Potted history of Prague
Archaeological evidence suggests that the surrounding valley was inhabited as far back as 600,000 BC, but it wasn't until the 10th century when King Wenceslas proclaimed the fledgling city the capital of Bohemia that things really began to take off.
By the reign of Charles IV Prague was flourishing as one of Europe's political and economic powerhouses. Money poured in and many of today's celebrated architectural landmarks (including Charles Bridge) date from this period. However, beneath the prosperous façade all was not well. Religion was about to put a spanner in the works that would hamper the city's prosperity for the next 300 years.
Defeat in the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) hit Bohemia hard and put an end to any ideas of Czech independence. However, once driven underground, the nationalist spirit strengthened and Prague soon became the centre of the Czech National Revival movement. The city's first major bid for autonomy (a popular uprising in 1848) foundered, but the ball had begun rolling.
WWI gave Czechoslovakia the freedom its citizens had been craving and Prague was named as the new capital. However, the city's new found freedom was to be short lived and in 1939 the Germans moved back in. After six years of occupation Prague gained liberty only to be promptly swept beneath the Iron Curtain.
By 1968 the city once again began to blossom in what would become known as 'The Prague Spring'. Soviet style socialism gave way to liberal reform, censorship went out of the window and democracy began to flower. However, Mother Russia wasn't happy and decided that a display of military might was needed to bring the city back into line.
Everything went according to the soviet plan until the toppling of the Berlin wall in 1989 signaled that their days were numbered. The following year 'The Velvet Revolution' led to free elections and the city opened its doors to Western Europe.
Prague Tourist Information Service : Staromestské nám (old Town Hall) Tel: 124 44
Prague Ruzyne airport enquiries: Tel: 220 113 314
Rail enquiries: Tel: 222 111 122
Emergencies: Police: Tel: 158, Ambulance: Tel: 155
The Coasts of Bohemia by Derek Sayer : Accessible bird's eye view of Bohemian cultural history.
The Trial by Franz Kafka: The city's favourite literary son has Joseph K scratching his head in various Prague localities trying to work out what on earth is going on?
The Night of Wenceslas by Lionel Davidson : Espionage page-turner set in soviet Prague.
Prague Orgy by Philip Roth: The American comic master's smut-free novella following a literary rescue attempt beneath the Iron Curtain.
Utz by Bruce Chatwin: A Titan of travel writing rambles autobiographically about Prague's Jewish Quarter.