Prague, Czech Republic: Wenceslas Square

St. Wenceslas, commemorated by this statue, is the “good king”
of Christmas carol fame. The statue is
a popular meeting point. Locals say, “I’ll see ya
under the horse’s tail.” The “good king” was actually
an exceptionally educated and highly cultured
10th century Czech duke. Stories of his enlightened reign
caused Europeans to see Czechs as civilized
rather than barbarian. To this day, Wenceslas is
a symbol of Czech nationalism. Wenceslas Square is the main
square of the country and the natural assembly point
when the Czech people need to raise their
collective voice for change. In the 19th century,
the age of divine kings and ruling families
was coming to an end. Here, as in much of Europe,
nationalism was on the rise. By the end of World War I,
the Habsburgs were history and the birth of an
independent Czechoslovakia was celebrated
on this square. But independence lasted
barely 20 years. In 1939,
the Nazis marched in. While Prague escaped
the bombs of World War II, it couldn’t avoid
the Communists who came next and stayed for 40 years. But with this square
as the stage, people power
ultimately prevailed. In the 20th century, my family lived history
on this square. In 1918, my grandma watched
the Habsburg eagles being pulled down
from the buildings. In 1939, my aunt saw
the Nazis pulling in. In 1968, my dad stood here
with his bare hands against the Soviet tanks. In 1989, it was
my generation’s turn. So you were here.
Tell me what happened. In November ’89,
a student march headed for this square, kicked off two weeks
of demonstrations. For 40 nights, this square
filled with 300,000 people. Each night,
300,000 people here. And on the last night,
Václav Havel, the playwright, who would become
our next president, announced from that balcony the resignation of
the Communist government. -Wow.
-Suddenly, we were free. STEVES: And without a shot,
the communist era had ended for
the Czech people.

  1. This is one of my favorite travel videos in recent memory. I remember seeing it before and was so happy for the Czech people to finally get their freedom.

  2. I was in Prague this past summer, and it was the highlight of my trip. Beautiful, accessible, and affordable. I would go back in a heartbeat.

  3. Great update to the video on Prague from 2009! But could you please clarify if the two-week November demonstration of the students was 100,000 or 300,000 people. This video says 300k but in your original it says 100k; see link on Highlights of Prague. Thanks! Can't wait to visit there one day 🙂


  4. +Monsieur Bleu This is Barb in Rick's office. Thanks for your question about the number of demonstrators participating in the 1989 protest. Estimates range from 100,000 to 500,000. In this episode we chose to stick to the middle with 300,00, to better convey just how huge the gathering was. Thanks for watching, and hope you get to Prague some day soon!

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