Sunday, 18 July 2010

Smolenská 157/2

Just a few steps from Vršovické Náměstí is a tiny lane called Smolenská which still retains some pre-twentieth-century cottages. Some have been redeveloped, but one or two still look pretty much as they did before the expansion of residential housing in the early 1900s. This attractive example is most unusal. It reminds me of Wordsworth's cottage in the English Lake District.

One curious feature of streets in Prague is that every building is numbered twice. At one time, houses were called after animals, birds, fish, religious or astronomical emblems, and were decorated with appropriate insignia (over two hundred such house signs remain in and around Prague's Old Town).

In 1770, they ran out of animals and stars and fish, and introduced a unique numbering system, based on individual plots of land:  this so-called 'cadastral' number is still technically the main identifier in a postal address. Originally painted or carved over the door (see smaller photo) they nowadays appear on a red plaque, along with the district number (Prague 13 is now part of Prague 10, by the way!)

Blue street numbers came later, and are included in the address following the cadastral number, as in the title of today's post.  As in many other countries, they are odd on one side of the street and even on the other, with the lowest numbers at the end of the street closer to the river.

If you are interested in finding out more about the ancient house signs of the Old Town, may I recommend Alena Ježková's excellent House Insignia of Ancient Prague?


Luis Gomez said...

How interesting! Thanks.

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