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Historic Prague bridge reopens

The bridge is a magnet for tourists, artists and musicians  

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Prague's Charles Bridge reopened on Wednesday, as the city attempted to return to normal after devastating floods.

The bridge was closed for two weeks after the city experienced some of the worst flooding since the bridge's construction in the 14th century.

Charles Bridge -- the oldest link between the castle where Bohemian kings ruled for centuries and the ancient Old Town -- is a magnet for tourists, artists and musicians.

Crews are still working to repair damaged buildings on both sides of the Vltava river it spans.

In-depth: Floods ravage Europe 
Gallery: Images of flooding 
Map: Severely hit areas 

The few tour guides who ventured with their groups onto the bridge after it opened at 0800 GMT on Wednesday could barely be heard above the roar of generators and heavy machinery.

Journalists at the scene reported that most tourists took more time looking at the heavily-damaged edifices nearby than the dozens of statues that line the bridge's walls.

"We leave tomorrow, so for us this was the last chance," one Italian tourist told Reuters news agency.

"We saw very little of the things we wanted -- so many things were closed. But this makes up for that, at least a little."

Much of the Old Town remains without power and hotels and restaurants that line the streets at both ends of the bridge face several months of clean-up and restoration.

More than 220,000 residents were forced from their homes in the country's largest post-war evacuation.

Many in Prague are still unable to return due to concerns that some buildings may have suffered structural damage above or below ground.

But the reopening of the bridge is being seen by many as at least a sign that the two-week nightmare may be drawing to a close.




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