Question: Where in the world is a manmade wall of bizarre faces located behind a Senate chamber?
Answer: Dripstone Wall, Prague
Hidden among the regal gardens of Prague’s Wallenstein Palace stands a wall of monsters and strange-looking faces. From far away, the fascinating wall appears to be made of dripping sand or melting skulls, but up close it looks like the stalactites of a natural cave. Inspired to look like an Italian grotto, the wall is a peculiar work of art in this palace complex.
Known as the Dripstone Wall, it was once part of a private residence for the wealthy Czech nobleman, Albrecht von Wallenstein, who gained his prestige as a commander during the Thirty Years War. He constructed his new stately home and gardens in the Baroque style with many inspirations from the Italian Renaissance era. Not long after the palace was completed in 1930, Wallenstein was killed by his rival, Emperor Ferdinand II. His nephew would go on to buy the property, and it remained within his family for generations.
Following World War II, the property fell into the hands of the state government who repurposed the palace’s main building to be used by the Czech Senate—it still operates from there today. However, the gardens remain open to the public to explore and are partitioned into many different sections.
The most peculiar and secluded area of the garden is the Dripstone Wall which covers the sides of multi-story buildings. When looking at the wall, you may begin to see figures like owls, skeletons, snakes, and distorted faces staring back at you. The Italian artisans and architects designed the wall to look like an Italian grotto, but no one knows for certain what the intention behind the use of such obscure figures was. Legend goes that there are also secret passageways that lead behind the stone.
Today the wall remains a place of intrigue and mystery, contrasting against the stately gardens and Senate chambers right beyond it. Does the wall hold a strange, deep secret from the artist? Are there secret passageways behind it? Perhaps it’s all up to your interpretation.
6 More Fascinating Things to See in Prague:
- Prague Castle: Wallenstein Palace was built to rival this castle complex of the 9th century, but it failed to accomplish that feat as Prague Castle remains the largest ancient castle in the world. It was once the seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and the presidents of Czechoslovakia, and it today it remains as the official office for the President of the Czech Republic.
- Prague Astronomical Clock: Also known as Prague Orloj, this ornate medieval clock is the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest clock still operating today. Mounted on the wall of the Old Town Hall in Prague’s Old Town Square, the clock displays Babylonian time, Old Bohemian time, German time, Sidereal time, and the moon phases.
- The “Dancing House”: Among the Romanesque, Baroque, and Gothic architecture of Prague is a new building known as the “Dancing House” for the way it appears to be a dancing couple. Completed in 1996, the seven-story building was at first controversial being non-traditional, but now is a must-see in Prague for its post-modern design.
- Olšany Cemetery: As the largest cemetery in Prague, this green space allows visitors to walk through the history of the city. Designated as a cemetery in 1680, the cemetery is divided into 12 sections so visitors can walk from one end to another and see the lives lost from the Napoleonic Wars all the way to World War II. The cemetery is also the final resting place for many notable Czech figures, actors, writers, and artists.
- Statue of Frank Kafka: This isn’t your typical statue honoring Prague’s famous literary figure. This oversized statue depicts Kafka as a small boy on the shoulders of a large, headless giant. The surreal and strange statue was the first to commemorate him in his native city and depicts him in a scene from one of his early short stories, “Description of a Struggle.”
- Gulliver Airship: Appearing as if it crash landed on the top of Prague’s DOX Center for Contemporary Art, this zeppelin-shaped structure is actually a light and airy reading room. Inside the zeppelin, sunlight streams through in mesmerizing shadows, and many literary events are held.
Explore the Dripstone Wall and the Wallenstein palace during your free time on Jewels of Bohemia: Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.