Czech and German nationalists used to get all sentimental about this river, and some still do, for instance the obnoxious Sudeten-German refugees in Bavaria, now in their third or fourth generation of exile and still suffering volubly while driving to refugee conventions in their fat BMWs. (I am distantly related to some of these folks, but I try not to let on.)
Nonetheless, this is still a nice river to walk or cycle along, or look at from the train window on the way to Dresden, Germany.
On our bicycle tour of Prague we did not ride across Charles Bridge, for the simple reason that it is usually too full of people. But at various times I took photos of Charles Bridge from other angles, like this one (just above) from the right bank of the Vltava (aka Moldau) River, with the Smetana Museum on the right and Prague Castle with St. Vitus Cathedral up on the hill on the left.
Construction of Charles Bridge was begun in 1357 on orders of Charles IV (= the 4th), who by then was not only King of Bohemia but also Holy Roman Emperor, a post he held from 1355 until his death in 1378 at age 62.
Four centuries later, Voltaire famously pointed out that the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire. It was more of a loose confederation of squabbling mini-states, mainly German speaking, though Charles IV himself was educated in France and spoke five languages: Latin, Czech, German, French and Italian. He was born and died in Prague, and during his reign Prague was in effect the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.
There has been at least one opera about Charles IV, namely Karlštejn by the Czech composer Vítězslav Novák, from the year 1916. (I’ve never seen it, I’m afraid, and don’t know if it has been performed recently.)
An earlier Holy Roman Emperor, Charles I (Charlemagne) was an important character in the opera Fierrabras, by Franz Schubert. A later Emperor, Charles V, appears in two operas by Giuseppe Verdi, Ernani and Don Carlo, as well as in a seldom performed opera Karl V by Ernst Krenek.
I took this photo (above) on a chilly evening after pedestrian traffic had thinned out considerably, but it was still quite full, as you can see.
The word střelecký means shooting and ostrov means island, so Střelecký ostrov is the shooting island, so called because there was once a shooting range here for aristocrats and other wealthy people.
Now the island is quite peaceful and is easily reachable via the Legion Bridge (Legií most or most Legií). It seems to be popular with young couples who want to make out on the park benches.
My photos in this post are from 2011. I revised the text in 2021.
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