Sightseeing in European, Israeli cities, pictures, information, photo tours, attractions in Europa and Israel. Tips and tools for travelling in blog.

 

See photos of Prague, Czech Republic (including Old Prague view, Valtava river panoramic view, panoramic picture of Prague Pilharmonic Orchestra, Peace Square, Prazsky hrad view from sky, Old Town Square at night panoramic view, Charles Bridge view, St.Vitus Cathedral spherical panorama, inside the Sadlec Ossuary panoramic view – Kutna Gora, St.Bsrbara Cathedral view, Parague images at night and more) in this travel photo gallery from Verde Wanderer and AirPano.com – 360° Aerial Panorama.
Pictures taken at 13 of October, 2010.

  • Ancient age

The area on which Prague was founded was settled as early as the Paleolithic age. Around 200 BC the Celts established an oppidum (settlement) in the south, now called Závist. By the end of the 1st century BC, the population was comprised mostly of the Marcomanni (and possibly the Suebi), a Germanic people. In the 6th century AD, during the great migration period following the collapse of the Roman empire, the Marcomanni people migrated westwards or were assimilated into the invading West Slavic people.

According to legends, Prague was founded by Libuše and her husband, Přemysl, founder of the dynasty of the same name. By the year 800 there was a simple fort fortified with wooden buildings, occupying about two-thirds of the area that is now Prague Castle. The first masonry under Prague Castle dates from the year 885.

The other Prague fort, the Přemyslid fort Vyšehrad was founded in the 10th century, some 70 years later than Prague Castle. Prague Castle is dominated by the cathedral, which was founded in 1344, but completed in the 20th century.

The region became the seat of the dukes, and later kings, of Bohemia. Under Emperor Otto II the area became a bishopric in 973. Until Prague was elevated to archbishopric in 1344, it was under the jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Mainz.

Prague was an important seat for trading where merchants from all of Europe settled, including many Jews, as recalled in 965 by the Jewish merchant and traveler Ibrahim ibn Ya’qub. The Old New Synagogue of 1270 still stands. Prague contained an important slave market.

At the site of the ford in the Vltava River, King Vladislaus II had the first bridge built in 1170, the Judith Bridge named honor of his wife Judith of Thuringia. This bridge was destroyed by a flood in 1342. Some of the original foundation stones of that bridge remain.

In 1257, under King Ottokar II, Malá Strana was founded in Prague on the site of an older village in what would become the Hradčany (Prague Castle) area. This was the district of the German people, who had the right to administer the law autonomously, pursuant to Magdeburg rights. The new district was on the bank opposite of the Staré Město (“Old Town”), which had borough status and was bordered by a line of walls and fortifications.

  • History in 20th century
Main article: Czechoslovak Republic (1918–1938)

Stiassny’s Jubilee Synagogue built in 1906 is the largest in Prague

The First World War ended with the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the creation of Czechoslovakia. Prague was chosen as its capital and Prague Castle as the seat of president (Tomáš Masaryk). At this time Prague was a true European capital with highly developed industry. By 1930, the population had risen to 850,000.

Second World War

Main article: German occupation of Czechoslovakia

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 multiethnic city with important Czech, German and (mostly Czech- and/or German-speaking) Jewish populations. From 1939, when the country was occupied by Nazi Germany, and during World War II, most Jews fled the city or were deported.

In 1942, Prague was witness to the assassination of one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany – Reinhard Heydrich. Hitler ordered bloody reprisals. At the end of the war Prague suffered several bombing raids by the USAAF. Over 1,000 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. Four days later the 3rd Shock Army entered the city. The majority of the German population either fled or was expelled by the Beneš decrees in the aftermath of the war.

Cold War

Main article: History of Czechoslovakia (1948–1968)

Prague was a city in the territory of military and political control of the Soviet Union (see Iron Curtain). The 4th Czechoslovakian Writers’ Congress held in the city in 1967 took a strong position against the 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 the short-lived season of the “socialism with a human face”. It was the “Prague Spring”, which aimed at the renovation of institutions in a democratic way. The Soviet Union and its allies reacted with the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the capital on 21 August 1968 by tanks, suppressing any attempt at work.

Era after the Velvet Revolution

In 1989, after the riot police beat back a peaceful student demonstration, the Velvet Revolution crowded the streets of Prague and the Czechoslovak capital benefited greatly from the new mood. In 1993, after the split of Czechoslovakia, Prague became the capital city of the new Czech Republic. In the late 1990s Prague again became an important cultural centre of Europe and was notably influenced by globalisation. In 2000 anti-globalisation protests in Prague (some 15,000 protesters) turned violent during the IMF and World Bank summits. In 2002 Prague suffered from widespread floods that damaged buildings and also its underground transport system. Prague launched a bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, but failed to make the candidate city shortlist. Due to low political support, Prague’s officials chose in June 2009 to cancel the city’s planned bid for 2020 Summer Olympics as well.

Spherical panorama bird’s eye view.

 

wikipedia.org

Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge. Avignon, France.

See photos of Episcopal Ensemble, it’s Avignon photos in this travel photo gallery from Verde Wanderer. Pictures taken at 10 of October, 2010.

Avignon and its popes

In 1309 the city, still part of the Kingdom of Arles, was chosen by Pope Clement V as his residence, and from 9 March 1309 until 13 January 1377 was the seat of the Papacy instead of Rome. This caused a schism in the Catholic Church. At the time, the city and the surrounding Comtat Venaissin were ruled by the kings of Sicily from the house of Anjou. French King Philip the Fair, who had inherited from his father all the rights of Alphonse de Poitiers (the last Count of Toulouse), made them over to Charles II, King of Naples and Count of Provence (1290). Nonetheless, Phillip was a shrewd ruler. Inasmuch as the eastern banks of the Rhone marked the edge of his kingdom, when the river flooded up into the city of Avignon, Phillip taxed the city since during periods of flood, the city technically lay within his domain.
Papal Avignon

Regardless, on the strength of the donation of Avignon, Queen Joanna I of Sicily, as countess of Provence, sold the city to Clement VI for 80,000 florins on 9 June 1348 and, though it was later the seat of more than one antipope, Avignon belonged to the Papacy until 1791, when, during the disorder of the French Revolution, it was reincorporated with France.[citation needed]

Seven popes resided there:

  • Pope Clement V: 1305–1314
  • Pope John XXII: 1316–1334
  • Pope Benedict XII: 1334–1342
  • Pope Clement VI: 1342–1352
  • Pope Innocent VI: 1352–1362
  • Pope Urban V: 1362–1370
  • Pope Gregory XI: 1370–1378

This period from 1309–1377 – the Avignon Papacy – was also called the Babylonian Captivity of exile, in reference to the Israelites’ enslavement in biblical times.

The walls that were built by the popes in the years immediately after the acquisition of Avignon as papal territory are well preserved. As they were not particularly strong fortifications, the Popes relied instead on the immensely strong fortifications of their palace, the “Palais des Papes”. This immense Gothic building, with walls 17–18 feet thick, was built 1335–1364 on a natural spur of rock, rendering it all but impregnable to attack. After being taken following the French Revolution, it was used as a barracks and prison for many years but it is now a museum.

Avignon, which at the beginning of the 14th century was a town of no great importance, underwent extensive development during the time the seven Avignon popes and two anti-popes, Clement V to Benedict XIII made their residences there. To the north and south of the rock of the Doms, partly on the site of the Bishop’s Palace, which had been enlarged by John XXII, was built the Palace of the Popes, in the form of an imposing fortress made up of towers, linking one to another, and named as follows: De la Campane, de Trouillas, de la Glacière, de Saint-Jean, des Saints-Anges (Benedict XII), de la Gâche, de la Garde-Robe (Clement VI), de Saint-Laurent (Innocent VI). The Palace of the Popes belongs, by its severe architecture, to the Gothic art of the South of France. Other noble examples can be seen in the churches of St. Didier, St. Peter and St. Agricola, as well as the Clock Tower, and in the fortifications built between 1349 and 1368 for a distance of some three miles (5 km), flanked by thirty-nine towers, all of which were erected or restored by the Roman Catholic Church. The frescoes that are on the interiors of the Palace of the Popes and the churches of Avignon were created primarily by artists from Siena.

The popes were followed to Avignon by agents (factores) of the great Italian banking-houses, who settled in the city as money-changers, as intermediaries between the Apostolic Chamber and its debtors, living in the most prosperous quarters of the city, which was known as the Exchange. A crowd of traders of all kinds brought to market the products necessary to maintain the numerous court and of the visitors who flocked to it; grain and wine from Provence, from the south of France, the Roussillon and the country around Lyon. Fish was brought from places as distant as Brittany; cloths, rich stuffs and tapestries came from Bruges and Tournai. We need only glance at the account-books of the Apostolic Chamber, still kept in the Vatican archives, in order to judge of the trade of which Avignon became the center. The university founded by Boniface VIII in 1303, had a good many students under the French popes, drawn thither by the generosity of the sovereign pontiffs, who rewarded them with books or benefices.

During the Great Schism (1378–1415) the antipopes Clement VII and Benedict XIII returned to reside at Avignon. Clement VII lived in Avignon during his entire anti-pontificate, while Benedict XIII only lived there until 1403 when he was forced to flee to Aragon.

Amsterdam fans out south from the Amsterdam Centraal railway station. The Damrak is the main street and leads into the street Rokin. The oldest area of the town is known as de Wallen (the quays). It lies to the east of Damrak and contains the city’s famous red light district. To the south of de Wallen is the old Jewish quarter of Waterlooplein. The 17th century canals of Amsterdam, known as the Grachtengordel, embraces the heart of the city where homes have interesting gables. Beyond the Grachtengordel are the former working class areas of Jordaan and de Pijp. The Museumplein with the city’s major museums, the Vondelpark, a 19th-century park named after the Dutch writer Joost van den Vondel, and the Plantage neighbourhood, with the zoo, are also located outside the Grachtengordel.

See photos of Amsterdam (including canals, The Scheepvaarthuis, The Church of St Nicholas, Dam Square and more) in this travel photo gallery from Verde Wanderer. Pictures taken in 16 of April, 2013.

Several parts of the city and the surrounding urban area are polders. This can be recognised by the suffix -meer which means lake, as in Aalsmeer, Bijlmermeer, Haarlemmermeer, and Watergraafsmeer.

The Amsterdam canal system is the result of conscious city planning. In the early 17th century, when immigration was at a peak, a comprehensive plan was developed that was based on four concentric half-circles of canals with their ends emerging at the IJ bay. Known as the Grachtengordel, three of the canals were mostly for residential development: the Herengracht (where “Heren” refers to Heren Regeerders van de stad Amsterdam (ruling lords of Amsterdam), and gracht means canal, so the name can be roughly translated as “Canal of the lords”), Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal), and Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal). The fourth and outermost canal is the Singelgracht, which is often not mentioned on maps, because it is a collective name for all canals in the outer ring. The Singelgracht should not be confused with the oldest and most inner canal Singel. The canals served for defence, water management and transport. The defences took the form of a moat and earthen dikes, with gates at transit points, but otherwise no masonry superstructures. The original plans have been lost, so historians, such as Ed Taverne, need to speculate on the original intentions: it is thought that the considerations of the layout were purely practical and defensive rather than ornamental.

Construction started in 1613 and proceeded from west to east, across the breadth of the layout, like a gigantic windshield wiper as the historian Geert Mak calls it – and not from the centre outwards, as a popular myth has it. The canal construction in the southern sector was completed by 1656. Subsequently, the construction of residential buildings proceeded slowly. The eastern part of the concentric canal plan, covering the area between the Amstel river and the IJ bay, has never been implemented. In the following centuries, the land was used for parks, senior citizens’ homes, theatres, other public facilities, and waterways without much planning.
Bridges over a canal.

Over the years, several canals have been filled in, becoming streets or squares, such as the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal and the Spui. Expansion Main article: Expansion of Amsterdam since the 19th century.

After the development of Amsterdam’s canals in the 17th century, the city did not grow beyond its borders for two centuries. During the 19th century, Samuel Sarphati devised a plan based on the grandeur of Paris and London at that time. The plan envisaged the construction of new houses, public buildings and streets just outside the grachtengordel. The main aim of the plan, however, was to improve public health. Although the plan did not expand the city, it did produce some of the largest public buildings to date, like the Paleis voor Volksvlijt.

Following Sarphati, Van Niftrik and Kalff designed an entire ring of 19th century neighbourhoods surrounding the city’s centre, with the city preserving the ownership of all land outside the 17th century limit, thus firmly controlling development. Most of these neighbourhoods became home to the working class.

In response to overcrowding, two plans were designed at the beginning of the 20th century which were very different from anything Amsterdam had ever seen before: Plan Zuid, designed by the architect Berlage, and West. These plans involved the development of new neighbourhoods consisting of housing blocks for all social classes.

After the Second World War, large new neighbourhoods were built in the western, southeastern, and northern parts of the city. These new neighbourhoods were built to relieve the city’s shortage of living space and give people affordable houses with modern conveniences. The neighbourhoods consisted mainly of large housing blocks situated among green spaces, connected to wide roads, making the neighbourhoods easily accessible by motor car. The western suburbs which were built in that period are collectively called the Westelijke Tuinsteden. The area to the southeast of the city built during the same period is known as the Bijlmer.

Built in the Renaissance style, designed by the Dutch architect Hendrick de Keyser, the Westertoren (1637) is the highest church tower (85m) in Amsterdam. The canal houses on the right are characteristic of the architecture of the Dutch Golden Age.
The old city houses on Damrak

Amsterdam has a rich architectural history. The oldest building in Amsterdam is the Oude Kerk (Old Church), at the heart of the Wallen, consecrated in 1306. The oldest wooden building is het Houten Huys at the Begijnhof. It was constructed around 1425 and is one of only two existing wooden buildings. It is also one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Amsterdam. In the 16th century, wooden buildings were razed and replaced with brick ones. During this period, many buildings were constructed in the architectural style of the Renaissance. Buildings of this period are very recognisable with their stepped gable façades, which is the common Dutch Renaissance style. Amsterdam quickly developed its own Renaissance architecture. These buildings were built according to the principles of the architect Hendrick de Keyser. One of the most striking buildings designed by Hendrick de Keyer is the Westerkerk. In the 17th century baroque architecture became very popular, as it was elsewhere in Europe. This roughly coincided with Amsterdam’s Golden Age. The leading architects of this style in Amsterdam were Jacob van Campen, Philip Vingboons and Daniel Stalpaert.
The Scheepvaarthuis, by arhitects Johan van der Mey, Michel de Klerk, Piet Kramer is characteristic of the architecture of the Amsterdam School.

Philip Vingboons designed splendid merchants’ houses throughout the city. A famous building in baroque style in Amsterdam is the Royal Palace on Dam Square. Throughout the 18th century, Amsterdam was heavily influenced by French culture. This is reflected in the architecture of that period. Around 1815, architects broke with the baroque style and started building in different neo-styles. Most Gothic style buildings date from that era and are therefore said to be built in a neo-gothic style. At the end of the 19th century, the Jugendstil or Art Nouveau style became popular and many new buildings were constructed in this architectural style. Since Amsterdam expanded rapidly during this period, new buildings adjacent to the city centre were also built in this style. The houses in the vicinity of the Museum Square in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid are an example of Jugendstil. The last style that was popular in Amsterdam before the modern era was Art Deco. Amsterdam had its own version of the style, which was called the Amsterdamse School. Whole districts were built this style, such as the Rivierenbuurt. A notable feature of the façades of buildings designed in Amsterdamse School is that they are highly decorated and ornate, with oddly shaped windows and doors.

The old city centre is the focal point of all the architectural styles before the end of the 19th century. Jugendstil and Georgian are mostly found outside the city’s centre in the neighbourhoods built in the early 20th century, although there are also some striking examples of these styles in the city centre. Most historic buildings in the city centre and nearby are houses, such as the famous merchants’ houses lining the canals.

wikipedia.org

Zaslawye is believed to have been founded in 985 by Vladimir the Great who sent his wife Rogneda to live here with their son Izyaslav of Polotsk, the founder of the princely house of Polatsk. The town’s current name derives from Izyaslav’s name.

In the early Middle Age the town was centre of the Duchy of Zaslawye. In the 11th century, the town was heavily fortified; much of its territory has been designated an archaeological reservation. There is also a modern outdoor statue of Rogneda and Izyaslav on the grounds.

Pictures have been taken on 13 of May, 2006.
and on 12 of May, 2012.

Lida City, Belarus. Christmas is coming. Snow-covered streets around.
Pictures added to Lida photo gallery on December of 2005 and December of 2007.

Lida Castle panorama in summer: click here.