Today, 17th November marks the day when the Communist regime was defeated and a difficult transformation to democracy began. Our revolution, in comparison to similar events around the world, was peaceful, which is why we call it the Velvet Revolution. The whole revolution took just about 10 days. However, many Czechs, who took an active part in it, will never forget these couple of days.
This holiday has been celebrated in recent years with memorial events, concerts and demonstrations of all kinds. To get an idea about what you can see in Prague during this time, read our blog post “Velvet Revolution Celebration” from last year. This year's events are very similar.
In this article, we would like to introduce you in greater detail to the places that marked an important moment during the revolution. We hope that this guide will encourage and help you to celebrate Czech Republic's freedom with us at any point during the year, and may to even visit some parts of Prague, you would not otherwise have gone.
At Albertov, with a dense University/student population, you will find a memorial plaque with the words “When – if not now? Who – if not us?” and the date 17. November 1989. It is here where everything started; students gathering to remember the 50th anniversary of the fascist Nazi Protectorate closing the Universities of Czech Republic.
The gathering was permitted by the authorities and organized by the Youth organization of Communist Czechoslovakia. Unexpectedly large crowds of students arrived to the event (20 - 50 thousand people), and after a couple speeches, the organizers invited the students to march to Vyšehrad, to the grave of Karel Hynek Mácha.
The memorial is hanging on the corner of streets Albertov and Studničkova on the wall of the Faculty of Natural Science of the Charles University. To get there, take the tram 7,14, or 18 to the stop Albertov.
The legendary settlement, where the first castle in Prague stands, is well visible from any Prague viewpoint. Today it is home of the Basilica of St Peter and St Paul, a lovely park with great views of Prague and the famous Vyšehrad Cemetery, where famous Czechs are laid to rest. Among the famous personas is also the romantic poet Karel Hynek Mácha (you can find his statue at Petřín hill), who died very young. He is a symbol of romantic love and youthful enthusiasm. To walk from Albertov to Vyšehrad takes just about 20 minutes.
The official allowed demonstration that started at Albertov finished at Vyšehrad, but many wanted to peacefully demonstrate against the regime by marching to the Prague Castle. The police, who had instructions not to intervene up to this point, started to barricade the bridges, so the demonstrators could not pass to the other side of the river, and the demonstrators were diverted back towards the center.
In the end, the crowd was surrounded at Národní třída, and the only way out was through “little streets” where the police stood and began beating anyone who tried to pass. The demonstrators had flowers in their hands and were shouting “we have bare hands” at the police. According to the doctors record 568 people were injured.
You can find a memorial plaque with students' hands at Národní 118. To get from Vyšehrad to Národní Třída, you can take metro C, change at Florenc to B and go to the stop Národní Třída. Or walk down from Vyšehrad to Ostrčilovo náměstí and take tram 18 to the stop Národní divadlo (details).
The brutal beating of students provoked many working people to join the pro-democracy movement and every day the crowd in the streets grew bigger and bigger. The longest square in Prague, Wenceslas Square became the central gathering point. On 23rd November a couple thousand workers joined the protest after they were riled up by a failed attempt by a communist member of Parliament to dismiss the student movement as the work of children. The workers began chanting, "we are not children", and joined with the students.
For many, this was the breaking point when event the communist “elite", the workers, joined the movement. Three hundred thousand people joined the demonstration on Wenceslas Square that day. Václav Havel and other dissidents spoke from the balcony at number 36.
From Národní třída, walk through the secret Františkán gardens to the middle of Wenceslas Square (details).
The Communist party could not resist much longer. On 25th November between 750 – 800 thousand people came to show their support to newly formed political movement, the Civil forum (Občanské forum), and the Czech TV for the first time started to show the true images from the events in Prague.
A general strike happened on 27th November, and the communist regime fell after 41 years in power. At Letná, you will find a great park with an amazing view of the Prague bridges, the famous metronome and a beer garden. Letná is also home of one of Prague soccer clubs stadium Sparta Praha (attending a game is a great local experience).
To get from Václavské náměstí to Letná take metro A to stop Hradčanská and then tram 1, or 25 to stop Sparta (details).
PS. Our blog has 2nd Birthday today! :)
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