Czech please

Sunbeams were streaming through the bedroom windows this morning. Could it be? Would I feel the warming glow of sun and not the needle stings of rain today? It was going to be a good day. I joined our group of motorbike riders outside the hotel entrance and we walked to the Prague Segway Tour office. After a brief orientation, we stepped aboard our (other) two-wheeled vehicles and set off to see the city and infuriate the pedestrians.

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John Lennon wall

We rode on the sidewalks instead of the streets. The looks we received from the pedestrians we whizzed by were a mixture of awe, amusement and I’m going to throw stones at you if you get any closer. A segway tour is truly the best way to see a city when time is limited. We easily covered four to five times the amount of area as we would on foot.

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Charles Bridge

Prague (Czech: Praha) is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. It is the fourteenth-largest city in the European Union and is home to about 2 million people. Prague has been a political, cultural, and economic centre of central Europe with waxing and waning fortunes during its 1,100-year existence. Founded during the Romanesque and flourishing by the Gothic and Renaissance eras, Prague was not only the capital of the Czech state, but also the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and thus also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. It was an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire and after World War I became the capital of Czechoslovakia. Prague was chosen as its capital and Prague Castle as the seat of president.

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Baby art

Hitler ordered the German Army to enter Prague on 15 March 1939 and from Prague Castle proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate. For most of its history Prague had been a multi-ethnic city with important Czech, German and Jewish populations. From 1939, when the country was occupied by Nazi Germany, and during World War II, most Jews were deported and killed by the Germans. At the end of the war Prague suffered several bombing raids by the USAAF. Over 1,000 people were injured, 701 people were killed, and hundreds of buildings, factories and historical landmarks were destroyed (however, the damage was small compared to the total destruction of many other cities in that time). On 5 May 1945, two days before Germany capitulated, an uprising against Germany occurred and four days later, the 3rd Shock Army entered the city. Following the war, Prague was under the military and political control of the Soviet Union.

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Why walk when you can segway?

The 4th Czechoslovakian Writers’ Congress held in the city in 1967 took a strong position against the Soviet regime. This spurred the new secretary of the Communist Party, Alexander Dubček, to proclaim a new deal in his city’s and country’s life, starting a short-lived season of “socialism with a human face”. It was the “Prague Spring”, which aimed at the reinstatement of democracy. On 21 August 1968 the other Warsaw Pact member countries, except Romania and Albania, invaded Czechoslovakia and the capital city with troops and tanks, suppressing any attempt at reform. In 1989, after the riot police beat back a peaceful student demonstration, the Velvet Revolution crowded the streets of Prague, and brought back democracy to the Czech people. In 1993, after the split of Czechoslovakia, Prague became the capital city of the new Czech Republic. [1]

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Prague, CZ

Today Prague is a shining example of democracy. You can proudly sport a “I Heart Prague” sweatshirt, purchased from one of the abundant souvenir shops or your girlfriend, wife, mother or sister can slip into a pair of Prada pumps and hang a Fendi purse from her arm, purchased from one of the high end retailers in the trendy shopping district of Prague. It’s just like being in America, only with really cool old buildings and cobble stone streets.

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Palace guard

[1] Adapted from Wikipedia

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