Letná Park (Letenské Sady)

Letná Park (Letenské Sady) (17)

If you go up Paris Street and then over the Svatopluk Cech Bridge you will reach Letná Park. This beautiful wooded area connects to the west with the royal gardens by means of a footbridge.

Before being turned into a park in 1858, it was a strategic spot from where enemy troops prepared their attacks on Prague Castle. The rear part of Letná was used until the end of the 19th century as a military manoeuvre ground. From 1948 the area was used exclusively for official celebrations.

Letná Park is built over a plateau that rises above the bank of the River Vltava, opposite the Jewish Quarter. The views are particularly good for taking in the different bridges that join the two sides of the city.

At the top of the granite steps over the jetty, you will be able to appreciate the kinetic sculpture of a metronome, which represents time. It is the work of the sculptor Vratislav Karel Novák. 

Where you now see this metronome was where for some years the largest sculptural group in Europe stood. It was a statue 15½ metres high and 22 metres long that represented the leader of the USSR, Joseph Stalin and several workers. It took nearly six years to build and 17,000 tons of granite. Its size was really colossal: just the button of Stalin’s jacket, sculpted with a hammer and sickle, measured half a meter of diameter.

The dark legend surrounding the monument began the day after it was unveiled in 1955, with the suicide of its creator, the sculptor Otakar Svec. Only seven years later, in 1962, the figure of Stalin had been destined to the dustbin of history for the new leaders of the USSR. Following orders from Moscow, the statue was blown up with 800 kilos of dynamite.

For years the pedestal where the statue had once stood was given diverse and picturesque uses. In 1990 the anti-aircraft refuge inside the pedestal was used as the base of a pirate radio station. In 1991, the first rock club in Prague was opened here. A new use is being planned for it today, since the sculpture of the metronome does not do much for the people of Prague either.

After strolling around the park, a good choice would be to sit down and have something to eat or a coffee in the Hanavský Pavilion. This building by Otto Hieser was a gift from the Prince of Hanau to the city of Prague for the National Exhibition of 1891. In 1898, the Pavilion was moved to Letná Park. It is a neo-Baroque structure in cast iron that today houses a busy bar-restaurant.

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