chrispy thoughts

-the world as I see it

Bridge over troubled water

If you’ve ever managed to successfully take a picture on the Charles Bridge without any person playing photobomber, even by accident, I would like to congratulate you on your marvellous achievement. In case the picture in question was taken during unearthly hours, your achievement is not all that marvellous, but it is an achievement nevertheless. Most locals religiously avoid the Karluv Most (Czech name for Charles Bridge) because they feel it is akin to a base established by an army of tourists who’ve invaded their city.

During my stint in Prague I would make it a point to walk up to the bridge every Sunday after mass as it was the only time that I could spare to pay my favourite spot in Prague a visit . I don’t particularly enjoy being jostled by crowds or having to duck each time I spot a camera lens in my line of sight, while being well aware that I’m inadvertently appearing in countless other pictures that are being taken from beyond my field of vision.

Could make a good setting for a 'Where's Wally' comic

Could make a good setting for a ‘Where’s Wally’ comic

So why did I put myself through this ordeal week after week? Well, the plus points far outweighed the negatives –

1. Having lived in a coastal city for almost all my life, I tend to feel claustrophobic in a land-locked place after a while and crave the presence of a water body. This made any place overlooking the Vltava river a great hang-out spot by default. I can still recall the feeling of tranquility that overpowered me every time I stood on the bridge deck and looked at the water in the midst of all the chaos around me.

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2. Music (not including a majority of the sub-genres of metal) makes life better. On most Sundays when it isn’t awfully cold, you are sure to find some street musicians and bands pumping up the atmosphere on the bridge.

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3. The Charles Bridge may not be an engineering wonder but its appeal lies in the fact that it is a sublime amalgamation of architectural styles. If you look closely at the picture on the left (below), you will notice that the Charles Bridge is not straight but curved. The piers are made particularly thick to withstand the effects of the ice formation in winter.

The architectural styles of the Charles Bridge

The architectural styles of the Charles Bridge

The Bridge connects the Prague Castle with the old town area and is flanked on either side by the Malastrana Towers and the Old Town Tower.

bridge towers

The Charles Bridge is a masonry bridge built with sandstone. In the year 2008, scientific investigations conducted on the mortar used in the bridge concluded that the presence of proteinaceous matter could be attributed to the egg yolks that had been reportedly added to the mix at the time of construction.

Although I have painted a tranquil picture of the Vltava, you should know that on occasion the river is far from calm. The flooding of the river was responsible for the destruction of both the previous bridges that stood in place of the Charles bridge – a timber bridge in the 12th Century and a stone bridge (Judith bridge) in the 14th Century. The Charles Bridge hasn’t had it easy either. It has been a constant victim of floods of epic proportions but has managed to hold its ground because of the constant repair interventions and retrofitting efforts.

According to most people, the statues that embellish the balustrade are the most attractive feature of the bridge, but they don’t appeal to me as much because they are just replicas. The original ones sit in the Czech National Museum. Each statue has an interesting aspect or a history tidbit connected with it, so do some background reading before you set foot on the bridge. A few of the statues have their own ‘touch me and this happens’ stories.

The statue of St. John of Nepomuk who suffered a watery death in the Vltava

The statue of St. John of Nepomuk who suffered a watery death in the Vltava

With its magical allure and fairytale charm, it is no wonder that the Charles Bridge is a popular filming location. Do you remember Tom Cruise atop the  bridge in the movie Mission Impossible ? In case you don’t, I take it you found it hard to take your eyes off him or like me, you have no recollection of the scene as the space in your brain has been since occupied with a whole bunch of new and more interesting stuff.

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This entry was posted on November 22, 2013 by in Architecture, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , .

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