Sunday, January 30, 2011

A History Lesson: Vyšehrad

We've been getting pretty lucky here on the weekend weather lately. We've had a couple of weekends in a row with beautiful sunny weather (though this weekend was frigid) and of course that means I've had to take advantage of it. I'm in Prague after all.

So Saturday my friend John and I went to Vyšehrad.

This place has a long history. The first evidence of its existence begins in the mid-10th century (though some say much earlier) and the story of its evolution continues all the way into the 20th century, when the entire fortress was handed over to the city of Prague for upkeep as a historical marker.

In the beginning, things are a little difficult to pin down. Much of the early stories heard about Vyšehrad are in "old Czech legends" which talk about a princess who could see the future of Prague and a brave horse which jumped from the rock upon which Vyšehrad sits. But details start to get a little more precise (and less fairy tale) in the 11th century when Vratislav II, King of Bohemia and Poland, chose Vyšehrad as his royal residence rather than Prague Castle.

He built a palace, the rotunda of St. Martin and the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, which has become the major landmark of Vyšehrad and you can see from all over the city.

A few sovereigns later Vyšehrad was no longer used as the royal seat because Vladislav opted to have his coronation at Prague castle and made the switch back in 1140. Vyšehrad was left to crumble and basically forgotten for two centuries.

Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV began making repairs to Vyšehrad in the early 14th century, but the area, which was again being used as a fortress, was ransacked and set ablaze twice in the 15th century, once by the Hussites and King George of Poděbrady. 

There was once an armory here, but since it was set on fire there are now these sweet statues.
Vyšehrad was abandoned again until the Habsburg Dynasty took over the Czech lands and remodeled Vyšehrad as a Baroque fortress. They added Baroque walls and turned it into a training facility for the Austrian army. 

The basilica was remodeled again in the 1800s before the entire citadel became part of the city of Prague as one of its many districts.

We spent about three hours walking around atop the fortress walls and through the citadel grounds. There is a huge cemetery which actually has really interesting funerary art and the fact that the whole are sits atop a rock over the Vltava River means you can see so much of the city from there. 

The views are amazing and I highly suggest visiting.


  1. ooooh i love you!

    olga's uncle took us there on one of our tours with him (he is a private tour guide) and told us all about the history of everything and it was fascinating.

    those statues are all from these "historical" tales of prague which turned out to be completely false but were propagated as truth for years.

    and the cemetery (one of my fav parts) is host to some seriously famous czechs including Dvořák and Mucha!

  2. This place looks awesome! And good for you getting out and having a look around the city in that very, very cold weather. The Texas blood in my just tells me to stay the heck inside :)

  3. lorn: Looks like I'll have to go back an check out the cemetery. (Definitely just almost wrote 'Czech out'...)

    TexaGermaNadian: Girl, it may be cold but that ain't stopping me from loving the heck out of this place. I hope it's not stopping you either!


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