Prague Buildings with Exciting Histories (Part 3)

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Prague is constantly developing and growing. Some of your favorite buildings have been there for hundreds of years while others have been re-purposed or completely reconstructed. Learn more about the history of this fascinating city!

Palace Zofin
The fancy palace that used to be a lonely pub on an island

Žofín Palace is a popular venue for fancy events ranging from horse exhibitions to luncheons and high school graduations. It was the first place where Smetana’s cycle of symphonic poems, My Country, was performed in November 1882. Richard Wagner and Antonín Dvořák also had concerts here.

The neo-Renaissance style palace was built in the early 1800s and had its grand opening in 1837 with a ball. Before 1817, there was a spa, a dye-house and a pub on the island but Václav Novotný bought the island in 1830 and built what became a significant center of political, cultural and social life.

The Žofín Palace was purchased by the city of Prague in 1884. It was re-built and expanded to accommodate 580 visitors in the large hall. What makes the building so unique is that it contains no bottom insulation. The base is made up of oak beams and the building has ventilation cavities and pumping wells in the basement. (Foto: Žofín Palace - Austrian Ball)

Hunger Wall
Built by hungry Czechs for food during the famine

If you’ve taken a walk in Petřín park, you may have wondered about the long white wall that starts at the top of the hill and stretches down to Újezd. It is known as the Hunger Wall because it was supposedly built by Charles IV to help those suffering from the famine. Most people believe that it was only built to protect the city, but those working on it received enough food to feed themselves and their families.

The wall was built between 1360–63 but has been reconstructed several times. For 500 years, it served as the fortification of the Prague Castle and Lesser Town. Today, only 1,200 meters of the original six-meter-tall wall remain. There used to be a total of eight bastions, one of which is well preserved and offers a nice view of the park.

OD Kotva
Unique hexagonal architecture that cost Prague some history

Built between 1970 and 1975 by a married couple, Kotva has an unusual design consisting of many interconnecting hexagons. When it opened in 1975, it became the largest department store in Czechoslovakia. At 22,160 m2 and employing 2,000 people prepared to welcome and serve up to 75,000 customers a day.

Today, Kotva offers both traditional Czech brands as well as international fashion, accessories, cosmetics and electronics. Rostislav Švácha, an architecture historian considers the building to be a top-level representation of 1970s Czech architecture.

The site where Kotva now stands has history dating back to the mid-13th century. It used to be a Romanesque church of St. Benedict, a commandery of Prague Teutonic Knights, a baroque church and a New Town noblewoman institute. The construction of the department store unfortunately caused the demolishment of many historical houses.

Church of Our Lady of the Snows
The record breaking church next to Prague’s secret garden

The modest church located in the very center of Prague can be easy to overlook. The Church of Our Lady of the Snows, however, holds two records – it has the highest column altar in Prague and it has the 34-meter-high vaults! It is also the place where 14 monks (known as the Fourteen Prague Martyrs) were killed in 1611.

The church was founded in 1347 along with the monastery of the Carmelite order. It was at this very church that Charles IV and his wife Blanche of Valois were coronated. The construction took a long time due to funding and the Hussite Wars that caused delays.

One of the best views of the church is from the hidden park accessible from Jungmannovo náměstí. The Franciscan Garden (Františkánská zahrada) can be a peaceful short cut from Můstek to Václavské náměstí tram stop or just a great place to relax and admire the church. The magical thing about both the church and the park is that they are easy to miss unless you know they are they.

Prague Buildings with Exciting Histories (Part 2) Prague.TV, Living Like a Local! 31.10.2016
Prague Buildings with Exciting Histories (Part 1) Prague.TV, Living Like a Local! 25.10.2016

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