PRAGUE – The Charles Bridge is Prague’s oldest bridge and is a captivating well-known landmark, connecting the Old Town with the castle district.
It is adorned with stunning statues and offers breathtaking views of the Vltava River and the city’s picturesque skyline.
The bridge is home to 30 magnificent statues which form one row on either side of the balustrade. Each statue holds its own value and tells its own story.
Perhaps the most interesting of the statues on the Charles Bridge is the statue of St. John of Nepomuk. It is the oldest and only bronze statue on the bridge. But it is most famous for its religious and spiritual meaning. The story of St. John of Nepomuk is one that many are familiar with.
As historians teach, St. John of Nepomuk was a Czech saint who was murdered in the late 14th century.
In 1393, according to Brittania, John was a church official in Prague and involved in the excommunication of one of the favorites of King Wenceslas IV. It thwarted some of the king’s plans. The king personally tortured John and had the dying man tossed into the Vltava River to his death.
Allegedly, John’s honesty and loyalty meant that his tongue stayed preserved for hundreds of years after his death and thus, he became a martyr.
Today, tourists and locals alike flock to his statue on the Charles Bridge to follow the traditional belief that touching the statue and making a wish leads to that wish coming true within one year and one day. The catch? You must do as St. John of Nepomuk did and keep it a secret and never tell anyone your wish.
This magical belief is one of the many reasons why people call the Charles Bridge the most beautiful bridge in Europe.
I am inclined to agree. In the true spirit of what’s nicknamed the ‘City of Spires,’ one evening I climbed the Old Town Bridge Tower that stands opposite the Charles Bridge and marveled at the gorgeous sunset view.
As the golden sun dipped below the Prague skyline, casting hues of crimson and gold across the city, I found myself captivated by the glory of it all. The warm embrace of the fading light captured a moment of serenity.
I looked down at the hundreds of people lining the cobblestones of the Charles Bridge. Vacationers. Travelers. Locals. Strangers.
It was one of the moments when you realize how small the world is. Not in a condescending, everything-is-meaningless way, but rather how lucky and special we all are to exist on this beautiful planet and share these special times with one another.
I experienced so many lovely moments at the Charles Bridge.
I saw families and couples take countless photos in the same spots, images that will become treasured memories. And it got me thinking how many people we are all connected with, just by having a photo in the same spot as someone else.
We appear in the background of so many photos and moments that hold great significance for people we don’t even know.
I listened to buskers using their passion for music to connect others and saw people stop to listen and capture the moment. Strangers danced and sang with each other in the crowd.
I watched a marriage proposal, a moment so beautifully intimate and personal that will change the entire course of someone’s life. Gasps of joy echoed through the air as she said yes, tears of happiness streaming down their faces.
Time stood still as strangers gathered to celebrate a moment that’s not theirs, but a love that had become theirs.
For me, this is the true beauty of travel. Seeing other people live moments they have clearly dreamt about and feeling connected to everyone and the world around me just by sharing an experience.
Holly Hostettler-Davies is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International from Wales. She wrote this reflection and contributed photos.
Anjola Fashawe is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International from England. She contributed a photo.