Fifty years since the Prague Spring

By Pamela Lyon

During a festival to commemorate 50 years since the beginning of the Prague Spring and the uprising against Communism, people were seen crying with joy and happiness and freedom.

The political developments up to 1968 showed a new attitude of the people in Prague, finally having hope towards a new-found freedom and the urge to take down the Communist government controlled by the Soviet Union who many had come to loathe.

This year, fifty years on, however, sees a bustling city full of tourists and luxuries and a new film dedicated to Jan Palach, who was declared a hero.

Palach was studying history and political economy at Charles University, Prague, before he became a symbol of heroism and freedom, by protesting and becoming the first self-declared human torch following the crushing of the Prague Spring.

On January 16th, 1969, Palach set himself on fire after sending a letter demanding the abolition of censorship and a range of other laws. He died three days later, suffering from fatal burns and is one of the tragic heroes of the Czech battle for freedom.


The death mask of Jan Palach, a copy of which is the Charles University Museum.

Fifty years on and the country is bright and beautiful but there are still those among the older generations who were not especially hostile towards communism, arguing that people still had jobs, even if that job was just waitressing when the employee had a medical degree.

With a Red Army-dedicated portion of the Olsany cemetery in Prague, and a communist museum, it is clear that era of the country’s history is being preserved. Now that it has put that in the past and becoming the democracy that is Czechia, Prague is a city in a country that is full of a new history that should be seen by everyone.


An eerie day out at Terezín Concentration Camp in Prague

By Annies Joy

Quiet. Deserted. Unnatural. Hardly surprising due to the fact that, although unknown to many, Terezín played a key role in the transportation of the Nazis’ Jewish prisoners during World War II.

The former fortress city was used by the Nazis during their wartime occupation of Czechoslovakia as a holding camp where thousands of Jews from across Europe were held before being transported to the notorious deathcamps such as Auschwitz and Bergen-Belzen

There are only a few direct buses in the morning from Prague to Terezín and a few direct buses back in the evening. The 10.30am bus from the city drove through the scenic views that took us away from the busy tourist-filled centre to the quietness of the countryside.

However,  the quietness of Terezín might as well have been silence. Clearly the aftermath of the cruelty that took place in these hollow buildings can still be seen and felt in the atmosphere of the small town.


The eerily empty town

It is an unnaturally silent and empty town, with only the occasional car driving through it, some drunken locals and a small flock of tourists who know about the place.

However, the place is still brimming with history with many places to go and see. For example, the Jewish Ghetto Museum that outlines lines from some prisoners’ diary, the former concentration camp for Jewish Prisoners, the National Memorial and the Magdeburg Barracks.

A walk into the courtyards of the concentration camp shows the hollow and bare wooden bunk beds, a bench to sit and eat, and a tiny washbasin in each room. It is a very moving experience but unimaginable to think what it might have been like to be a prisoner there.


The beds where the prisoners used to sleep

The visitors are also able to enjoy a half-an-hour video guide, in a spacious screening room, outlining the history of Terezín and its previous usage. You can also take a walk around the vast Fortress Grounds and even go through a 500m tunnel, which i admit is not for the faint-hearted.


The administration offices leading to the first courtyard 

Experiencing such a day out that felt so out of one’s comfort zone makes you realise just how real these events were and still are to the people who live there now. An event that’s your history was their reality.

Cycling around Prague; the safety and the struggle

By Jacob Moseley

After recent debates between Prague Council and competing cycling companies about whether bikes should be legal on the city centre streets, I decided to get a better idea on why this is such a hot topic at the moment.

The city council recently overturned a controversial ban previously issued preventing bicycles from being used in certain parts of the heart of Prague due to the dangers for tourists and other pedestrians in the myriad of narrow streets.

Statements by AutoMat (leading cyclist rental company) had called the complete ban on bikes in the city “exaggerated and illegal.”

It was overturned recently after other multiple complaints and the fact that the court didn’t take into consideration contrasting proposals made by the cyclist companies.

I started by downloading the app, Rekola which showed the locations of all the bike hire centres, as well as the riding boundaries. The options were quite spread out and I managed to find one in less than 10 minutes from the city centre.

As I set off I found that this “hop on, hop off” bike rental scheme wasn’t too popular and noticed that most people were simply walking around the city. This congestion caused by mostly pedestrians made it very difficult to manoeuvre along the paths and I experienced multiple times when I thought a collision could have easily occurred.

With a massive amount of tourists flooding the city every day it also becomes hard for them, including me, to know the correct rules and regulations of cycling laws in the city, such as where the non-cycling zones start and end.

Another problem difficult for the council to tackle is the fact that Prague is such a historical city, and many of its pavements and roads are left untouched and unmaintained for years.

This obviously causes points where for people not used to cycling often, it is quite a struggle to stay balanced due to the divots, bumps and uneven ground which also becomes very slippery when rained on.

There were, however, many parks in the outer city which were perfect for cycling through and extremely enjoyable. The roads in these areas were also quite well maintained with rows of large trees and wide paths alongside the fact it’s much less congested, I’d suggest to visit parks such as Kampa Park.

Seeing Charles Bridge…from the water

Whilst visiting Prague I found there are a variety of different transportation methods for seeing the sites, but have you ever thought of a pedalo?

With Prague sitting mostly on one side of the Vltava river that stretches down the south of the city, there are a few boat hire stops within a reasonable price range.

To hire a pedalo from right under the Charles Bridge it cost 300czk (£10) for an hour which could seat up to 4 passengers, it also had plenty of room for baggage so me and a friend decided to take some beers.

This way of seeing the city is eco-friendly instead of taking the tram or metro, and can give you a different perspective on what both Charles Bridge and the city looks like.

There was however a fair bit of traffic on the water, similar to the roads, which caused a slight disturbance and I imagine it sometimes becomes difficult for the drivers of the larger boats.

I’d recommend it to anyone visiting the city though, due to you being able to see all of Charles Bridge, Prague Castle alongside many other landmarks, sculptures and restaurants.

The Generali Arena at a glance

By Ryan Blacklaws

The Generali Arena is home to the Czech Republic’s most successful football team, AC Sparta Prague, who have won 36 domestic titles. The stadium is based just outside of the city centre.

‘Arena’ is arguably a grandiose term for a stadium with a capacity of just 18,944, and the ground is far smaller than Leicester’s King Power Stadium, which holds 32,312.

This could be justified by the fact that there are five different football teams in Prague (Sparta, Slavia Prague, FK Dukla Praha, Bohemians 1905 and FK Victoria Zizkov), whereas Leicester only has one big club.


Despite its lack of size, the Generali Arena does have a certain charm to it, and it feels very much like a traditional European football stadium. The Sparta Ultras graffiti also adds an intimidating tribal element to the ground, as Sparta Prague have a notoriously fanatical support.

Unfortunately, we could not attend a game at the Generali, as Sparta were playing away.