Nerudova Ulice (English: Nerudova Street) is a picturesque street in Prague which is dappled with pastel-colored buildings and is brimming with history and intriguing remnants of the past.The steep street runs from the Lesser Town Square in Prague to the gates of the Prague Castle and used to serve as part of the Royal Route. It is famous worldwide and even served as the inspiration for the Nobel Prize winning poet Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto’s pen name, Pablo Neruda.
Nerudova street, however, was not always called Nerudova. Long before the street became known as Nerudova street, it was called Ostruhová Street. It was not until 1895 that it was renamed Nerudova in honor of the Czech writer and poet, Jan Neruda, who lived there in his youth.
Neruda first moved to Ostruhová Street with his family in 1845. He was four years old at the time and just beginning his studies at Grammar school in Malá Strana. His family owned and lived in a baroque house on the street which was known as the house At the Two Suns (Czech: Dům U Dvou slunců). Neruda’s father had a tobacco shop there.
The facade of the Nerodova family’s building featured a sign depicting two suns. Many of the buildings on Nerudova street have similar signs. This is because before 1770, house numbers had not yet been introduced in Prague. Therefore, houses were recognized instead by their signs. According to stories, the house was named house At the Two Suns because, at the time, there was already a house with one sun as its sign.
The house At the Two Suns was originally constructed in a renaissance style and it was not until much later that the facade was reconstructed in an early baroque style. While various changes were made to the building, the renaissance portal was preserved and the house sign which features the two suns is original too.
Neruda lived on Ostruhová Street from 1845 to 1857. First he lived in the house At the Two Suns, which is located at the upper part of the street, near the castle gates, and later, after his father’s death, he moved with his mother to the house At the Three Red Eagles, which is situated on the same street.
“I hear there are people who actually enjoy moving. Sounds like a disease to me – they must be unstable. Though it does have it’s poetry, I’ll allow that. When an old dwelling starts looking desolate, a mixture of regret and anxiety comes over us and we feel like we are leaving a safe harbor for the rolling sea. As for the new place, it looks on us with alien eyes, it has nothing to say to us, it is cold.” – Jan Neruda
Nerudova Street and its unique atmosphere played a large role in Neruda’s life and inspired many of his works, including his famous collection of short stories entitled Tales of Malá Strana or sometimes called Prague Tales. He even wrote his first collections of poems on that street, while living in the house At the Three Red Eagles.
To this day Nerudova street evokes a pleasant atmosphere and has a certain charm. The historical buildings, with their splendid colors, decorated doors, and well preserved statues and signs offer a beautiful glimpse into the past. It is easy to see how Neruda was inspired by this street.
In his book entitled Prague tales, Neruda describes a lively morning in Malá Strana:
“Gradually things grew livelier. White curtains vanished from windows; a window opened here and there. Figures appeared, looking up at the sky and Petrin hill and turning back to comment on the lovely day to other members of the household. People greeted one another on stairways and balconies with a ‘good morning’.”
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If you would like to see a collection of photographs of Nerudova Street, be sure to check out our post Nerudova Ulice on Instagram.
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