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Vaclav Havel’s Prague

Vaclav Havel in 2009The Czech Republic mourned the passing of its first post-Communism democratically elected President late last year.

A Praguer through and through, playwright Vaclav Havel was one of the driving forces of Charter 77, the group of dissidents who sought to bring about the end of the repressive regime and ultimately succeeded in November 1989 in what was dubbed the Velvet Revolution.

You can walk in the footsteps of this national hero and see Prague as he did.

Home sweet home

Havel's ApartmentDuring his dissident years, when not imprisoned for his unharmonious views, Havel called the top floor of Gorazdova 19 home (map marker A). Located next to the Dancing Building.

The local

Just next door is the pub & restaurant Na Rybarne (map marker B), where he took celebrities such as Mick Jagger and Bill Clinton.

Nosy neighbours

In the background of that picture you’ll notice a tower (map marker C). It was from here that the StB, the Communist Secret Police, would observe Havel’s comings and goings.

School Days

Havel studied at the Theatre faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (map marker D) – why not take in a show by the school’s current students at the nearby DISK Theatre.

Cafe society

Head north along the river and you’ll soon pass the National Theatre and opposite it, on Narodni street, you’ll see Café Slavia (map marker E), with its plate glass windows overlooking the river. The coffee’s not up to much (see our post about Prague cafés for some suggestions) but you can’t go wrong with a beer.

To the Castle and Back

Havel’s memoirs, titled To the Castle and Back, tell it all in more detail but by all accounts he was reluctant to put himself forward but there was a groundswell of opinion and he relented. As The Economist puts it:

Havel confounded those who thought he was too dilettantish to be a proper president. He rollerskated through the corridors of Prague castle, exorcising the ghosts of the communist usurpers with his humanity and humour.

You can’t rollerskate there yourself but you can take a tour (map marker F).

Showing famous friends a good time

Havel was pretty well connected, pals with rockstars and world leaders from the Dalai Lama and Bill Clinton to Lou Reed and the Rolling Stones. Drop by  Reduta Jazz Club (map marker G) in the evening to catch a performance and see where Clinton played his sax for Havel.

Havel’s apartment image credit: Furman University Education Department

Vaclav Havel image credit: Wikipedia Commons

Charlie
Charlie takes care of the marketing side of things at JayWay Travel. A long-term Prague resident, his interests are cooking, eating out, cycling, skiing and travel.

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