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View on Prague from the Klementinum tower,
where a meteorological and astronomical
oberservatory was located. ()
Prague (Praha in Czech) is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated on the Vltava river, it contains approximately 1.2 million inhabitants. Nicknames for Prague have included "city of a hundred spires", "the golden city", "the Paris of the Twenties in the Nineties", the "mother of all cities", and "the heart of Europe".
Founded in the latter part of the 9th century, Prague soon became the seat of the kings of Bohemia, some of whom later reigned also as emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. The city flourished during the 14th-century reign of Charles IV, who ordered the building of the New Town, the Charles Bridge, Saint Vitus's Cathedral, the oldest gothic cathedral in central Europe and actually inside the Castle, the oldest synagogue in northern Europe, Maisel Synagogue, and the Charles University, the oldest university in central Europe north of the Alps. Prague was then the third-largest city in Europe.
The four independent towns that had formerly constituted Prague were eventually proclaimed a single city in 1784. Those four towns were Hradcany (the Castle, west of the Vltava), Mala Strana (the Lesser Quarter, south of the Castle), Stare Mesto (the Old Town, on the east bank opposite the Castle) and Nove Mesto (the New Town, further south and east). The city underwent further expansion with the annexation of Josefov in 1850 and Vysehrad in 1883, and at the beginning of 1922, another 37 municipalities were incorporated, raising the city's population to 676,000. Most of the city's 50,000 Jews died in the Nazi genocide of World War II.
Prague is a popular tourist city. There are lots of old houses, many with beautiful murals on them. It contains one of the world's most pristine and varied collections of architecture, from Art Nouveau to baroque, Cubist, Gothic, Neo-Classical and ultra-modern. Some of its many tourist attractions are Stare Mesto, various places connected to Franz Kafka, Mala Strana, Hradcany with St. Vitus's Cathedral, the Charles Bridge, and the Lennon Wall.
Prague is a traditional cultural center, hosting many theaters (including National Theatre), opera houses, concert halls, galleries and music clubs. It is also the site of most important offices and institutions of the Czech Republic, including the President, the Government and both houses of the Parliament. Besides Charles University, the city contains another 7 universities and colleges including the Czech Technical University (CVUT) founded in 1707.
Public transport infrastructure consists of three underground lines called the Metro, as well as tramway lines and buses.
Prague suffered serious flooding in August 2002, with parts of the city having to be evacuated. The floods caused a lot of damage, but fortunately no major landmarks (such as the Charles Bridge) were destroyed.
See also: Defenestrations of Prague
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