Prague graffiti and the Lennon Wall

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I’ve barely been out since I came back from England so today I decided to go and take a look at the Lennon Wall.

It is less than five minutes from the main drag of Charles Bridge and yet this morning, at least, there were very few tourists around.

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‘Láska’, the huge word in purple, means ‘love’ by the way but if you’re thinking of leaving your own  here, don’t worry, most of the messages are in English.

I keep wanting to call it the Lenin Wall, but so far I’ve managed not to make that potentially embarrasing slip of the tongue out loud.

Velkopřevorské Námestí felt very calm and secluded.  There were lots of trees and pretty buildings and a little secret doorway in the side of the wall with a cafe with a lovely terrace where I had another one of my many overpriced cups of coffee and the waitress didn’t laugh at my Czech.  It was good.

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I wanted to make all kinds of clever observations and witty asides but now I’m sat at my keyboard, inspiration seems to have left me.  I should at least say something like the Lennon Wall started after John was shot by a crazed fan in 1980 and then became  a symbol of the struggle against Communism, but then writing phrases like ‘a symbol of the struggle against Communism’ sends my cringe-o-meter off the scale.

Here’s another nearby collective work of art I stumbled on around the corner, this time involving barbed wire and padlocks.

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If you take a closer look, you’ll realise that this too is intended to be a kind of shrine to love.

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It seems that couples write their names on a padlock and then leave them here to symbolise their eternal devotion.  There it is again, that word ‘symbolise’.  My cringe-o-meter is going to let that one through. Does anyone know more about this place and how it started?  And am I the only one who thinks that a padlock might be a problematic metaphor for a long-term relationship?

Anyway, here’s some graffiti I spotted in nearby Kampa that made me laugh, given that the Czech Republic is not a nation renowned for promoting vegetarianism:

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Has Banksy sneaked off to Prague and decided to cover the city in hairy baked beans?


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10 Responses to Prague graffiti and the Lennon Wall

  1. I can *just about* make out the pixel in the photo you uploaded with the message that my mother wrote when she came to visit this week 😛 It’s to my brother; I’m hoping the rain won’t wash it away or something before he gets here 😀
    Very easy to access and extremely close to Charles’ Bridge. I was surprised too when I had it almost all to myself!

    I don’t know the story behind the lock for this particular bridge (over a very ugly part of the canal I might add), but I do know that it’s very common in Europe 🙂 There’s a bridge in Rome over the Tiber has the same thing. Lovers are supposed to toss the key into the river to symbolise (yep, I said it too) that it can never be unlocked (like their love.. awwwwww 😛 ). It was shown in a popular Italian movie called 3 metri sopra il cielo (“3 steps over heaven”, hugely popular in Italy – and a pretty good movie) and now everyone does it.

    My guess is that (presuming the Italians came up with the idea), an Italian couple or two started doing it here in Prague and other couples figured out what it meant and followed. I had a look in the shallow canal to see if I could find keys, but either it’s different here, or they have been washed away. It’s possible that it’s original here too, but I doubt it based on the small number of locks here compared to Rome (here’s a pic to show you what I mean).

    • girlinczechland

      Thanks a lot for this Benny: I’m glad my readers are so well informed, it saves me doing any proper research!

      I don’t think I’ll manage to persuade Czechman to do the whole padlock thing though, however hard I try to twist his arm…


  2. When I lived in Prague I used to think that graffiti are cool but now that I am older I kind of changed my mind..they are dumb, destroying the beautiful architecture of the city

  3. chigau11

    i like your idea about “lenin wall” i laughed a lot 🙂
    and the veggie picture is cool:) i’ll steal it if you don’t mind 🙂 see you tomorrow!

  4. Marek

    … cringe-o-meter … looolz 🙂 !!

    Let`s see if I can use it in a sentence: My cringe-o-meter too goes off the scale when I see a silly huge graffiti on a nicely restored historical building. (??:-))

    Unlike Tanja though, the older I am, the more I like good and well placed streetart. Good by my standards, anyway. The concept is appealing when done well (Banksy) and, in my opinion, most places in any city are just asking for it.

    For over ten years now, whenever I pass the Florenc metro B entrance, I look forward to seeing this “piece” by a guy calling himself Kickasso

    Simple, sexy and funny, I think. For some reason it makes my day brighter every single time.

    • girlinczechland

      Kickasso, that’s a good one I have to say 🙂

      I think that I maybe didn’t say what I thought about the graffitti in Prague because I wanted to avoid offend anyone – you know, ‘Here goes the foreigner critizing our city and saying it’s a dump’.

      However, I think that there probably is more graffitti in the centre of Prague compared with the centre of London – and I mean the nasty ‘I just scrawled my name here’ kind rather than anything artistic. What does everyone else think? And like you Marek, I don’t mind anything that’s visually interesting and a bit clever but I don’t like seeing squiggles everywhere.

  5. What a great blog, evocative and informative. Always wanted to visit Prague (had friends who escaped in ’68; read Kafka, ‘Sergeant Schweik’ & Kundera …). Never made it; but now you’re making it possible so thank you!
    Very familiar with Bristol, where Banksy’s a controversial figure: local hero to some, pain-in-bum to others. Me, I’m with Marek on street art – ie if it’s good, I’m all for it!
    Best regards, P

    • girlinczechland

      Thanks a lot for leaving such a nice comment – you really brightened up my day! I’ll try to keep up the good work and hope that you come back and read more…

      And I agree with you in regard to street art – it it’s good, let it stay!


  6. I think there is a big difference between graffiti and street art, although most people class it all as the same thing.

    There are plenty of places around Europe where street art is encouraged, and I know it is something that is becoming more and more common in the UK, which I think is a good thing personally.

    Think about it….

    Given a choice between walking down a street at night and seeing dark and dreary shutters over all the shop doors and windows, or seeing a different, multi-coloured mural every 30 yards or so, who is really going to opt for the former?

    Graffiti is a different thing. When I first came over here it was explained away as people finally having a way to express themselves after the Soviets left, but that was 20 years ago now. Surely the current generation don’t need to go around defacing buildings for the sake of it….

    Street art is great, graffiti is not, and I think the same applies regardless of where you may be. The important thing, for me anyway, is to know the difference between the two….


  7. papaleguas

    “Does anyone know more about this place and how it started?”

    Following the info already provided by other readers, I would add that the first (and single, excluding that spot in Prague) time I saw this was in Hungary. Here is a photo of the place:

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