A Different Side of Prague

Travel has a way of teaching you things about yourself that might not have surfaced in a “normal” environment. It faces you with new situations, brings you out of your comfort zone, and expands what you know of the world.

Let's pause right there. Don’t worry if you’re not in the mood to read a heartfelt, emotional post. Because in Prague, I discovered something interesting about myself. I love modern statues.

Prague has a reputation for its Old World charm with the beautiful castle perched over the city and its romantic Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square). But there was something that resonated with me in discovering the more modern sculptures throughout the city. Perhaps it was just a reminder that Prague is more than the beautiful, old buildings but also very much alive and changing in the present. Whatever it was, I loved Prague the first time I went almost two years ago, and was reminded last month of just why it is one of my favorite places in Europe.

Let me show you the statues I found beyond the ones that line the Charles Bridge:

Historical Statues:

In the Jewish section of town, you can find Jaroslav Rona’s sculpture, a memorial to Franz Kafka. It is in the neighborhood where the Jewish writer lived for most of his life.

Kafka is depicted as the smaller man sitting on the shoulders of the larger figure.

Then there’s the ghastly Memorial to the Victims of Communism, located at the foot of Petřín Hill. Sculptures of disfigured, tattered, remnants of man come down the steps like zombies in an evocative memorial remembering those affected by communism. It is a reminder of what people endured during communist reign - arrests, imprisonment, torture, displacement, execution.

The plaque nearby reads: "The memorial to the victims of communism is dedicated to all victims not only those who were jailed or executed but also those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism" (see Wikipedia).

Beautiful statues:

I stumbled across this fountain quite by accident at Senovážné Square and spent a few minutes just admiring how pretty it was. The figures, called the Czech musicians by Anna Chromy, dance around the pedestals of the fountain, each playing a different instrument. It was later that I read that each musician depicted represents a different major river of the world.

Below, the horn player represents the Mississippi and the violinist the Danube. 

This next statue may be a slight stretch from my modern theme, but I think the examples following more than make up for it. Besides, the original statues from the Wallenstein Garden were plundered and taken by the Swedes (where they still stand at the Drootningholm castle in Sweden). So these statues were made later than one might think, as they are replicas brought to the garden later on.

The sculptures in this garden, which sits underneath the castle, makes for perfect setting for a lovely stroll.

Just plain weird statues:

These next three are all by the same artist, the famous Czech artist David Černý. He is known for his controversial works that seem to all have a simple, one word title. 

Like this for example. As if this really needed a title, he went with the self-explanatory “Piss.” Located in front of the Kafka museum you can see these two men peeing. And as if it couldn't get better, the hips of these guys actually move as they spell out things with their “pee.” Ladies, if you ever wondered what it would be like to be a guy in this regard, you can actually send a text message to a certain number and your message will be “spelled out” in front of you. It’s quite a sculpture, and I videoed a short clip so you could see it in action to get the full effect.

Manneken Pis in Brussels is world famous and all he does is change costumes occasionally - that little boy has two role models to look up to who actually move and do something:

This was the most amusing sculpture of the bunch, but then again, I can see plenty of the real thing happening at any given time in France…

Next up is a piece I actually saw on my first trip to Prague, right after Christmas 2012. Look up in a shopping center, Lucerna Pasaz, to see another of Černý's sculptures entitled “Horse.” Hanging from the ceiling is Wenceslas riding atop a dead horse. Not far from the shopping mall is St. Wenceslas square with a statue of its namesake riding a (alive) horse, which “Horse” is a parody of.

And last but not least are the creepy sculptures Černý has decorated Prague with. Look closely at the Žižkov Television Tower that I captured on the higher ground of Letná Park. Those little black dots on the tower? Why those are creepy, alien-like babies of course, climbing up the tower.

It’s hard to see just how weird the “Babies” are so head over to Kampa Island to get a closer look. You’ll feel like Jerry and Kramer grasping for words to say something nice when faced with quite the ugly-looking little one.

Is it just me or does the head remind you of a boxing glove?

This makes my top list, but there are more that I missed! Like the Sigmund Freud grasping onto a pole overhead, entitled “Hanging Out.” Thankfully that means there is still more to discover and reason for another visit to Prague someday.

What’s your favorite statue of the bunch?