Published: June 2nd 2009April 20th 2009
Hi Everybody! Sorry It's been so long since I updated- there are these silly things called exams that had to be studied for. Luckily, I did quite a bit of studying, and I think I did well. Good thing too, because unlike back in the states the exams here count for anywhere between 50 and 80% of the final grade. Anyways- Here continues the final stop of my European adventure- Prague!
Early on Thursday morning we left Tubingen, traveling by train first to Stuttgart, then to Nuremburg. There we switched trains, getting on a far older model of train as we travelled to Eastern Europe. The landscape changed too from the immaculate towns of Western Germany to far more run-down and stereotypical East German and Czech towns. It was a very long train ride, and we didn't arrive until early evening. The Hostel we stayed at was amazingly nice for a hostel, and still had very good prices- It's called the Czech Inn, and felt more like a hotel, though the clientele were mostly college kids like us. Everything was for the most part closed by the time we got in, but we wandered around the city, making it down
to the river where we could see Prague Castle lit up at night.
On Friday we decided to make the trek (ok... so we took a tram) across the city and up to the area surrounding the castle. Prague Castle, like any good castle is situated high on a hill above the city, and on our way there we discovered a lot of small antique stores. One that we went into had things from the Soviet and Nazi occupations, along with some absolutely beautiful autograph books from the 1930's. They were pretty, but as I'd need a translator, I decided against getting them. We made it up to Prague Castle eventually, which is magnificent. It's said to be the largest castle in Europe, and I believe it! It's got a beautiful cathedral in the center of the many outlying buildings and, like any proper castle is situated at the top of a huge hill overlooking the city.
The cathedral itself is an absolutely stunning building, and though the castle, and the cathedral with it is incredibly old, many of the stained glass windows have had to be replaced recently due to the destruction of the glass during the
Inside the Castle...
time period when the Czech Republic was part of the USSR. My favorite is a gorgeous art nouveau window that depicts the coming of christianity to the Czech Republic, and two Czech Saints, Wenceslas and his grandmother Ludmilla. In terms of interesting stories; The dowager queen Ludmilla was killed by her pagan daughter in law, who was jealous of her Christian influence over young Wenceslas. Wenceslas himself is far more famous- from the christmas carol of course! His name was simply everywhere there.
Also in the Castle was the Golden Alley- a small road within the palace where jewelers and craftsmen worked- It's become quite a kitschy place now; there is a Mediaeval Room which has suits of armor and a chance to try your skills at a crossbow range. While the suits of armor were pretty darn cool, I passed on those and bought a lovely bookmark at a nearby store.
We also went to an exhibit in the basement called the History of the Castle, which was pretty interesting. Unfortunately the Palace- the central part of the Castle- was closed indefinitely. This was particularly depressing for me because I was really really
looking forward to seeing
the place where the Defenestrations of Prague occurred. Defenestration- Isn't that a fantastic word?! The fact that the English language has a word for "to be thrown out a window" is fabulous. It was one of my favorite parts of European History class, there were two different Defenestrations of Prague, both involving the reformation of the Church. It takes growing pains to a whole new level. Also, I'm a nerd, and I admit it!
After the castle we went to a pub-like restaurant for dinner after a very long day of wandering. I had an amazing Stroganoff- I love it anyways, but it's really fantastic in Eastern European countries, for obvious reasons. It was quite heavy, as traditional Czech food is absolutely delicious but involves massive amounts of lard- ew! Luckily I discovered this long after the meal, when flipping through a recipe book of traditional Czech cooking in one of the many gift stores around the city. We walked from the side of the river where the Castle was on across the magnificent Charles Bridge, whose name made me homesick for Boston. The Bridge had been around for centuries upon centuries, and was the site of the martyrdom
of St. John of Prague, who was thrown off it. The Czech have a bit of an odd desire to throw people off things apparently!
Afterwords while we were walking around the city we happened upon a red carpet event. Literally. There was a red carpet and spotlights going nuts in front of a large shopping mall in the middle of the city. Elle Magazine was apparently having a 20th anniversary celebration there. There were sales in every store and loads of free goodies- glasses of champagne (bad champagne, but still), chocolates, etc. It was a great find for the evening, especially because it was free!
On Saturday we had lunch in Wenceslas Square, It's a grand open place, flanked on one end by the magnificent National Museum. It has some fantastic exhibits, including a massive hall filled with rocks, including a large variety of sparking ones (yay!) and a really fascinating exhibit on the history of the Czech Republic. It went from the outbreak of the first world war to their independence from communism and everything in between. It even included the clothes that Archduke Franz-Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were wearing when they were killed. It
was slightly creepy, but fairly cool.
We also went to the Old Jewish section of town where there are a lot of beautiful synagogues. Because it was Saturday we couldn't go into any, but it was fun peeking through the walls. That evening we went to a concert. Prague as a city is classical music MAD. The street musicians there all seem to be talented and classically trained, and the concert musicians- wow! It was a terrific concert, though it was mostly for the tourists, and played a lot of true classics- The Blue Danube, etc. There are a lot of groups that host concerts so there's one going on almost every night of the week, and we got fantastic discounts being students.
We caught a late night dinner in the central square, which was filled with large heated patios, and the remnants of an elaborate Easter festival. After the dinner when we were walking back to the hotel we were stopped by a man with a thick southern accent who asked us for directions back to the Old City. David recognized his lapel pin as identifying him as a member of Congress. Turns out he's a Representative
from Tennessee! He was in town on some kind of business and had skipped out on a meeting or dinner or something. The next day, I flew back to Edinburgh, stopping to pick up masses of Czech crystal beads, but giving directions to a US Congressman in a foreign city was certainly a great way to end the trip!
There are more photos below