The word panorama can very well describes Praha (or Prague). Either from Charles Bridge or Prague Castle, we were offered with beautiful panoramic views of the city. Red roofs, pointed gothic structures, vast greens – I can only summarize the city in one word – beautiful.
We were warmly welcome by Slavek, the host at My House Apartment that we booked through booking.com. Transfer from the airport was arranged using a private car to the beautiful studio apartment in the old town of Prague or Praha 1. This was my first visit this city and I liked it. Prague was beautiful and the cost of living was reasonable compared to other European cities that I have visited (well, not many anyway). Prague had a history of civilization dated long ago. It is currently the capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic, a landlocked country in central Europe, bordered by Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland.
Quick Overview of History
The Czech state that was formerly known as Bohemia was formed in the 9th century. Over the years, it has went through the typical ups and downs in terms of power with struggles with the kingdom of Moravia, Premyslids, Austria, Hungary, and etc. Following the fall of Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918, it became the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. As a results of the second world war, Czechoslovakia became a part of Germany, and by 1944 it became a communist country under the influence of Soviet Union. Following the velvet revolution in 1989, the communist regime collapsed and a multi-party parliamentary republic was formed, but on 1st January 1993, the republic was peacefully dissolved into Czech Republic and Slovakia. Unlike Slovakia, which has adopted Euro as its currency, Czech Republic maintained its Koroner (CZK) and is approximately 1/27 of the Euro, at present.
Prague castle was located uphill. It was dated back to the 9th century and covered vast areas. It has a palace, cathedrals, buildings for administrations and other functions and a vineyard.The best way to explore was to take metro and tram to the castle and go down the hill on foot, passing by the historical vineyard. To get into some of the buildings, there were some fees, but we didn’t have time anyway.
A different Culture
It was difficult to understand the Czech. When dealing with academics as well as those assisting various functions at the conference, the feelings were similar to any other conferences that I had attended. Academics were friendly and open to each other if you approach them. But when observing the general public that I met on the train or the tram, I saw very different expression altogether. The people were a bit aloof, perhaps deep in thought. They were either analyzing you, or busy in trying to solve some complex issues. At times, it was like in the scene of a cold-war spy movie. Everybody was anxious of some KGB agents looking after them, or something like that. I felt awkward in the beginning, at least on the first two days. Later, I got used to it. On the street, I felt more comfortable. Later I realized that after all, they were actually friendly. It is just that they have a unique expression. Something than can make you a bit uncomfortable in the beginning.
Bridges and cathedrals
Prague has many monuments for those who appreciate buildings and architectures. The city is separated by river Vitava that is connected by a number of bridges.
The most famous of all is Charles Bridge that was constructed in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV who ruled Bohemia and Luxembourg. Today the bridge is a pedestrian way and is frequented by tourists. The air was lively with artists offering sketching services and musics being played by street performers. The views from the bridge were magnificent. No wonder many tourists were taking their selfie photos, in addition to panoramas. Haha…
Prague also offers a number of cathedrals and other religious buildings such as old synagogues etc.
I was in Praha attending CHISA 2014, and my paper was the last on the list as part of the Process Intensification Symposium. Since it was on the last session of the last day, I thought that I was a bit unlucky, partly because I didn’t pay my registration in advanced. But I was surprised to see that the room was full. As the earlier presenters completed their presentations, there were not many questions asked. Then I got a bit nervous. They must have been waiting for my presentation, and it was true. Many questions were asked based on my presentations. I clearly answered some of the questions, and apologize for not being able to give some of the details they needed due to limitations of our study (read: lack of sophistications on our equipment). After the sessions, we had further discussions and exchange cards. Hopefully, this will mark as another important milestone for our research networking.
Mosques in Praha
There were a number of mosques in Praha. The largest was located in Praha-9. We didn’t got a chance to be there due to time constraints. We nevertheless visited the two mosques in Praha-1. The first was on 14 Politickych Veznu Street, located across the Istanbul Kebab restaurant. A new one was sited near the police station, not far from the previous one. The entrance was next to a kebab restaurant. There were quite a number of people from various nationalities attending the maghrib prayer that we attended.