Charles Bridge

 Charles Bridge is a stone Gothic bridge that connects the Old Town and the Little Quarter (Mala Strana). It was called the Stone Bridge during the first several centuries. Its construction was commissioned by Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV.   The king himself stood on the construction site on July 9, 1357 at 5:31 in the morning to set the first stone.  Writing the date down in numerical sequence, you will get - 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 7, 5, 3, 1 - which was carefully chosen by Charles’ numerologist. In charge of the construction was architect Petr Parler whose other works include the  St.  Vitus Cathedral  at  the Prague Castle.  It is said that egg yolks were mixed into the mortar to strengthen the construction of the bridge.

Charles Bridge is one of the many monuments that were built during Charles' reign but it is not the first bridge that ever connected the Prague banks of the Vltava. Another bridge used to stand in its place - the Judith Bridge, which was the first stone bridge over the river. It was built in 1172 and collapsed in a flood in 1342.

Unlike its predecessor, Charles Bridge has survived many floods, most recently in August 2002 when the country experienced the worst flood in the past 100 years - so the egg yolks and numerology must not have been such a bad idea.

There is a tower standing on each end of the bridge. Both the "Staromestska Vez" on the Old Town end and the "Malostranska Vez" on the Little Quarter side can be climbed for a view of Prague and the bridge from above.  Charles Bridge in the fall

 Baroque statues (a total of 31) began to be placed on either side of Charles Bridge in the 17th century. Now many of them are copies and the originals can be seen in the Lapidarium and other museums. The most popular statue is probably the one of St. John of Nepomuk, a Czech martyr saint who was tortured and killed during the reign of Wenceslas IV and then trown into the river from  the  bridge.  The  plaque on the statue has been polished to a shine by countless people having touched it over the centuries. Touching the statue is supposed to bring good luck and ensure your return to Prague.

The bridge is also popular with Czech artists, musicians and souvenir vendors whose stands line both sides of the bridge year-round. A great time of day to come to the bridge is at sunset when one can enjoy a breathtaking view of the fully lit Prague Castle against the evening sky. The bridge is now a pedestrian zone (although both tram and car traffic were allowed there in the past) and is almost constantly filled with people. If you want to have it all to yourself, go there at night or very early in the morning.


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