I have long wanted to write a non-academic book on Prague that would both provide a readable short history of the city and act as a guide to visitors who might be interested in more than just the standard tourist trail. When I was approached by Reaktion Books to write on Prague for their excellent Cityscopes series, I jumped at the opportunity. This is the result. Out this month. It was fun to write, and I hope it serves its purpose.
Thirty years ago, Prague was a closed book to most travelers. Today, it is Europe’s fifth-most-visited city, surpassed only by London, Paris, Istanbul, and Rome. With a stunning natural setting on the Vltava river and featuring a spectacular architectural potpourri of everything from Romanesque rotundas to gothic towers, Renaissance palaces, Baroque churches, art nouveau cafés, and cubist apartment buildings, Prague may well be Europe’s most beautiful capital city.
But behind this beauty lies a turbulent and often violent history, and in this book, Derek Sayer explores both. Located at the uneasy center of the continent, Prague has been a crossroads of cultures for more than a millennium. From the religious wars of the middle ages and the nationalist struggles of the nineteenth century to the modern conflicts of fascism, communism, and democracy, Prague’s history is the history of the forces that have shaped Europe.
Sayer also goes beyond the complexities of Prague’s colorful past: his expert, very readable, and exquisitely illustrated guide helps us to see what Prague is today. He not only provides listings of what to see, hear, and do and where to eat, drink, and shop, but also offers deep personal reflection on the sides of Prague tourists seldom see, from a model interwar modernist villa colony to Europe’s biggest Vietnamese market.
Hardback, 280 pages, 105 illustrations, 71 in color.