Sunday, March 8, 2009

Prague in the past and today - Charles Bridge

Welcome back to our new part of Prague in the past and today by Prague City Apartments. Today, we are going to explore Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge is a famous historical bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of 15th century. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava (Moldau), the Charles Bridge used to be the most important connection between the Old Town, Prague Castle and adjacent areas until 1841. Also this 'solid-land' connection made Prague important as a trade route between east and west Europe. The bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or the Prague Bridge (Pražský most) but has been the "Charles Bridge" since 1870.

The bridge is 516 meters long and nearly 10 meters wide, resting on 16 arches shielded by ice guards. It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side. The Old Town bridge tower is often considered to be one of the most astonishing civil gothic-style buildings in the world. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, erected around 1700. (wikipedia.org, 2009).

The first picture was drawn by Simon in 1908, called: "Ice Rink under the Stone Bridge". Picture represents right-bottom view to Charles Bridge. One of the bridge tower is visible at the end of Charles Bridge. Interesting point is, that it is no change to see frozen Vltava river for last several decades, because of built system of dams on Vltava river. Photos were taken by Zbyněk Svoboda in 2007.


Following pictures show the difference of Old Town tower on Charles Bridge. Picture was draw by Simon in 1914. Present picture demonstrates the features of modren times with regards to electric lamp and many of street artists.


Next picture by Simon is called "Charles Bridge and Hradcany in Winter" from 1917. However, these pictures by Novak usually represent earlier times than the beginning of 20th century. Again, you can see street artists and note, that there is no tram on bridge.


In the beginning of the 20th century, Charles Bridge saw a steep rise of heavy traffic. The 15 May 1905 was the last day of the horse-line on the bridge, as it was replaced with an electric tram until 1908 and with buses afterward.

On 2-5 September 1890, disastrous flood struck Prague and severely damaged the Charles Bridge. Thousands of rafts, logs and other floating material that escaped from places upstream gradually formed a huge barrier leaning against the bridge.


Three arches were torn down from the great pressure and two pillars collapsed from being undermined by the water, while others were partly damaged. With the fifth pillar, two statues - St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Xavier, both by Ferdinand Brokoff - also fell into the river (the former statue was replaced by a statuary of Cyril and Methodius by Karel Dvořák, the latter was replaced by a replica of the original). Repair works lasted for two years (the bridge was reopened on 19 November 1892) and cost 665,000 crowns.

From Charles Bridge visitors enjoy fairytale views of the Prague skyline. The wide expanse of the river flows beneath it, flanked on both sides by elegant buildings. Prague Castle towers above in its eminent position. Here you are truly in the centre of the city. Charles Bridge throngs with people during the day. Street artists sketch and musicians play; look out for the jazz band, who are particularly entertaining. But for a truly romantic and less crowded stroll, try early morning or any time in the evening.

I hope you have enjoyed our tour to Charles Bridge and its past and stay tunned for next batch of pictures Prague in the past and today.

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