PRAGUE – Nestled amid Prague’s impressive cityscape, the architectural marvel of Prague Castle stands as a timeless testament to centuries of history and culture.
This magnificent establishment, perched high on a hill overlooking the Vltava River, beckons people from around the world to step into a fairytale-like realm where the past seamlessly merges with the present.
Prague Castle casts a regal shadow over the Czech capital, with architectural influences of Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Romanesque times.
Similar to many other castles across the world, it tells the story of a city that has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, and the flourishing of culture and art.
But when Youth Journalism International students explored the castle during our 2023 Global Conference, we discovered that there is more to it than meets the eye.
Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle complex in the world. Its impressive stature makes it easy to spot throughout the city, from high up on the many towers or in the background of the famous Charles Bridge.
The grounds encompass multiple sections such as St. Vitus Cathedral, Golden Lane and the Old Royal Palace.
St. Vitus Cathedral is known for its royalistic history and modern appreciation as the most important temple in Prague.
Built around 925, the cathedral has undergone many constructions. From Romanesque, Gothic, and Neo-Gothic, the different styles of the cathedral correlate to the historical appeals of the era.
Many Czech coronations commenced at St. Vitus, marking the history of Bohemian monarchy.
The cathedral is home to burial sites of noblemen, saints, and archbishops.
Upon visiting St. Vitus, we were struck with the ubiquitous fine details inside the cathedral. The radiant colors of the stained glass windows as well as the decorative light fixtures demonstrate the holiness of this cathedral for the whole nation of Czechia.
We were enthralled to walk alongside much sacred, ancient history.
It’s possible to walk where many castle goldsmiths and marksmen resided. Coined “Golden Lane,” this road of tiny houses has withstood the test of time. Along the main cobblestone road, the houses continue to hold their 16th century appearance of colorful, petite buildings crowded directly next to each other.
As we looked inside the houses, we were in awe of how many people could actually live within the conditions presented.
The most notable spot, house number 22, was home to writer Franz Kafka where he wrote Das Schloss, which means The Castle.
The house has since been transformed into a quaint, popular souvenir shop, making it one of the busiest, places within Prague Castle.
But the part that catches the eye of tourists the most is the Old Royal Palace.
The Old Royal Palace of Prague Castle was once the original residence building used for state work and coronation festivities. It has gone through numerous reconstructions based on the styles of different ancient eras.
Today, the Palace stands as an impressive, eye-catching scene that attracts many visitors. Walking through, the smell of old wood immediately caught us by surprise. The long narrow halls as well as the large windows create the “picture perfect” medieval-esque photos for all viewers.
But the magic of the castle does not stop at the vast array of grounds and buildings.
We were fortunate to be able to time our visit to coincide with the changing of the guards. The changing of the guards is a ceremony where a group of soldiers replace the soldiers who have finished their duty guarding the castle.
Signaled by the sound of trumpets and the marching of the band, the guards parade through the grounds in perfect unison.
We reflected on what this moment means for the Czech nation devoted to conserving their history in comparison to our varying national origins. It was a display of precision and tradition, a moment that we felt privileged to witness, albeit from the crowd of tourists who gathered to watch.
Although a great spectacle, it was also a glimpse into the rich history of Czech culture and was a fitting way to spend the first day of YJI’s 2023 Global Conference.
Despite our wanderings throughout the city, the many towers climbed, and a spectacular sunset view of the Charles Bridge from the Old Town Bridge Tower, the Prague Castle remains a distinct landmark as a reminder of Czech history and pride.
Norah Springborn is a Correspondent with Youth Journalism International from the United States. She co-authored this piece.
Holly Hostettler-Davies is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International from Wales. She co-authored this piece and provided some photos.
Also contributing photos were YJI students Viktorie Goldmannová of Czechia; Bilge Güven and Naz Mergen of Türkiye; Lyat Melese of the United States and Anne van Mill of the Netherlands.
Read more from YJI’s ‘Postcards from Prague’ series about the 2023 Global Conference.