Prague: The Green City


This scenery welcomes you after a 9 minute train ride from Smíchov direction Zličín. Photo GK

Not necessarily politically, even if I appreciate the Pirates being in control (what a paradox), but in terms of quality of life, is Prague certainly one of the greenest cities I know. One wouldn’t assume it in the first place – downtown Prague is a densely built-up area, yet is has a very limited diametre.

The hidden “Blossom Garden” at Petřín Hill. Photo GK

As soon as you cross the delimitation of the former city walls you can recognise it immediately – parks, gardens, tree-lined streets, mansion districts, garden colonies, and what fascinates me most is what I call “undefined urban landscape” – apparently spontaneous patches of green, groves and entire stretches of countryside, by far not always at the outskirts.

The mansion district above Ruská street in May. Photo GK

This basically fits into the general pattern of Prague’s (physical as well as mental) topology: Up and down, flat and steep, new and old, beautiful and ugly, impressive and ridiculous, German and Czech, if one allows this jump to the past, and so on. The logic here is the unlogic, and that may also have been one of the reasons for the city’s often ignored genius.

My dog Maxi on the dog meadow just around the corner in Vinohrady. Photo GK

Johannes Urzidil, one of the forgotten writers from the 50 or so representatives of the once famous Prague group of German (mostly Jewish) writers starts the introduction of his book “There goes Kafka” (1965) with the question, “which aggregate of vital powers was it that contributed so much to this atmosphere full of poetry and creativity?” In this context one has to bear in mind that the Germans made up only about 10% of Prague’s population around 1900. The Czech genius of the 19th and the early 20th century was rather at home in the brilliant recreation of the Czech language, for long neglected and actually unwanted by the germanophone hardliners in the Austrian government, in the innovative architectural boom of the 1st Republic and in painting. Go to the Veletržní palác, the largest collection of the National Gallery, and be surprised about the unknown masterpieces there.

A “rural” mini cultural centre in Prague 5. Photo GK

Back to the green city: This aspect certainly contributes to the city’s uniqueness. You walk along an ugly, busy road, turn around a corner and you suddenly feel transposed into an almost fairytale-like surrounding. I’m not exaggerating, it happened to me several times (“…not in Kansas anymore…”).

Take the little train from Smíchov station and feel far away from the city after a 9 minute ride to Holyně.

Walk with me on my “Village To Village” tour from Staré Střechovice – through a grove to functionalist architecture of the early 20ies back to the village and down to busy Patočkova – not before standing in wonder at a fish pond embedded in apparently untouched greenery.

Take a bus, go to Malešice, walk for 10 minutes from the noisy four lane crossing up the street – the police school grounds in your back, you can see the local thermal power plant behind the trees – and up to an old baroque garden entrance. From there you practically float into the Botanical Garden of Jarov Gardening School, located on a steep slope above the spring of Rokytka creek. It’s the former garden and villa of Antonín Jirásko, producer of office furniture and millionaire.

The former fishpond east of Kajetánka. One can go on in this illusion until one bumps into the highway junction at Malovanka… Photo GK

Walk from Veleslavín, village and green enough, through a grove to super modern Hvězda residences and enter, past the former windmill, the peaceful gardens of Břevnov monastery. ….

My favourite view of Břevnov. Photo GK

I could enumerate many more examples.

I haven’t seen a “greener” city yet, and I’ve seen many cities.

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