The Dancing House or the Dancing Building prominently overlooks the Vlatava River and is situated at the corner of Rasinova Nabrezi and Reslova Street near the Jiraskuv Bridge and was built by Zagreb-born Prague-based architect Vlado Milunic, who had the original idea for the building, and the celebrated Canadian architect Frank Gehry who had also built the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain which is covered in titanium. The Dancing House which houses several offices is also popularly known as the Fred & Ginger Building. Probably, the architecture was inspired by the legendary dancing duo of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the building houses a fine dining restaurant on the 7th floor known as La Perle de Prague. The restaurant is located on the top floor of this building and offers magnificent views of the City of Prague including the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge and the Vltava River.
In summer, you can sit outdoors (weather permitting) and enjoy some fine French cuisine followed by sumptuous desserts.If you take a city tour of Prague, you will be traversing the Dancing House. Though on its own, the architecture is unique, it blends well with the Neo-Gothic, Neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau Buildings which Prague is famous for.
The site of the Dancing House was originally occupied by a house in the Neo-renaissance style from the end of the 19th century. That house was destroyed during the World War II bombing of Prague by the U.S. in 1945. Its remains finally were removed in 1960. The neighbouring house (with a small globe on the roof) was co-owned by Czech ex-president Vaclav Havel, who lived there from his childhood until the mid-1990s.
He ordered the first architectural study from Vlado Milunic. Afterwards the Dutch bank ING agreed to build a house there, and asked Milunic to invite a world-renowned architect. Milunic asked Frank Gehry, who accepted the challenge as two architects had to construct the building in area of 500 square metres. The construction started in 1994 and the house was finished in 1996.
The building is unique in structure as the construction is from 99 concrete panels each of different shape and dimension, each therefore requiring a unique wooden form. After its construction, there was a public uproar due to its unusual architecture. However, almost 10 years after its construction, in 2005, the Czech National Bank issued a gold coin with the motif of the Dancing House, as the final coin of the series “10 Centuries of Architecture.” So, when you plan a trip to Prague do visit the Dancing House from the outside and if you want to visit it from the inside, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to reserve a table at the French restaurant on the 7th floor and enjoy some lovely food along with a beautiful view of the city of Prague. Moving away from Prague and the heart of Europe, another must visit place is just 3 hours away from Prague and is a UNESCO town by the name of …
Cesky Krumlov – the world’s most beautiful town
Ask a local at Cesky Krumlov and they will say that it is undoubtedly the world’s most beautiful town. The name of Cesky Krumlov was derived from Old Germanic – Krumben Ouwe which means bent mead or crooked meadow. The course of the Vltava River had attracted Celts to this region in the New Iron Age and the Slavs had first inhabited this region during 6th Century A.D.
The town has a very intriguing history and the town and castle reached its peak of development and prosperity during the Rozmberk era who had their seat at Cesky Krumlov for three centuries from 1302 AD to 1602 AD.
In 1602, the town was brought by Rudolf II of the Hapsburg family and the Styrian family of Eggenberg had their seat in this town until 1719. During this period the Duke Jan Kristian who was a music and theater lover built a Baroque Castle Theater which is the only Baroque Theater is used even today.
The town had undergone extensive restoration and in 1992 it was included in the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites. The colourful tower of Cesky Krumlov has become a famous tourist icon for the entire country and the town has a lot to offer for the tourist such as the elegant Renaissance Town Hall, the Gothic Church of St Vitus, the Baroque Chateau Garden – all of which are magnificent architectural jewels and the town itself has retained its authentic ancient image. Although there have been changes in the town, it continues to create the impression of a place where time stopped centuries ago.
Cesky Krumlov is 180 km south of Prague near the border of Austria and the nearest airport on the Austrian side is Linz which is 70 kilometres away. The first recorded reference to the castle dates from 1253. A round tower and a palace then stood on a rock cliff and today constitutes the Hradek or the Small Castle. A settlement, presently known as Latran, was founded at the foot of the cliff. In 1274, a town was founded on the opposite side of the Vltava River and in the 14th and 15th centuries, the castle was extended and the St Vitus Church was erected.
In the Renaissance period, the Gothic castle was rebuilt as a comfortable chateau. In 1586, the Jesuits arrived in Cesky Krumlov and built a beautiful college (the present-day Hotel Ruze). The citizens of Cesky Krumlov built a brewery on Siroka street which currently houses the Egon Schiele Museum. Examples of the Baroque style are some additions to the Minorite monastery, the Jesuit seminar (a Museum at present) and interiors at the chateau.
However, Cesky Krumlov means more than only an exceptional complex of three hundred years of historical buildings. For its visitors the town is also a cultural, congress and tourist centre. The International Music Festival, The Renaissance Music Festival, and theatre performances take place in the chateau garden.
No wonder that the town is the second most frequently visited tourist destination in the Czech Republic. One of the most impressive experiences during a visit here is a walk through its meandering streets and the square in the historical centre. On your way you will find some of the most famous building including the St. Vitus Church, The Egon Schiele Art Centre which is now a renowned European gallery of modern art. The town is well known for its year round music and film festivals, theatre performances and folklore festivals.
You can enjoy some fine cuisine in one of the restaurants such as the Restaurace Maštal on the Svornosti Square which serves traditional Czech cuisine and the meals are cooked in front of you on an open fire and you can enjoy it with a pint of Budweiser from Ceske Budejovice or the beer of Cesky Krumlov- the Eggenberg ale or black. At times, especially in the evenings, you may enjoy your cuisine with some live music going on in the background. You also have the Pizzerie Latrán which is an unusual restaurant in the historical centre with Italian specialities and a romantic wine cellar.
The Zámecká Jízdárna is located in an impressive Viennese Roccoco Building and is a restaurant with an ambience of a concert hall where you can have large functions organized especially for incentives. In Rytírská Krcma Markéta, you will find a Renaissance Tavern that is part of the Castle Gardens where you can enjoy grilled specialties on the open fire. Whilst walking through the town make sure of seeing the following – The Clad Bridge which is a multi-tiered bridge which connects the Upper Castle with the castle garden; Na Ostrovì which is across the river and a place from where you get a unique view of the castle; the Square or Námestí where you will find the Renaissance town hall which was formed by joining two buildings way back in 1580 and is a very distinct architecture.
The Church street is worth walking down to as this narrow lane is magical and alluring. The Wooden bridge is worth stopping at to enjoy a view of the castle and the Castle stairs lead you to the courtyard of the Cesky Krumlov Castle and en route you can see a family of bears. This region has its own beauty in winter and if you are around Christmas time, it is ideal not only to see the old fashioned Christmas markets in the square but the entire town has an ambience of Christmas with all the historically buildings well adorned during this period.
And you get great value for your accommodation in Christmas. You can go to Hochficht and Sternstein on the Austrian side to enjoy some great skiing in winter. The town of Cesky Krumlov has its beauty and there are people who come here for a day trip and vow to come back to spend days as this town is not only the most beautiful in Southern Bohemia but amongst one of the most beautiful towns in the world. Closeby you can also visit interesting places such as Holasovice – the UNESCO village, Ceské Budejovice- the largest and economically the most important city of Southern Bohemia; the romantic mansions of Hluboká nad Vltavou which is so picturesque as if it is straight out of a fairytale book; the fishing town of Trebon or the picturesque town of Pisek which has the oldest stone bridge in Bohemia.
If you think you have seen Czech Republic by just visiting Prague, wait until you reach the region of Cesky Krumlov and you will wonder how you have missed out on such a beautiful region inspite of being an extensive traveller to Europe.
– inputs by Subhash Motwani, Director – COMPACT TRAVELS and Czech Republic specialist who has visited the region of Cesky Krumlov and the nearby towns and is an expert in advising the discerning traveller of how to make the most of their trip to the region of Southern Bohemia.