The Black Pony stands in the heart of the Old Town, one of a row of attractive renaissance town-houses which in the early fifteenth century were home to the city's first pharmacies. Its neighbours include The Golden Lily, and the Golden Crown; and across the street is the house of Angelus of Florence, one of the most famous chemists of the late mediaeval period. The house sign was affixed to the outer wall towards the end of the sixteenth century.
In 1801, the father of Franz Schubert bought the Black Pony. A courtyard links it to the next building, and it is entertaining to imagine the future composer, then aged four, spending his formative years here before going on to storm the concert halls of Europe.
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The airy interior of the main church at Křtiny, completed in 1750, provides natural lighting for the impressive ceiling frescoes on the theme of Mary, Queen of all Saints, by the Brno-born Jan Jiří Etgens (1691-1757). Keep clicking the image below for full detail:
Viewed from the south, the architectural result is striking and dynamic, with the two side wings flying out from a central rotunda and balcony, very much in the spirit of the high baroque.
Following its sale to Czechoslovakia in 1927, the palace served a number of state functions until 1974, when it became the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany (the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, often referred to as West Germany).
In May 1989, Hungary opened its border with Austria, the first official breach in the 'Iron Curtain' which had separated the Soviet bloc from the rest of Europe since the end of the Second World War. Taking this as their cue, thousands of East Germans travelled to Prague that August and sought refuge in the Embassy gardens, demanding free passage to the West. On 30 September, the German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher stood on the balcony of the palace to deliver their wish, to rapturous cheers. It was an act that defined the end of communism, and set Germany on the path to reunification.
The square itself was first conceived in 1934 as the home of the Institute of Pensions, the building which today (as Trade Union House) still dominates its eastern side. Constructed on the site of a former gasworks, this functionalist block was considered one of the most cutting-edge buildings of its time, its reinforced concrete core lightened by the use of exterior white ceramic tiling, and the interior fitted out with the latest technologies including air-conditioning. It is particularly noteworthy that the architects Karel Honzík and Josef Havlíček - both members of the avant-garde 'Devětsil' group - were both in their early thirties at the time.
But even when supplemented with water from the reservoir at Káraný - near the confluence of the rivers Jizera and Labe (Elbe) - the supply proved insufficient for the needs of a city whose population had more than tripled in the first quarter of the twentieth century. A new waterworks was needed.
And so it was that between 1925 and 1929, the original Podolí pumping station was gradually replaced with this colossal art deco temple designed by architects Antonín Engel and Maximilian Koschin, advised by technicians František Klokner and Bedřich Hacara. It was extended in the 1950s with the addition of another wing using the original neo-classical designs.
To the left of the Vltava: the Vydra, the Otava, the Blanice in Šumava, the Malše, the Berounka
To the right: the Sázava, the Blanice in Vlašim, the Želivka, the Lužnice and the Nežárka.
In 1879, the sculptor Josef Václav Myslbek began work on a memorial to the saint at the upper (south-east) end of the 500-year-old Horse Market, recently renamed 'Saint Wenceslas Square'. Replacing a much earlier Wenceslas, Myslbek's version was first unveiled in 1913, but not completed until 1924, two years after the sculptor's death.
Around the pedestal the inscription - from the twelfth century Saint Wenceslas Chorale - reads 'Svatý Václave, vévodo české země, nedej zahynouti nám, ni budoucím' - 'Saint Wenceslas, Duke of the Czech lands, let not us, nor our descendants, perish'. In front of this monument, on 28 October 1918, the new nation of Czechoslovakia was formally declared.