Czechoslovakia’s other great composer, Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Pachelbel, and Albinoni’s famous Adagio in G minor, a piece that always draws tears when played sensitively. Many of Prague’s Catholic churches and Jewish synagogues are now used as classical music venues in the evening. In this way, the local musicians are supported, church restoration becomes possible, and tourists get a smattering of the culture that still runs deep through this touristy town. Unlike her Catholic neighbour, Poland, Czechoslovakia’s population is largely atheistic/agnostic (70%): with so few parishioners, the churches have been put to good use.

Prague Castle Cathedral

One way to approach the lay of the land in Prague is to take a hop on hop off tour. A 24 hour ticket also offers a one hour boat tour and is well worth the money. After the tour, your can revisit other parts of the town with a day’s tram ticket, costing around 100 CK/AU $6. Walking Prague, however, is the best option if you want to get away from the main tourist areas.

Around the back streets inside the Prague castle complex.
Detail of door in Prague
Charles Bridge. Busy with tourists and buskers, but great views of the Vtlava from the bridge.

Another activity, which is completely touristy but well worth it, is a sunset trip along the Vltava river. This is included in the price of the Hop on Hop off bus tour. With a glass of wine in hand as the sun sets over this beautiful and famous city, along with Smetana’s musical ode to the river running through your brain, it’s a lovely way to unwind and let go of any ambivalent feelings you might have about this well visited city.

Around the back streets inside the Prague castle complex.

Like a handsome man, Prague is very nice to look at, but the seduction, I feel, lies very much on the surface. This city didn’t steal my heart. I should have attended more recitals or gone to that green glowing Absinthe bar.

Roof tops, Prague
Around the back streets inside the Prague castle complex.
City views, Prague. Walt was here! Swarming tourists conveniently edited out.

20 thoughts on “Prague, Music and Beauty.”

  1. Oh, thank you, Francesca! With my deep love for Eastern countries Europe has not been a drawcard until recently when the desire to revisit places French has resurfaced in my heart. The other place being Prague to which I have never been. I am somewhat surprised it did not tug at your heartstrings . . . I wonder now how it would leave mine . . . . Had to smile at your great link to the Berliner Philharmonic playing ‘Vltava’ . . . . beautifully played ’tis true but I wonder whether you did not hear a more ‘real’ version 🙂 ? I read some of the comments and was taken by one which called it a German ‘interpretation’ without the Slavic soul . . . . uhuh, SO agree. Am not of the race but understand the huge difference having brought up shedding tears as only the Slavs can make you do . . . . . wonderful post . . .

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    1. It is so true Eha. The version I heard was far more moving, spare, poetic, and just perfect for the setting with only three violins and a cello. I searched the whole of youtube to find a slavic version, and in the end, added the Berliner Philarmonic version because it started with the violins and was brief and loud enough when played on a small device. The version in st Martins did tug indeed and I really should have gone to all the other concerts, especially the one in the Spanish Synagogue.
      I am so pleased you commented on the interpretation of this- now I’ll search for one with Slavic soul.

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      1. Trust me: shopping Friday here Down Under and . . . .the best ‘spoken of in the village’ seems to be the ‘zevnikov’ version, from the 2015 Christmas Concert by the Gimnazija Kranj orchestrs in Slovenia [not Slovakia as one would have thought?] but it is long and starts slow and I think I have heard a better ‘Moldavia’. Gad, remember being about 5-6, curled up in Dad’s arms at the Estonia Concert Hall trying to conduct this and ‘sing’ along! I loved the melody then . . . . [OK, I was born to middle-aged parents who thought it quite OK to take me along everywhere . . . . . lucky me!!]

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes. lucky you indeed. I think in those days, going out as little ones with parents to shows was more common. I went to a late night show to see Margot Fonteyn when I was five with full Tchaikovsky orchestra in the pits. Remember every minute,
          I’ll have a listen to that that version.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. So pleased those creatures in your rainforest are enjoying the tune- BUT, did you know that butterflies are deaf? Those insects will hear it. and when I listen to that Smetana song, all I can hear is bees- even though it’s inspired by the sound of a river.

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        1. yes, I hope they’ve learnt Auslan and not some weird Ulyssean sign language. I think they would relate to the singing of Smetana though as it would put that big intruder ( us) in a more graceful frame of mind as we wander near their lovely blue wings.

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    1. Thanks Lady Red Specs. They can’t all steal my heart, however lovely. Some are just too big, business like, and pragmatic. Yes, I would have loved some tales to tell of the green fairy if it wasn’t for Mr Handbreak!

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