Last Friday Alexis and I piled into a carpool from Linz to Prague where all that was played for the next four hours was classic rock, occasionally interrupted by German Metal. We arrived in the rain and after a bit of a struggle, meaning that the directions provided were rather poor, we found our Hostel. Upon entering I almost went into reverse culture shock due to the fact that there were so many Americans. I was honestly surprised because I had been all through Italy (which I would expect to have more of a draw for the traditional tourist) and barely met a handful, but in the Czech Republic they were present in droves! So strange.
Now when I go to a city, I barely plan any further than a way to get there and a place to stay. Alexis, however, is a planner. During our car ride she read a travel book that she had downloaded to her tablet and figured out all of the things that she wanted to do before hand. We immediately set out to find the Old Town Square, which was about a block away from the hostel. Once we got there shehad her eBook out and read me all of the interesting facts about the sights within the square that I would have never found out otherwise. Most of the information was helpful and cleverly written, however I am not sure that I will be able to forgive the sensational description given of the famous Astronomical Clock. This guide book spoke of the twelve Apostles appearing while the Gluttony and Wrath danced a deadly dance below, all accompanied by the ringing of bells. To say that the event was an anti-climax would be an understatement. Standing in the crowd, in the rain, we waited for the top of the hour, said “that’s it?” and then went on our merry way.
The clock itself is beautiful- so beautiful in fact that the designer was blinded immediately after its completion so that he could not create anything to compare. Which seems a bit harsh, but hey- it was the dark ages. The rest of the square is equally lovely, with towering churches and baroque facades on the storefronts that surround the popular area. I haven’t seen so many wedding portraits being shot since I left Charleston.
The next day we woke up early to get breakfast and make it across the Charles Bridge before the crowds became too dense. The bridge is lined with many statues depicting religious or historical events, with vendors and musicians dotted in-between keeping the pedestrian path rather bustling.
We went to the Palace Museum at the top of the hill, but really the palace is the least of the attractions that you get for your money. The entry ticket also gives you access to the historical barracks (one of which Franz Kafka used as a residence), a nice small Basilica, and some great views of Prague. The true marvel to be seen however is the Cathedral of St. Vitus. The gothic style building dominates the skyline and the interior is host to amazingly breath-taking stained glass windows. It took 600 years to complete and the details to be seen could easily have taken up our entire afternoon.
Most of the month of May is host to the Czech Beer Festival, so we decided to wander over and czech it out. Now, most everything that we had seen thus far had been aimed at tourists and therefore had English description. It was made clear to us that this was an event by locals for locals once we arrived and everything was in Czech. We played a dangerous game of “look for words that kind of seem similar and hope” which payed off pretty well for our first round (we relied on the similarity of the word “Lime”). For the second I used the almighty Google to aid in my decision while Alexis asked someone what they had bought. Poor Alexis, who actually enjoys most beers ended up with a sweet sugary substance that would make a Smirnoff Ice seem strong, meanwhile I got one that, while still being quite sweet (it was blueberry flavored), at least still resembled beer.
For our final morning in the city we decided to visit the Jewish Museum located in the old Ghetto, and on the way grabbed some delicious crepes from a street vendor that had set up in the square. (When we asked about the occasion for all the extra food the kind woman told us that there was and Ice Hockey tournament that weekend.) The museum itself is really more of a string of different sites within the complex that included several synagogues and an extremely overcrowded cemetery. Many things were on display, most items having been appropriated by the Nazi’s in order to make a museum “for the extinct race of people”. The most powerful exhibition was a room of children’s drawings that were done during the war that depicted their life in the Ghetto and being taken from their homes in fear. Almost all of the children were killed in camps.
After lunch Alexis and I parted ways so that she could get back to the books that I had been distracting her from.