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 Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge is a stone Gothic bridge that connects the Old Town and Malá Strana. It was actually called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) during the first several centuries. Its construction was commissioned by Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and began in 1357. In charge of the construction was architect Petr Parlér 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 500 years - so the egg yolks must not have been such a bad idea...

There are towers standing on each end of the bridge. Both the Staromestská vež on the Old Town end and the Malostranská vež on the Malá Strana end can be climbed for a view of Prague and the bridge from above.

Baroque statues 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 (see Prague Museums). The most popular statue is probably the one of St. John of Nepomuk, a Czech martyr saint who was executed during the reign of Wenceslas IV by being thrown into the Vltava 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's High Gothic style includes two distinctive towers at each end. When you stand on the bridge facing Mala Strana, you see the Castle on the hill above the city. The bridge now is home to more than 75 statues. The first statue, of St. Jan Of Nepomuk, arrived in 1683, followed by 29 other statues of saints. The Catholic Church, alarmed by the Reformation in Bohemia, felt the statues would strengthen its position.

The bridge is a famous Prague landmark that draws tourists and residents alike. Especially in the summer, the bridge teems with visitors, hawkers, musicians and artists. Craft stalls line both sides. With crowds and kitsch, it's a Prague centerpiece.

Charles Bridge is on the top of every Prague visitor's must-see list. It 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, get there very late at night or early in the morning.

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