Prague, or Praha, as they call it in the homeland, is possibly one of the most romantic cities I have passed through. I tend to like the historical centers of major cities, where the past and the present collide. Where the streets are narrow, and the buildings ornate with decoration (an art lost to the architecture of the present). Many older cities have built upon themselves over time, creating a situation where the present sits atop the past, and often we forget the stories that were buried.
Meeting at the umbrella holding guide in front of the clock tower, Prague’s underground tour moves inside the structure, first learning about a painting which supposedly tells the story of how “Praha” became “Prague”. In Czech, Prague means either “doorstep” or “shallow part of the stream”, both being places that you cross over. The painting shows a woman reaching to the forest, where her lover has gone to cut wood for their doorstep. I’m not sold, but hey, if that’s the story they like to tell, so be it.
From here, the group moves down into the 12th century space below. The streets in Prague were one time level with these dungeonesque rooms, eventually raised because of flooding from the river. Some regions of this hidden city continued to be used as escape tunnels, storage chambers, and places for torture. The names of some political prisoners from 1603 can be seen carved into the lintel of one door frame.
Within this maze of underground rooms are numerous wells, deep and black, and a few ovens, the walls of which show the natural materials they were made with. Both signs of lives once lived here.
Now just a historic rememberance of a time gone by, the musty smelling underground of these chambers hold only some relics of this past, ready to be explored by tourists from all over the world. Conveniently, larger spaces can still be found useful in many ways. Due to the fact that there was a photography show going on in one of them during our visit, the tickets cost less than usual, which was a double bonus for us. Discounting tickets for a group of artists who get to indulge in additional interests with the tour? Great.
Generally included is also a free beer in a 12th Century underground tavern across the square, however, due to a marathon taking place which made crossing impossible, our beer was excluded.