September 20, 2018
Prague, Czech Republic—Week 1 Fr. James Donohue, C.R.
Well, I arrived in Prague on Tuesday, August 21 after a long flight from Dulles Airport, Washington, D.C. through Brussels, Belgium. I have an apartment that is not too far from the Czech National Theatre. The National Theatre belongs to the most important Czech cultural institutions, with a rich artistic tradition, which helped to preserve and develop the most important features of the nation–the Czech language and a sense for a Czech musical and dramatic way of thinking. We will be attending an opera at the National Theatre in just a few weeks. The weather has been very hot here this week—around 30˚C/ 90˚F.
As you can see from the photo, the National Theatre sits on the banks of the Vltava River. The river is quite breathtaking when you see the many bridges that span its banks.
I was able to come to Prague because Mount St. Mary’s University has a study-abroad program here every second year in the fall semester. In fact, I was able to come to Prague in the fall 2008 with 14 Mount students and then again in the fall 2010 with 19 Mount students. This year, I have 36 Mount students with me—quite a jump in numbers. Mount St. Mary’s University will have other semester-long study abroad programs in Cuenca, Ecuador in the spring 2019, in Dublin, Ireland in the fall 2019, and in Florence, Italy in the spring 2020. It is a wonderful experience for students and faculty to experience a different culture through immersion, rather than through tourism.
One of the most famous sites is the Charles Bridge. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge replaced the old Judith Bridge built 1158–1172 that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342. This new bridge was originally called Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or Prague Bridge (Pražský most) but has been "Charles Bridge" since 1870. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava until 1841, Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city's Old Town and adjacent areas. This "solid-land" connection made Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe.
The downtown area of Prague is still laid out in its medieval setting, complete with cobble-stone streets.