A Puppet, a Communist, and a Jew came into my life: Prague is way classier than all that

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April 29th 2015
Published: April 29th 2015
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I can't believe my time in Prague is over so quickly! There really is so much to do, and so much that I didn't do. Of course, that doesn't mean that I slept the whole time, though. The last 36 hours have been VERY full. Just sit back and let me tell you a story...

First off, I didn't write a blog post yesterday, though it was certainly a full day, because most of the day I spent finishing my final paper for TCU this semester. I submitted it around 1:30PM, which may not seem like most of the day, but it is when you're writing a paper and get up at 5 AM. The rain had died down enough by 3 PM for me to venture out of my hotel room. I was hungry, so that was motivation enough. After stopping by the grocery store, I headed over to the Charles Bridge area, since I knew that's where the Marionette Theater is. I got my ticket just after 4 PM for the 5 PM show - I didn't know there was a show that early, but I figured I may as well. Also, it's one of the few places my student ID has worked in Prague. They always say they'll give you a discount with a student ID, but they also say in the really fine print that you have to be under the age of 26. That's always fun to get the "how old are you?" question after you flash the ID. Alas, it saved me about $6 on the puppet show.

I must say, I was thoroughly entertained by the marionettes presenting Mozart's Don Giovanni. The show lasted about 75 minutes, and everything that we heard was a pre-recording of the opera by a professional cast. In fact, that was all we heard. Every now and then, you could hear a puppet bang its head on the wall (intentionally) or smack another puppet, but that was rare. They did try to make it funny, with Ottavio actually trying to resuscitate Anna's father with CPR, and quite vigorously, too. The guidebook said it was kid friendly, so I guess they wanted a few laughs, too. We all chuckled. There were only 8 people in the audience, only 1 of whom was a child. It was, all in all, a unique experience, and since Don Giovanni premiered in Prague back in the 18th century, it was something I think Prague has adopted and made its own.

After the show, I headed up to Mala Strana, the Lesser Town. I did the guidebook's suggested walk around this part of the town. It was definitely less crowded with tourists, and I suppose it has its own charm. The American Embassy is there, and so is a wax figure of the baby Jesus from 1628, in a church there. I walked in about 2 minutes to 7, and the church closed down at 7. I was lucky to get a picture of this venerated artifact, and I've included that picture as well. Next I headed back towards the river, but there was some kind of movie or TV series filming near a church I was hoping to visit. The actors were in powdered wigs, so I assume it's a period piece. Anyway, I meandered over to the Charles Bridge, where I got a few good pictures of it from a new angle. Then I headed home, since my feet were killing me.

I devoted this morning to the Jews, or at least the old Jewish quarter of Prague called Josefov. You buy a ticket to the "museum," which is a close collection of synagogues and a big cemetery, and as soon as you leave one, you enter the next (at least most of the time). My student ID didn't work here, so I paid the full price. But it was worth it. I probably spent 2.5 hours wandering around this area. The 1st place is the Pinkas Synagogue, where they have the names of EVERY Czech Jew who died in the Holocaust written on the walls of the entire building. And it has 2 stories. It's unbelievable. I was left speechless, and it was hard not to be moved by the scope of it. The next stop was the Old Jewish Cemetery, dating back to the Middle Ages, and the newest grave is from 1787. So, yeah, it's old and crowded. Apparently, they have some graves that are 12-15 layers deep. When you exit the graveyard, you enter into the Klausen Synagogue, which is more of an exhibit of Jewish artifacts from the 17th-early 20th centuries in Prague. The next place I went was the Old-New Synagogue, which is almost like a cellar - you have to go below street level to see it, but it's got some old relics and benches in it. The last stop was the Spanish Synagogue, which I was unprepared for. It reminded me of the Cordoba Cathedral that I saw in Spain - I guess maybe that's why it's called the "Spanish Synagogue"? Anyway, the entire interior is covered in decorations - walls, ceilings, doors, etc. It was beautiful. I bought my Prague pin for my travelling hat near the entrance to the Jewish museum - a blue hamsa with a golden star of David in the center, all for warding off evil spirits. Google "hamsa" if you don't know what that is and see why it's pretty cool.

My morning also consisted of a trip up the Old Town Hall tower for some spectacular views of the Old Town Square and pretty much all of Prague. Check out some of the panoramas that are scrolling at the top of this blog. Before I went back to my room to rest my weary legs, I trekked up to the Metronome, which is across the river from Paris Street. It gives some pretty good panoramic shots, too. It's where the biggest Stalin monument I've ever seen used to be - they got rid of it in 1962 and since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, they say that the Metronome is marking time for the free Czech state. OK.

After I gave my feet a couple of hours to rest, I decided it was time to salute communism in Prague. After all, I don't get to go behind the Iron Curtain every day, unless you could the past couple of weeks and the next couple, too. But then I won't be here for a while once I leave. Stop distracting me. I headed over to the Vitkov Hill, which in the 1930s was a monument to Czechoslovakia as a unified state after WWI. After WWII, though, it became a communist meeting place, and it had all kinds of wonderful communist decor. It's got the largest statue of a full horse in the world, so there's that. They let me go up on the roof of the building to see the statue, which also gave me some great views of this part of Prague.

Next, I walked over to the Zhizhkov Tower, which used to be a TV/radio broadcasting place. It dwarfs everything in Prague - I could see it from every other panoramic tower I went up. They've now started calling it the Tower Park Praha, I guess to get away from the communist tint. Whatever; if you see it from afar, it looks ghastly, like a modernist eyesore in a baroque town. Up close, it creeped me out - there are giant faceless babies crawling up and down the thing, and I'm pretty sure that's a post-communist addition. Either way, I'll be having nightmares tonight. The elevator to the top of the tower was quick and soundless, much like going to the top of the Sears Tower (or whatever they call it now) in Chicago. Every now and then, I could feel a slight sway when I was in the observation deck. But it's entirely encased in glass, so no wind or any chance of falling over the side, which made me feel so much more comfortable. I had a chocolate/hazelnut cake while I was up there. Yummy.

From there, I had to take the Metro, my first time doing that. It was surprisingly clean and fast, much like my experience in Budapest. It took me back to the middle of the Old Town, where I walked about 5 minutes to the Museum of Communism, which was actually started by some Americans here in Prague. It was pretty impressive - lots of displays, lots of information, and even a video that explained the history of communism in the Czech Republic. While the whole museum was dedicated to the communist period, it did focus most of its material on the Czech Republic, which I guess is natural. I was struck by how much people were lied to, but it also got me to thinking how much we, as Americans during the Cold War, accepted the propaganda thrown at us by the government and the media. It still runs deep, on both sides, to this day.

On my way back to the hotel, I stopped by the grocery store again. I found some cherry-flavored milk, so I've been drinking on that while writing this. It's not really all that awesome, though it isn't bad, either. It's a bit thick, and I can feel the cherry bits in the milk, which is not how I like my milk. I'll keep drinking it.

Today was probably the most money I've spent in a single day since I got to Prague, and maybe even this whole trip. The issue was that I got too much Czech currency before I left America (one of the few currencies that I got before I left). So, instead of taking it all back with me, I decided to see what all I could do before I had to leave, and it has been great. I didn't go to any concerts, which I had hoped to do, mainly because the least expensive seats at all the advertised locations are about $40 each. Even with more money than I need, I don't have that kind of money just for entertainment. One thing that I didn't do is go to Prague Castle, which is labeled the "largest castle complex in the world" - but not the largest castle, of course. I had considered spending the afternoon there, but I opted for a closer and less expensive experience with communism. Besides, it gives me a reason to come back.

I could also add that my favorite European coin that I've seen so far has to be the Czech 50 koruna coin. It's got a gold center with bronze edge. It's so tacky it's beautiful. I'm going to keep as many of them as I can, just because I like them. And I may even give some away to people I really like when I get home.

Up until now, my computer tells me that I've taken 4000 pictures on this Eurotrip, and I'll believe that. I keep posting more and more with these blogs, which I guess is fine. If you're reading this, the pictures probably help you visualize what I'm describing. But these pictures are nothing compared to the number I'm posting on Facebook. I'm always glad to share!

Tomorrow, I'm getting on a train to Romania. Well, that's not entirely true. My train only goes to Budapest (again!), where I have to get off and wait a couple of hours, and then take an overnight train to Romania. So, tomorrow is a travel day, which means that my feet will get some rest (which they need after the past few days) and I won't spend nearly as much money! The overnight part, though, could be interesting. It'll be the first time on this trip, though not the first time I've ever done that. I just hope it goes smoothly and nobody steals my stuff in the middle of the night when I'm catching some Zzz's. I'll also wake up an hour ahead of where I was, so if you're in the Eastern Time Zone, I'll be 7 hours ahead of you in Romania.

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Vitkov Monument meeting roomVitkov Monument meeting room
Vitkov Monument meeting room

Probably the most communist room I've ever been in
Babies crawling up the Zhizhkov TowerBabies crawling up the Zhizhkov Tower
Babies crawling up the Zhizhkov Tower

I hope you'll have nightmares like me now
Infant Jesus of PragueInfant Jesus of Prague
Infant Jesus of Prague

In the Lesser Town, a 16th-century wax statue
John Lennon Peace WallJohn Lennon Peace Wall
John Lennon Peace Wall

In the Lesser Town

30th April 2015

Tower of Babies!
Hey, Good blog. We live in an AirBnb apartment about three blocks from Zizkov television tower right now. From the kitchen window we can see the tower when it is lit at night. I hope we don't have nightmares forever after our month here...Enjoy your stay!

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