It was an overcast day. Dark, ominous skies framed the skyline creating a dramatic background for the buildings. My main interest was spending time at Municipal House, a renowned Art Nouveau building at the former site of the royal residence. It’s next to Powder Tower in Old Town’s Republic Square.
During the Middle Ages Powder Tower was the gate to Prague. On the way to coronation ceremonies at Prague Castle, future kings of Bohemia entered town through Powder Tower Gate. It’s named Powder Tower because of the gunpowder stored there in the 18th century.
Republic Square was the center of Czech cultural and social life at the turn of the 20th century. Today it’s still a busy place with public and cultural activities always in progress.
I made it to Municipal House Café just before the heavy rain began and sat under an umbrella during the worst of the deluge. Cobblestone streets don’t drain well and when it rains you’re literally walking in puddles of water – sometimes an inch deep.
“Municipal House was a place for concerts, exhibitions, conferences, festivities, and grand balls. It played an important role in the beginnings of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. The National Board was founded there as a base for the future Czech Parliament. The Czech independent republic was declared from the balcony of the Municipal House on 28th October 1918.”
It took 6 years – 1905 to 1911 – to build Municipal House and at the time, it was a modern and a technologically advanced venue for Czech cultural events. The building is a mixture of several 19th century styles – neo-Renaissance, neo-Baroque, and Art Nouveau. Above the entrance there’s a mosaic called the Apotheosis of Prague.
The inscription reads, ”Hail to you Prague! Brave the time and malice as you have resisted all the storms throughout the ages”. In part, these words refer to Prague miraculously escaping the World War II bombings that destroyed many other European cities.
Municipal House has splendid concert halls including Smetana, Rieger, Palacky, Sladkovský, and Mayor. The Conductor Apartment has a unique panoramic view of the Prague Castle complex. Municipal House is definitely a “must see” for anyone visiting Prague. Even with rain it was a fantastic day!
Smetana Hall is an architectural masterpiece, a mix of carved white stone and gold, illuminated by hundreds of lights, and with frescoes adorning the walls. The hall is the main place of work for the Prague Symphony Orchestra and the most important place for Prague’s concerts and music festivals. I have a ticket for a concert on the 25th! It will be a performance of beloved Czech composer Bedřich Smetana’s Die Moldau – one of my favorite symphonies. Moldau is the German name for the Vltava River.