An eminent politician and a respected playwright. Many consider him a true national symbol. Let us embark on a journey following the footsteps of the first Czech president.
Václav Havel was born in 1936 in Prague, a hometown he dedicated his life to, where he attended school, worked and finally served as head of state. It is impossible to visit Prague today without bringing up the figure of this eminent humanist.
Havel made his writing debut in one of literary magazines as early as in 1954. The future president was, however, not admitted to humanities studies, probably due to political reasons, and so he decided to start studies at Faculty of Economics at the Czech Technical University in Prague. Despite the problems, he tried to change the university to the Academy of Performing Arts, and finally graduated from extramural studies at the Theatre Faculty in 1966.
The university, founded just after the Second World War, was alma mater for Miloš Forman, Petr Zelenka or Agnieszka Holland. When you come to Prague and would like to learn more about the works of the young generation of Czech artists, you should visit GAMU – the university gallery at Malostranské Square 12.
On the theatre stage
After completing his compulsory military service, Václav Havel started working asscenic technician at Na Zábradlí Theatre, i.e. on the Balustrade, and in 1966, he took a position of a playwright. It was there that his first play “The Garden Party” was staged.
The Theatre on the Balustrade is located in the Old Town (Anenské náměstí 209). Its rich programme also includes plays with English subtitles.
Of great popularity is a certain Prague square, one of the largest in Europe, where Havel spoke to the residents from the balcony of one of the tenement houses. Wenceslas Square is situated in the very centre of the city, and thus is regarded as its main artery. Apart from the equestrian statue of St Wenceslas, the square includes also a statue dedicated to the Victims of Totalitarian Regimes. Right next to it, you can admire the monumental building of the National Museum, dated ca. 1900, which holds breath-taking collections of historical, archaeological and art pieces.
In recent years, the main building has been inaccessible to visitors due to renovation works. However, nothing stands in the way of going to one of a dozen of other museum buildings located in various districts of the city. In the upper part of Wenceslas Square, at the corner of Stepanicka and Vobicka Street, there is the Lucerna Palace, built in 1921 by the grandfather of… Václav Havel. Nowadays, this palace serves as a cultural complex that includes a cinema, bar and shopping arcade, as well as the unusual “Horse” sculpture by David Černy, a sculptor famous for his original style and wit.
Prague Castle is a historical seat of power for Czech kings, and since 1918, also presidents. The presidential residence is located next to the Courtyard of Honour, where every day at noon a solemn changing of the guard takes place. Interestingly, Václav Havel himself is responsible for refashioning the castle guard uniforms – after taking office, he asked the set designer working on the film “Amadeus” (by Miloš Forman), for preparation of the new design. The third Courtyard includes the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert, as well as the basilica of Saint George.
Visitors should definitely go to the cathedral’s 96-meter high observation tower. The view of the beautiful panorama of Prague compensates for a long climb up the winding stairs. Adjacent to the castle’s walls is Golden Lane. As the legend says, it takes its name from the goldsmiths that lived there in the Middle Ages. In the following centuries, it was occupied by both the poor and the indomitable artists. The most famous resident of Golden Lane was Franz Kafka, a German-speaking writer, who lived in the house No 22.
To see in Prague:
Franz Kafka Museum
Built in 2005. It allows you to deepen your knowledge not only about the genius writer, but also about the city itself. Next to the building is the famous statue of David Černy "Pissing Men", depicting two men urinating to a Czech-shaped swimming pool.
The Václav Havel Library
Located in a Renaissance tenement house in Hradčany. It gathers materials regarding the life, and the political and cultural activities of the Czech president.
516 meters long and considered the most famous city landmark. The bridge crosses the Vltava River and connects Malá Strane with the Old Town. Rumour has it that mortar with addition of … chicken eggs was used to build the bridge.