Franz Kafka, known for his 20th century writings on anxiety, alienation and impersonal bureaucracy, is also celebrated as one of the most important writers of modern times.

And one of the most noted citizens of the Czech Republic. But while fame eclipsed his short life by just a few years – he was virtually unknown until his writings began being published posthumously – he is now admired throughout the world. Asteroids have been named for him -- along with Google Doodles, Robert Crumb-illustrated graphic novels, Orson Welles-directed films, staged dance productions at the Royal Ballet, episodes of Breaking Bad, this list goes on and on…

Franz Kafka was born in 1883 near the Old Town Square in Prague (home of such landmarks as Wenceslas Square, Charles Bridge, the Astronomical Clock and Tyn Church). He studied law, per his father’s wishes, and for fourteen years worked as an executive at the Worker’s Accident Insurance Company located in the main hub of the city. Here, he investigated and assessed industrial accidents, compensation claims and safety measurements within the great vat of bureaucracy. The monotonous work kept him from writing, which he once said was a ‘form of prayer,’ but also greatly inspired his famous works. A few of these works were published but never to any acclaim during his lifetime. His best friend and fellow author Max Brod published many of his other works posthumously – and despite being asked to burn them by the tortured author himself. Kafka died of tuberculosis in 1924 at age 40.

Each year, droves of Kafka devotees make the pilgrimage to Prague. Most Czechs were unfamiliar with Kafka until the 1989 Velvet Revolution as the Jewish writer was banned during the Nazi WWII era, continued to be un-popular due to anti-German sentiment after the war (born and raised in Prague, Kafka was nevertheless taught to speak German) and subsequently forbidden during the Communist period as well. Now reembraced by his native country, Kafka has become something of a cottage industry and a tourist must.

Everything from T-shirts and mugs with his likeness to restaurants and cafes and even tours of his old stomping grounds are available and in demand. There are also two gorgeous sculptures of the writer, including a dynamic installation by provocative famed-Czech sculptor David Cerny. Simply titled “K,” the piece is in a constant state of motion, with 42 layers of stainless steel rotating both in sync and opposing directions. Forming the likeness of the author’s familiar face, the sculpture is never static or concretely grounded. Much like the inscrutable face of bureaucracy in Kafka’s writings. It is located not far from Kafka’s original office and city hall.

The original and famous Franz Kafka Monument, created by artist Jaroslav Róna, stands in Old Town at twelve feet high and the junction of Dusni and Vezenska streets. It is a bronze statue of Kafka riding atop the shoulders of an empty suit and is also evocative of Kafka’s writings. On the sidewalk just below the statue, you can find the outline of a beetle, referencing “Metamorphosis.”

Visit Kafka’s birthplace as part of our pre- and post-river cruise land package on our following Danube River cruises: Christmas Markets on the Danube, Iconic Christmas Markets, Blue Danube Discovery, Romantic Danube, Melodies of the Danube, Magna on the Danube, Grand Danube and Legendary Danube.